Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: This novel has been repeatedly challenged and banned in numerous states on the grounds that it “contains profanity and racial slurs.”
My Rating: 1 misunderstood town enigma
I have read this book three times now, and each time I do I fall more and more in love with it. I love this book. I love everything about it. I love Scout’s tomboy antics and childish yet truth-telling voice, Jem’s growing up and turning into the man his father is, Calpurnia’s wisdom, Miss Maudie’s acceptance of all people, and Atticus. But most importantly, I love Boo Radley.
One of the two mockingbirds in Lee’s masterpiece, Boo Radley is the J.D. Salinger of the literary world. A misunderstood recluse who hides behind dark shadows and town folklore, Boo Radley’s innocence was snuffed out too early by an abusive father. But Jem and Dill are so adamant about understanding his questionable background that they do whatever they can to try and will him out of his home. They put notes of fishing hooks, try and look through his window, and even create a game of reenacting his life. If anything sticks in my mind from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s that scene of Boo Radley allegedly cutting up newspaper clippings, suddenly stabbing his father with the scissors, whipping them out again, and continuing to cut clippings.
Although everything everyone says about Boo Radley is in fact a lie, there is just something so captivating about him. You can understand why Jem and Dill are so enthralled by him. The scissors story, his fingers being stained red from eating squirrels and cats, and flowers frost overnight because Boo Radley breathed on them. Every time his name is on the page, it jumps out at you, and you just can’t wait to get there and find out what is being said.
Throughout the novel, we come to grow and love Boo Radley just as much as he grows to care for Jem and Scout. His constant surveillance over the Finch children has not only helped them once or twice, but he has also saved their lives from the biggest asshole ever known to anyone, aka, Bob Ewell. (I feel that I should do a Ranking the Assholes of Literature post and look into every character I have ever called one. Because it seems that I am always calling someone an asshole in these posts)
Bob Ewell is the man who angers the crap out of me and makes Heathcliff and Tom Buchanan look like ant bullies in comparison. Harper Lee creates Robert E Lee Ewell as the personification of the darkness of the South in the 1930s with his ignorance, poverty, squalor, and hate-filled racial prejudice. Bob Ewell’s knowing wrongful accusation of Tom Robinson ruins lives and threatens the wellbeing of others. But what makes Ewell so awful is that he is so real. There are still Bob Ewells in this world, but with shifting prejudices.
But then there is Atticus Finch. Atticus is one of the most amazing characters ever created. This year, Out Of Print Clothing is doing a Book Madness bracket of Heroes vs Villains. And although some people are blabbering on the championship match being Harry Potter vs Voldermort, I know in my heart of hearts that if Atticus Finch does not win then I am ashamed to be a book enthusiast. Because Atticus Finch is a hero among men. And just like Ewell, Atticus is capable of existing. A part of him can be in anyone; we all have the ability to be Atticus Finch.
What really affected me when reading To Kill a Mockingbird was not Atticus’ closing statement, but his walking out of the courtroom afterwards. There was nothing left for Atticus to do. He had given his everything in helping Tom Robinson. There was no way that Robinson was guilty. The deck was completely stacked against Ewell’s case. But there was still something going against Robinson. One. Little. Thing. The fact that he was black and Ewell was white. Bob may have been trash, but he was white trash. Which was still good enough to have Robinson convicted. And when Atticus left that courtroom, he was respected for what he had tried to accomplish.
I believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that should be required to be read by all. Harper Lee’s classic teaches you that you can never understand someone unless you crawl in their skin and walk around in it. And I truly believe that Atticus — as well as Boo Radley — is one of the greatest creations in all of classic literature. The fact that this novel is continuously challenged and banned due to the language is completely ridiculous. Honing in on the language used in a novel about prejudice in the 1930s deep South is like calling the Civil War of the United States the War of Northern Aggression, or firing teachers from public schools for teaching evolution. It’s trying to hide aspects of history that one does not agree with or understand. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beautiful books in American literature and I thank Harper Lee for her masterpiece.
Your father’s right,” [Miss Maudie] said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy […] they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Want to read along with me?
Check out the Banned Books Challenge page to see my progress!