This is a reread for me, as a friend of mine encouraged me to pick it back up. I was initially reluctant, as I feel this book is way over-hyped and have been feeling grumpy about it being PBS’s Great American Read (which I believe is primarily due to it consistently being a high school assigned reading.) Set in 1935 but written in 1960, I wonder if Lee is writing this semi-autobiographically, and modelling Scout after her own childhood.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book. I felt sucked into the story almost immediately, and felt that the child narration made this book so much more powerful. I believe Scout was looking back on the book and narrating, but imagining how she felt as a child and what she experienced. This is why I believe the way Scout was talking sometimes didn’t feel like what a 1st grader would say in a similar situation.
This story covers some heavy topics. Divided into two main sections, the first section is about Scout and Jem’s growing up in the small Southern town in Alabama. Lee shows an interesting picture of the emerging school structure. I was fascinated to find some of the strange ideas that were present in 1935, and Lee’s attitude towards them.
The second part was about the trial. This came upon the story pretty suddenly, probably due to the child narration. Scout and Jem might not have known about the alleged rape or the publicity around it in such a small town, although I’m not quite sure how accurate that would be. Their perspective on the trial is something I appreciate. They see more than we sometimes think children do, and they have their own opinions about it, that should be heard and validated. We need to be exploring heavy topics like rape with our kids and working with them to help them process their interactions with the world.
Overall, I feel like this book is a great conversation starter. There are things Atticus brings up, particularly about racism and society, that have a lot to offer in terms of things for everyone to think about. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the rhetoric in this book, particularly with regards to Atticus’s method of parenting. He continues to encourage Scout and Jem to think outside the box and explore the world through books and other outlets. Clearly this method works for them, as Scout and Jem interact for the most part very effectively with others.