Saturday, February 20, 2016

RIP Harper Lee

Harper Lee has died at the age of 89 and millions who were affected by both the book and the film will be saddened, despite her long life. Recently Lee has been the subject of much discussion because her other novel, Go Set a Watchman offered a much less noble portrait of the central characters of To Kill a Mockingbird. It may well have been a first draft, and reveals the ugly realities of racism in the South. Most of us will stick with the higher tone of Mockingbird, no doubt.
I went looking for the blog entry I offered on the 50th anniversary of Mockingbird, and discovered that is was five-and-a-half years ago. Time definitely has wings! Here is the text of that blog entry. I have also included the link which will show you who responded. A fair number of people did, and some are still at it.
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Harper Lee's one and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The reclusive Ms. Lee is probably doing okay since sales have averaged six hundred thousand copies a year since it was published. It is a perennial favourite of high school lit classes and the Oscar-winning movie version shows up on television all the time. Could there have been a more noble and dignified Atticus Finch than Gregory Peck? Brock Peters demonstrated great dignity as the accused Tom Robinson. And what about a young Robert Duvall as the mysterious neighbour, Boo Radley? The story is based on an incident in Ms Lee's community in 1936, when she was an impressionable ten years old.

Surely this story has endured through the decades because it gets to the dark heart of racial injustice and reminds us that the courage to do what is right in the face of grave wrong is more than "whistling in the dark."
Apparently some years ago British librarians voted To Kill a Mockingbird ahead of the bible as a book that everyone should read before they die. Interesting, because it doesn't strike me as competing with the bible. I think it reflects the best of the biblical themes of justice and compassion and prophetic speech.

What are your experiences of the novel or the film? Any observations about what it represents for you?

I would love to read your comments about the impact the novel had on you, and your thoughts on Harper Lee's death.

1 comment:

Eric Mundy said...

I'm not a big reader, although I do struggle through from time to time. To Kill a Mockingbird grabbed my attention at an early age and was one of those books I couldn't put down. There was much discussion today on CBC about it's merit, and the reaction was both positive and negative. For me, aside from the horrible injustice towards blacks ( then and now ), I was drawn to the gentleness of the father, Atticus Finch. Sometimes we just need to embrace the story for what it was intended to be. For me, it was all about hope.