Tuesday, December 30, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird :: RtK Book Club Discussion

I love it when the person leading the book club discussion chooses a book for us to read that they feel very strongly about. This past month, Annette from This Simple Home invited us to read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It is one of her all-time favorite books and she explains some of the reasons why below.

Reading to Know - Book Club


I've read To Kill a Mockingbird more than a dozen time, and I still glean something new from my all-time favorite book. Even if you didn't read along this month, I hope you'll take the time to read some of my thoughts.

To Kill a Mockingbird earned Harper Lee a Pulitzer Prize in 1960. The widely read book, not about mockingbirds, is an American classic set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930's.

Scout (known formally as Jean Louise Finch), brother Jem (Jeremy Finch), and their friend Dill (Charles Baker Harris) spend their hot summer days mostly staying out of trouble and playing games about their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley. As time goes by, life is less about Boo and more about the impact of Scout and Jem's lawyer father and his most recent case. Atticus Finch defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. It's a case he has no chance of winning despite the evidence. Much to the dismay of his neighbors, Atticus intends to defend Tom Robinson.

Family. Atticus Finch is not a perfect father. Some think he lets his kids run wild. However, he listens to them and does his best by them. He may not hug them, but they know they are loved. As one raised by a single father, I appreciate the wisdom Atticus provides.  Scout judged the severity of many situations based on Atticus's reaction. He would assure her, "Don't you worry about anything. It's not time to worry." As the older brother, Jem uses the same phrase to help Scout. The siblings may fight, but they also protect and care for one another. Aunt Alexandra even comes to help out.

Prejudice. The Finch's help, Calpurnia, is treated like family. She cares for the children and Atticus and they care for her and respect her at a time when the "colored" help was beneath them.Yet the times are the times. Though Scout has a better upbringing than most when it comes to respecting those of different races, she later responds to Dill's distress with the treatment of Tom Robinson, "Well, Dill, after all he's just a Negro."

TKAM addresses the unique problem of those of mixed races and interracial marriage. Dolphus Raymond chooses to live with a black woman. Together they have children. He walks around drinking from a paper sack just to give others comfort. He explains that it helps others if they can "latch onto a reason" for him living as he does, so he lets them think he can't help himself as a drunk (when in fact, he is not much of a drinker).

I want to think of how far our country has come when it comes to looking past skin color. If it begins with me, I have a good start but wonder how much further I need to go. I have a niece and nephew who are biracial. I have several friends and acquaintances within an interracial marriage. My community is significantly more diverse than where I grew up (which likely remains 99% caucasian). But it's only a beginning.

TKAM also explores social class and what it means to have "background."  Jem and Scout discuss this quite a bit and ponder if it is how long a family has owned their land or how long they have been reading. Regarding a friend of  Jem and Scout's, Aunt Alexandra explains, "There is no doubt in my mind that they're good folks. But they're not our kind of folks." This makes me wonder about how I find the balance between being a good friend to those different than me (or my children) while intentional about friendships formed, too.

Justice. The American justice system is only as efficient as the men and women who serve within the courts. Atticus defended Tom Robinson, an innocent man, as well as he could. Despite the evidence, Atticus knew the battle was lost before he stepped into the courtroom, but it was a battle he was willing to fight.

Death. I discussed a passage from To Kill a Mockingbird a while back that discussed death with dignity.

Related Recommendations

If you like To Kill a Mockingbird, I highly recommend reading Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, by Charles J. Shields. Though Harper Lee would not authorize any biography or the content within the book, the author's research and writing was wonderful, even if Nell Harper Lee's life was not all peaches and cream. If you wonder why another book was not published by Harper Lee, Shields attempts to answer that question.

If you are one who likes to consider faith issues, you may like The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives Through the Power of Story, by Matt Littman

If you are curious about the title, Jem and Scout receive air guns for Christmas.

"Atticus said to Jem one day, 'I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'"
Thank you for reading along with a wonderful classic, and thank you, Carrie, for hosting the Reading to Know Book Club!


Did you read along with the book club this month? If you did and would care to share your thoughts/a link to your blog post about the book below. We look forward to hearing what you thought of this remarkable book.


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I did not re-read this one (because apparently I have issues with re-reading books, even books I love), but I did share some related pictures and thoughts:

Barbara H. said...

I did finish this one and reviewed it here:

This was my second time through and I enjoyed it quite a lot. A book that you can glean from every time you read and that leaves you thinking for days is a good one.

Shonya said...

I read this one with my teens early this year, so didn't read it this month.

Even though I had read it before, some of my life's experiences made different aspects of the book stand out to me. For instance, I found it interesting to compare and contrast the racial stereotypes in this book. It really stood out to me that the ladies of the Missionary Society were so concerned with doing good to those "Negroes in Africa" yet completely overlooked the need to love those 'close to home' and talked badly about their African-American cooks and servants. This hypocrisy really stood out to me. I'm not negating the need to be aware of poverty in other countries and to do what we can in the name of Jesus to help those in third world countries. It just reminded me to tend to our relationships with our own families, friends, and neighbors first--even though it's sometimes easier to feel compassion and a desire to help people in third world countries than it is to feel love and compassion for those we actually interact with who might be annoying, selfish, rude, or unappreciative.

I was also fascinated by the commentary this book had on education, which I suppose is more meaningful to me now as a home educator than it was as a student. I was struck by the way Atticus taught his children, nurturing their curiosity and whetting their appetite for learning and how that was contrasted with the teacher's rigidity and adherence to what the curriculum said a child should know and when. As an educator, it reminded me of what is important in teaching my individual children and not to get boxed in by curricula or tests or the expectations of other people. Life, or experience, truly is our best teacher.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...


I've always loved the part about education, too!

Annette Whipple said...

Shonya, I always felt that the Missionary Society was a perfect example hypocrisy. :/

I'll be reading the others' reviews soon!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I love this book too, but for different reasons. My mother grew up in a poor, farming family in Missouri during the Depression. There is so much in the description of the events, places and people that rings true with her stories - I can see "her south" while reading Harper Lee's words - and it's just amazing.

Carrie said...

Thanks for hosting this month's discussion, Annette! I appreciated reading your thoughts.

I've read this book twice before but was unable to read it this month. And I knew I would be sad to say so at the conclusion of the month and in reading your thoughts. I AM sorry! I will want to pick this one up again in the future.

Looking forward to hearing what everyone else had to share.

Annette Whipple said...

I actually was just skimming your December posts to see your thoughts. I'm glad you've read it before, even if you couldn't this month.

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