Finishing To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s been a while since GF and I read To Kill a Mockingbird (earlier instalments 1, 2 and 3). It’s been quite a while since we finished reading it, but a few life things happened along the way. So, here are some notes from quite a while ago

Notes on Chapters 11-13

Calpurnia stands apart from her peers in an interesting way, as does Atticus, because of their use of (and careful precision with) language. She’s an interesting character; almost ageless, as Scout wonders how old she is.. She may have been a slave, but treated differently by the Finch’s, which helps explain her loyalty to them.

The visit to the church was an interesting segment. I think one thing Lee may have been saying is that every group has members that don’t reflect well on it.

Cheesy, perhaps – but is the scrubbing before they go to church a metaphor for removing expectations or preconceptions? Or is it an interesting contrast in that even though the Finchs are higher up the hierarchy, Calpurnia is fastidious about how the Finch children will present at her church. Once they’re there, Scout doesn’t explicitly make a better or worse comparison between the two churches.

I think it’s interesting as well that the ability of the Finch children to just show up to Calpurnia’s church shows real privilege; that’s something that Calpurnia’s children or nieces and nephews could never do – show up to the Finch church without thought of the consequences.

The rest of the book

So on finishing TKAM, I’m reminded how good it is. It’s been years since I read it, and so it’s nice to go back.

One of the things I enjoyed was how Lee wove together the different strands quite effectively at the end. The story of Boo Radley comes together with Bob Ewell’s response to the trial.

It’s interesting to think about how Atticus responds to all this. For me that was quite a striking moment. Atticus, throughout the trial, has maintained his insistence on the appropriate observance of the law. Because it’s the right thing to do, in that case, but also because the legal framework is an important institution.

But in that confrontation on the balcony, between him and the sheriff, we see him back down on something that is fundamental to him. Which I found surprising, and interesting. Not that I think he necessarily made the wrong decision. I think the arguments for why Boo Radley shouldn’t get dragged through a trial are quite possibly sound; but for Atticus to assent to that, was quite interesting to me.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the role Scout plays in the novel. As a narrator, she’s essential. Lee uses her naive viewpoint very effectively, to give us a stripped-back, simple view of a complex social world, that in some ways serves to highlight what’s wrong or strange about the town she lives in.

I’ve also been thinking, though, about what it is that changes for Scout. I’m a big believer in protagonists that make difficult choices that reveal something about their character. But as I think back on the novel, Scout doesn’t really make any choices. The protagonists that do make choices are Atticus (in choosing to defend an innocent man, when the town holds him guilty) and Boo Radley (who ventures out of his safe house to rescue the children he thinks of as his own). For Scout, maybe the transformative moment is when she sees Boo Radley as someone to be cared for, not someone to be feared. She takes his hand, and helps him home.

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