“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Last night we went with our small group to see the stage production of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. We have watched the movie version of this with Gregory Peck as a family tradition for as long as I can remember – every year on Halloween.
Reading this book is a treasure of wonderful word images and emotional stimulation – evoking both humor and sadness. I wondered what the stage version would be like – and although it had elements from both the book and the movie – it was different – more raw – and fragile – like looking at something you’ve seen a hundred times in a fresh new way – through a different lens.
The stage version had the grown-up Jean Louis Finch (Scout) narrating the story throughout the play of the memories of her hometown and how she remembers it – as a little girl. It was rich to see her remembering certain things as new characters came in the story. Things she didn’t understand as a little girl – when recalled by the older version of herself – made total and complete sense to her years later. And things that were above her at the time – were looked back on with clear reflection, humor and understanding.
In the courtroom scene – I noticed how the older Jean Louis was remembering and her eyes had much emotion when looking at Tom Robinson – the man accused of raping a white girl in Macomb Alabama, in 1935. Condemned before tried – the “no-win” situation troubled her even when looking back at the scene years later – and that was a very moving part of the story for me.
The other thing that stood out in my mind was when the father, Atticus says to Boo Radley, a reclusive next door neighbor who finally “comes out” to rescue Scout and Jem from the very angry and abusive Bob Ewell – “Thank you, Arthur. Thank you for my children”. It is in this simple statement that brings solemness to seclusion – and dignity to the bizarre and different. The reclusive “monster” that supposedly lived next door to them – turned out to be the hero of the story and in fact – saved their lives – defending them against an evil force – when they could not defend themselves.
I am forever in awe of the wonderful story this is – told from a child’s point of view – or at least a grown-up “child” remembering her dear old lawyer father in a southern town during the depression of 1935. Rich imagery and word pictures – a father full of conviction and integrity – teaching his children to stand for what’s right and to have courage in the midst of sure defeat. I take something new away from this great classic every time I see it.
Below are some of the wonderful quotes from the book. I hope they will inspire you to read this book, see the movie – or take in the live production when you get the chance.
- “‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.”
- “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.
So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ‘em to their senses…. That proves something – that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown,” said Dill. “Yes, sir, a clown…. There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.” “You got it backwards, Dill,” said Jem. “Clowns are sad, it’s folks that laugh at them.” “Well, I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.”
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. ~ spoken by the character Scout
The sixth grade seemed to please him from the beginning: he went through a brief Egyptian Period that baffled me – he tried to walk flat a great deal, sticking one arm in front of him and one in back of him, putting one foot behind the other. He declared Egyptians walked that way; I said if they did I didn’t see how they got anything done, but Jem said they accomplished more than the Americans ever did, they invented toilet paper and perpetual embalming, and asked where would we be today if they hadn’t? Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand. ~ spoken by the character Atticus
- Movie Review | ‘Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”: Inside an Influential Novel (movies.nytimes.com)
- Film: Movie Review: Hey Boo: Harper Lee & ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (avclub.com)
- What happens when scout are walking home from the pageant in the book to kill a mockingbird (wiki.answers.com)
- In to kill a mockingbird what’s the reason for atticus telling the kids it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird (wiki.answers.com)
- “To Kill A Mockingbird” Turns 50 (popcrunch.com)
- Book Review> Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (marissamullins.com)
- ArtsBeat: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Author Repudiates Journalist’s Memoir About Her (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Harper Lee to disclose why she stopped writing after ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (windsorstar.com)