For Banned Books Week 2016, I decided to revisit a classic that has been on the most challenged list for decades. Reading this as an adult compared to having to read it in school provided me with a much different understanding and a greater appreciation of the text.
Taking place in 1936, the story tells of Scout and Jem growing up with their father Atticus in the sleepy town of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus, ahead of his time, is a lawyer in the small town that often represents black community members and does so without any hesitation. This kind of profession has him as both a loved and hated member of the community. He is appointed to defend a man, Tom Robinson that has been accused of rape by the less than respectable Ewells and despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to exonerate him, Robinson is convicted based on the color of his skin.
I can understand that the language used would place this novel on the “banned” list, but it is a product of its time and portrays the feelings and “us” vs. “them” mentality of the time. I think this particular novel, now more than ever, should still be taught in schools, but, sadly, that is not the case everywhere. After all, literature is history in poetic form.
These characters are dealing with racial issues that still face our society today. People being treated unfairly solely based on the color of their skin. Atticus serves as as a moral hero and the epitome of a model lawyer. He doesn’t resort to bully tactics to defend his clients, but sticks to the letter of the law and trusts that the justice system will prevail. He does not see his clients color and takes payments from all of his clients however they are able to pay him, which is often through services like chopping firewood or providing vegetables. He is endearing and lovable and displays immeasurable courage at a most trying time.
I remember Boo Radley playing a larger role in the novel than he actually does. For some reason, I remembered him referenced a lot throughout Scout and Jem’s childhood, and he was, but not in the way that I remember. I also remember thinking the moral or theme of this book was a little like “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but as an adult I received this book to mean so much more than that. Boo, or Arthur, keeps to himself because he chooses to do so. As Scout realizes in the end, he wants to be separate from the controversies and issues in society. He wants to live his days quietly and secretly serves as the neighborhood watch, which ends up saving Jem and Scout from serious harm.
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.
There is so many instances of courage in this novel that I did not recognize the first time I read it. From Mrs. Dubose courage in fighting her morphine addiction before dying to Boo’s courage in leaving his sanctuary to save Jem and Scout.
I have never read the second novel, Go Set a Watchman, but I have now placed it on my to read list. I am glad I took the opportunity during Banned Books Week to reread such a classic novel. I also took the time to read another banned book that I had not encountered before, which I will be finished with soon enough.