To Kill a Mockingbird: The Rest of It

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I had a few days there where I didn’t have any time to read, let alone to write it up. So the other night I made the executive decision to take some time out for myself (wow, what a concept) and read To Kill a Mockingbird all evening. I managed to read the entire second half of the book. It took me several hours, but reading books in one sitting is so much more enjoyable than breaking it up. It’s like binge watching a show on Netflix. But better. Because it’s a book.

So, I’ve finished it all. Did I like it? An unqualified yes. Did I think it was transformative piece of literature? Not by today’s standards, but, of course, it was published in 1960. Was it transformative then? With the awards it has received, I’d say yes. It dealt with some extremely important issues, such as race and class. And that the perspective of the book was that of a young girl was wonderful to me. A girl, for one, and a young girl, for two. We were only privy to what Scout was privy to.

On to some specific comments.

Dill… I feel like Harper Lee didn’t do enough with Dill. I suppose that we got what Dill we did because it was all from Scout’s perspective and she didn’t have the perspective of a thoughtful adult. Though we did witness her point of view evolving over the book, as we did for Jem.

The second half of the book, pretty much, was consumed with the trial. One reason why it was so easy to read that part all in one go is because it was dramatic, without too many major story breaks between chapters. You kept going to find out what happened next. There was danger, anticipation, conspiracy, hope, joy, sorrow… It ran the gamut of emotions and situations.

In the end, you knew who the good guys were and who the not-so-good guys were, and those who were downright horrid. You knew who you wanted to know and who you didn’t want to know. And you understood to what, specifically, the title refers. It was a good ending, without much build up but it really worked. I still loved Miss Maudie. I still loved Atticus. I still loved Calpurnia. I still loved Scout and Jem. Dill was a neutral party, but definitely on the side of good. That boy has seen a lot. And Boo Radley… What’s to say about him? I wish I could read the whole book again from his point of view. I knew he was a good person, at least as early as when he started putting things in the tree for the kids. I was really glad to get to “see” him at the end, and I wished I could just sit with him myself.

I loved how much Scout and Jem had paid attention to Atticus in regard to the law. They knew exactly what was going on in court, and how trials seemed to work. And they could read their father like a book.

When I began reading, I had no idea that it was a book for kids or youth. I thought it was a novel more in line with A Tale of Two Cities or The Scarlet Letter in terms of difficulty. Maybe it was because I ended up with the large print edition, but while I was reading, it felt more like a book for middle schoolers. And it turned out that the daughter of a friend was reading it in middle school, so that seems to hold true.

I am interested in seeing the movie version, but probably not for a little while yet. I need the book to sink in sufficiently, so I never mistake what’s in the movie for a book thing.

And now, I get to read another book. Not sure which one yet, and I won’t be blogging it. But I’m excited to jump into another world.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I’m trying to get through To Kill a Mockingbird faster since I’ve got some new work/projects going on. So here are my thoughts on the next three chapters.

Chapter Twelve seemed to bring on Jem’s adolescence. He was no longer a child, like Scout, but getting on to be a teenager. This changed his mood, much to Scout’s dislike. He couldn’t be bothered with her some of the time, but it was still obvious that he still cared. Atticus’s court case was heating up, and it was starting to affect the kids. And Atticus was gone longer. Good thing they had Calpurnia, who decided to take them to church with her one Sunday when Atticus was away, instead of sending them to their church on their own.

I think they enjoyed their experience there. It was different for them, but other than the one rude lady, I think they felt at home. They were among people who appreciated their father’s efforts. I thought it was weird, though, how the congregation was guilted into giving more into the collection. Forced into taking care of one of their own. Of course it was a good cause, but that just seemed odd to me.

Chapter Thirteen brought the kids’ Aunt Alexandra, whom I don’t care for. Not one bit. She keeps saying what girls are “supposed” to do, and her opinions don’t often match Atticus’s. She’s “proper,” whatever that means. I think she just doesn’t allow for differences and individuality. She doesn’t listen to children. She doesn’t seem to think their opinions matter for anything. This whole chapter established Alexandra as a member of their household. I am not pleased. She can leave now, thank you very much.

Chapter Fourteen showed more of Alexandra’s interference. Atticus told the children to mind their aunt, just like they mind him and Calpurnia. But when opinions differ, who are they supposed to mind? Their own father’s opinion should matter more than their aunt’s. I hope Calpurnia doesn’t go anywhere. She’s a fixture in those kids’ lives. She’s a family member. Like Atticus said, she’s like a mother to them.

And then Dill… What will become of him? He’s obviously unhappy and not appreciated in his own home. Will Atticus take him in? Not likely, with the annoying Alexandra in residence. We shall see. For now, he’s got a safe house and a full belly.

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Books, Glorious Books

Look at all the glorious books I’ve been missing! Ah well, at least I’m caught up on my shows and have healthy Facebook relationships. (Psst: Sarcasm) Photo: Public Domain

Somewhere around the fall of 2011, I stopped reading books. Not completely, but pretty much. Since then, I’ve read a total of four (and a half) books: Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, and now To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve attempted other books, but haven’t gotten more than a couple of chapters in. I’ve also read through books that I’ve reviewed, but they were all nonfiction, and not always the type you curl up with. I’ve also listened to at least one audiobook on a trip (The Time Traveler’s Wife), but that didn’t take any special effort on my part other than listening; I was a captive audience (and loved the book).

This is weird for me. I love books. Like, I LOVE books. I have always had one (or ten) going, and worked on reading at bedtime, every night. What happened in 2011 to change my habits so suddenly?

Many, many things, but I think that what started it was my iPad. I’ve never had a television in my bedroom, and I didn’t have a smartphone until 2012, so being able to watch shows and movies in bed before I went to sleep was novel. A little too novel, it turned out. The easy answer of turning to a show to wind down for the day was too tempting. It got me out of the habit of reading. I’ve tried very hard to get back into it, but I am struggling. I’ve forced myself to have a schedule of reading my latest book, or else it might take me months to get through it.

I keep fighting the good fight, though, and will continue to try hard to become a reader again. I don’t know what’s come over me.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I managed to read three pretty long chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird today. I had almost two hours of having to sit and wait for people today, so I passed the time with Scout, Jem, Atticus, and all of their neighbors.

Not much Boo Radley talk this time around. A lot of standing up for Atticus, Atticus being one heck of a decent guy, and the kids gaining some perspective on the world of adults. A lot of racism and mention of the Civil War. Some swearing (by Scout) and some sense from Uncle Jack, including him being willing to listen to a little girl instead of dismissing what she had to say.

And gender stereotypes! Even in 1960, literature was tackling it. I don’t know how the story with Scout wearing overalls will turn out yet, but the fact that no one in her immediate family thought there was anything wrong with that is heartening.

Not a lot of Dill this time around, though time seemed to have passed pretty quickly in a few spots. Also very little mention of school.

We do learn a lot more about Atticus, how he used to shoot a lot, and several other things he is good at. He’s a quiet, private man, it seems, but he gets more interesting all the time. It’s also interesting how much older a father he is than average in those parts, even by today’s standards. Though being almost 42 myself, “nearly fifty” doesn’t sound “feeble” to me!

The possibly-rabid dog incident seemed to be there to set the scene for Atticus having a history shooting well. It didn’t seem to serve any other purpose.

Mrs. Dubose was an interesting one, though. Sure, she was sick and in pain a lot and everything, but she was rude! I guess that one all worked out in the end, but she terrorized those kids. Perhaps she didn’t have any of her own, so she didn’t know what kind of an effect a few words (said over and over) can have on a child? Or maybe she was in too much pain to care. I don’t know. But by the end of it, Jem and Scout learned a few things about life. This is definitely a coming of age type book.

We still haven’t gotten back to Jem’s broken elbow, or Boo Radley actually coming out of the house. I’m sure it will come full circle at some point.

And that’s the end of Part 1 in the book, and part of why I read three chapters today. Next time I’ll talk about Chapter Twelve, the first chapter in Part 2.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Seven and Eight

Image: Grand Central Publishing

Continuing on where I left off with To Kill a Mockingbird

Chapter seven was, of course, intriguing. Finding treasures inside a tree, repeatedly. Obviously someone was leaving them for the kids, but they were slow to catch on. Then with the mending of the pants… It’s pretty clear what’s been going on.

This continued in chapter eight with the mystery blanket. I think the kids have pieced it together, but they haven’t discussed it at length or anything.

Still, I was following along with their joy, the joy of surprises, the joy of thoughtful gifts, the joy of mysteries. The slight danger that they could be doing something wrong. The hope that they weren’t. It was palpable for me.

I’m excited for Miss Maudie to build a new house for herself, though. I’m also surprised that the kids weren’t more terrified during the fire. I know they were looking to their father for when to start freaking out, and since Atticus didn’t, they didn’t. But perhaps I was a different kind of kid. I would have been a mess.

Also, the snow. I was so young when I first saw snow that I don’t remember the moment. I lived the first 8 years of my life in northern climes, so I saw my first snow within my first year. But to see Scout think the world was coming to an end… Had no one described snow to her? I loved how creative Jem was with how to build a snowman with so little snow.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Five and Six

Image: Grand Central Publishing

To Kill a Mockingbird, the next two chapters.

Scuppernongs. ‘Nuf said. Rory had to look it up for me. Grapes of some kind. Now I want grapes.

I love Miss Maudie. A lot. Like a lot a lot. I’d like to know her and go over to her house for dinner. She seems like my kind of person.

Lots more of Atticus being a good parent and Jem and Dill being idiots. At least they scraped through safely. Barely. Poor Scout.

I remember doing pseudo-dangerous things as a kid and not wanting to get caught. But they were things like playing Truth or Dare and being dared to pick a flower in your neighbor’s yard, not getting shot at.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters Three and Four

Image: Grand Central Publishing

It’s a To Kill a Mockingbird two-fer today. I’ll never get through these reviews if I only read one chapter a day. And I’m sure I’m boring the pants off of half of you out there anyway. So I’ll try to speed it up.

Reading chapters three and four felt more like chapter two in that the story finally flowed. We still haven’t gotten back to Jem’s broken elbow, and if I don’t keep reminding myself about it, I’m sure I’ll forget that it was even a thing. I’m sure I’ll go back and re-read the first chapter after I’m done with the book and say, “Oh! Now I get it.”

Chapter three felt a lot like more setting the scene, describing Scout’s relationship with school and with her father. It was a good chapter, but the bugs in the hair kind of… um.. yuck. It does seem like Atticus has his kids’ best interests at heart, though. I’m very pleased about that.

Chapter four. I’m still not sure what to make of Dill. I wonder what his story is. But it’s hard to get inside the head of a child that age. They usually haven’t put everything into words themselves. It’s often only clear upon reflection later in life.

But the laughing… Interested to see where that leads.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapter Two

Image: Grand Central Publishing

Much shorter than the first, this second chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird flowed much better for me. Less jumping around. More actual story passing. I noticed that the kids called their father by his name, Atticus. Rory tells me that this is common in the south. I thought it was just common among families with parents who didn’t believe in a distinction between parents and kids. Or some such.

But my biggest response to the chapter was me getting all in a tizzy about Scout’s teacher, Miss Caroline. I know schools were different back then, but some of the same tendencies continue to this day. Scout was obviously reading. She was obviously writing (cursive). Why the heck would the teacher say, “Your father taught you wrong,” and, “You can’t write, you won’t learn that until the third grade”? It irks me something fierce to see a teacher tell a kid what they have to learn when, and that they can’t learn something else because it isn’t proper or isn’t the right time. Kids don’t learn on a schedule. And teachers are supposed to create an atmosphere of learning. Not of restrictions, criticism, and control.

It also irked me that when Scout tried to explain Walter Cunningham’s situation, the teacher punished Scout instead of appreciating the information. What is wrong with her? I hope Scout’s confusion about why her teacher would be this way gives her the power to keep standing up to her.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapter One

Image: Grand Central Publishing

I managed to get a large print edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s what the library had. Rory said that it was good that I did. He didn’t elaborate because I’ve asked for no spoilers, but my assumption is that I’m going to be crying my eyes out at some point and it’ll be easier to read with larger print. We shall see.

Since I’m sharing my thoughts about a book that is older than I am, I hope it goes without saying that this series will have spoilers.

I’ve now finished Chapter One, and have a few thoughts.

1. There’s a lot of Southern-speak in the book. Some of it was lost on me. Maybe because it wasn’t just Southern-speak, it was 55-year-old Southern-speak. And while I was an American Studies major and took a lot of history, I also grew up in non-South states. And I didn’t read much literature. My otherwise background is in science, math, and computers.

2. Harper Lee seems to go from one thing to another. Almost like a stream-of-consciousness narrative. I like to wrap up one topic, having it explained, before moving on to the next. She’d toss out one thing, like, “Hey, Jem broke his elbow,” and then she doesn’t get back to it in a timely manner. Patience is required, I suppose.

3. Everyone seems to have more than one name. Is this a Southern thing?

And that’s about it. It was just one chapter. On to Chapter Two!

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To Kill a Mockingbird “Live” Blogging

Not the original cover, I know, but I think it’s beautiful. Image: Grand Central Publishing

I’ll admit it. I’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird. We read plenty of classics in school, but you can’t cover all of them. It wasn’t assigned, and it never made it onto my radar.

Silly, I know, but I always figured it was Alfred Hitchcock-like. Killing birds. The Birds. It’s the same thing, right?

Of course not. What the hell do I know? But I still don’t know what it’s about, just that it’s wonderful and sad. So no spoilers, okay?

I’m going to remedy this oversight, of not having read the book, since at least a half dozen of my friends have said that it is one of their favorite books. Including Rory.

So, as soon as it’s on hold at the library for me, I’ll begin reading. I plan to blog my reactions, chapter by chapter, or section by section, or something. (I have no idea how it’s laid out.) Feel free to read along!

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