Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Published: July 11, 1960
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
Sometimes when you finish a piece of media, you immediately know that something just changed. It can be as profound as the way you feel or think about the world, or as simple as knowing you’ve found a new favorite. This was exactly my experience with To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a special piece of literature, and I’m finding that out around fifteen years later than most normally would. To be fair, though, if I had read this in high school, like I was supposed to, I never would’ve appreciated it the way I do today.
I decided to give Mockingbird a shot when I was searching for books with the best father/daughter relationships. This appeared on one list only, but it struck me as a book that I should try, given its reputation. The timing to pick this up happens to be perfect, as I’m currently experiencing those “excited yet terrified” feelings that every parent probably feels in the weeks before their first child, and this is likely why I connected so much with the story, and, more importantly, the characters.
I often get emotional when presented with genuinely good people, or acts of greatness. Seeing someone truly understand and embrace what makes life worth living – positively impacting somebody else – can bring me to tears. Atticus Finch, though a fictional character, conjures up these feelings for me throughout the entirety of Mockingbird. His maturity as a father and a man has set a new bar for me in literature, and it challenges me to simply be better; to do better. The relationship he shares with his children is unique, but strong and enviable. I’m just a handful of weeks away from holding my baby girl for the first time, and I couldn’t help but feel a personal connection to Atticus and Scout’s relationship specifically. Seeing Scout slowly come to understand the often vague lessons that her father teaches her was inspiring. He talks up, not down, which makes Scout a better, stronger, more intelligent and caring person.
Atticus lives the “lead by example” mantra every minute of his life, and really drives home the fact that everything I say and everything I do from here on out will be watched by an impressionable mind, and will shape a human being one way or another. Mockingbird teaches us that there is no stronger influence on a child than their parents, and that message is especially important to me right now.
The story of Mockingbird, though taking place in the 1930s, is still very poignant today. Miss Maudie talking about how the town has taken a “baby step” in the right direction, seeing Scout struggle with the hypocrisy of her teacher, or Atticus nearly breaking down after seeing all the gifts presented to him by some of the townsfolk after a difficult trial. Those, plus so many more, are moments that will stick with me. The lessons that Atticus shares about being a father, and being a good man, are timeless and important.
To Kill a Mockingbird is special, and even though it has been read and adored by millions of readers, it still has a way to feel personal to me, a man three times as old as the narrator, hundreds of miles north of the location, and over 80 years removed from the time period. That it has effected me so greatly is nothing short of remarkable. It’s the first book I’ve ever read that I genuinely did not want to end. I didn’t want to close the book, literally and figuratively, on this fully realized, intelligent, thoughtful, and endearing family. This is one I’ll read again, and will hopefully have the opportunity to share with my daughter one day. There are so many great lessons to be learned in these pages, and I’m sure I only caught a handful of them my first time through.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a new favorite for me, but one that I am glad I waited until this unique point of my life to read.
Also note that I listened to the audiobook version of this, which was narrated by Sissy Spacek. Spacek does a wonderful job in creating the correct tone for Scout, and it really feels like we’re listening to Scout create the voices of her father, brother, and neighbors. I’d highly recommend the audiobook, which you can find on Amazon, or on Audbile (sign up today for a free trial, and get the book for free). I borrowed the book from Libby, a service related to my library card.