Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird' out loud

I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee back in junior high school like everyone I know who is remotely close to my age. I attended junior high in Canada, and it seems to me this is the one thing in common between the US and Canadian education systems; both require reading a combination of Shakespeare’s plays, and must read To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember the book rather well since reading it the first time. I know the plot and at anytime I could give ample descriptions and comments on the main characters. I did like it a lot.

I remember Atticus Finch the most of course. Thinking back, I believe his character permanently instill in me a certain romantic affection for lawyers that no nasty ambulance chasing can completely wipe out. But besides his fine lawyering, I always thought of him as the model of a father, a perfect example of a man: mature, kind, and slightly remote.

Recently I have been thinking a great deal on how we should spend our time as a family. I will elaborate more on this later on, but as part of a grand experiment/commitment, I decided about a month ago to read this timeless book again, aloud, to my husband, who does not appreciate literature one bit. My husband is Israeli, and he never even heard of this book, so he resisted quite a bit until I managed to wear him down à la Princess Bride grandfather style.

I was surprised by how different it is to read the story as an adult. Even though I knew the plot, I now realize I didn’t understand it back then. I remember I was feeling like Jem, I got angry at the outcome of the Maycomb trial, but I had no interest in seeing the other characters’ point of view as urged on so exquisitely by Atticus. "You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." I actually missed the point.

First time around I saw Atticus as a child sees a father. But this time, at the age of a parent, I wonder if I could be like him. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” How difficult is it to live by that in real life? I think it still costs quite a bit today, but I have a suspicion that it is getting easier in this country, that however bad things may look, the underlying morals of the country lumbers towards the good.

My husband said, “I like how Atticus gets you to think, and the children makes you feel, so it really hits home.” Think and feel. My husband is not very good with words, but I think he was quite articulate with this one. He simpered as I read with a pseudo southern accent, especially the parts with the children, and he looked consciously at me when little boy Dill makes up a long dreamy story about a magic island where babies are collected like flower, I think we each silently thought of being parents then.

So that was how we spend out nights together for weeks and weeks, and in the end, I think we got a little closer for it. But we’ll see.


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