8.20.2009

#21. To Kill a Mockingbird

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"If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside."

Author: Harper Lee

Synopsis: Two young children in the South play games and conjecture about their neighbor who never leaves the house. Their father, in the meantime, goes to court to defend a Negro man wrongfully accused. When the fight gets out of the courtroom and becomes violent, Jem and Scout learn difficult truths of humanity and justice.

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Living in a very left-of-center college town, where a simple trip to the grocery store may involve facing ugly political rhetoric (usually in the form of bumper stickers), I have grown tired of all the words slung about to dehumanize anyone remotely connected to politically conservative views. "Racism" is one of these, not because I think it isn't a problem in some places and among some people, but because such words are often used to preach hellfire and brimstone to the peace-loving little church choir rather than getting where they can do some good.

That said, I think of this as one of the most important of American novels. I may be tired of hearing about "humanity", but from the bottom of my heart I recognize Tom Robinson as human; "equality" is also an overused word, but my mind and heart as well as my religion teach me that every human is endowed with an inherent and equal dignity, from conception to natural death, regardless of race or creed or sex or ability or any of the other arbitrary words used to distinguish between demographics.

Harper Lee does a beautiful job of highlighting this truth. And though the novel has perhaps something of an agenda, it is not painful to read as most such are.

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