How do I write this review without spoiling it?
I guess a book review in essence is a spoiler and it can’t be avoided huh?
To start off critically Lee writes well even though she “breaks” the rules of proper writing. She constantly switches from 1st person perspective to 3rd person within paragraphs for no reason other than it fits how she thinks through the events that are happening as she’s writting them. It’s not distracting though the only reason I noticed at all was because in the midst of reading this I was also writing my novel and was really struggling to keep it all in the same perspective and same tense. It’s not easy.
Like I mentioned in my facebook post the story has a good moral lesson but I have 2 problems with the book.
1st- The story drags on a bit. The whole lesson in the book could be gathered just by reading chapter 18 and there’s only 19 chapters.
2nd- Jean Louise our protagonist is the color blind (not literally) southern tomboy turned yankee. That’s not my problem. My problem is that when she’s explaining why she stands behind the supreme court allowing blacks to vote she adds something that not only is irrelevant to the equal rights of black men and women but also shows that Jean Louise isn’t as color blind and equal rightest as she makes us believe. In the final chapters after her argument with Atticus over the right for black men to vote she has a conversation with her uncle where he’s explaining how she’s never seen people for the color of their skin but for their character where she replies “But Unlce Jack, I don’t especially want to run out and marry a Negro or something.”
Why the need for that disclaimer? The whole conversation is about how she doesn’t agree that her dad and her childhood friend are attending the citizen’s council where the men of the city are trying to keep the NAACP from telling them what they can and cant do. Jean Louise is mad at those men for supressing black people. And here she is having a conversation with her uncle and Harper Lee feels the need to throw in that little line. It’s upsetting. It’s pretty much innecessary, she could have still made her point across without that line and it just makes Jean Louise seem a little less of a humanitarian.
Other than those two problems I have with the book I still enjoyed reading it for this reason:
At the end Jean Louise understands she is her own person seperate from her father, Atticus. But just because she thinks differently from him doesn’t mean he has to be her enemy. When she’s having the conversation with her uncle he calls her a bigot. And it never occured to me that even liberal can be a bigot. Just because I feel that humans should all deserve a certain level of justice, security and rights and I feel this is morally correct doesn’t mean I am less susceptible to being a bigot. How many times have I even tried to listen to the points of view from those that are on the opposing idea from mine? Hardly.
I have convictions in my beliefs and so do those who believe in gun rights, or the death penalty, or immigration restrictions or whatever other hot topic of the time. I can be just a bigot as any far right conservatist.
The final realization that Jean Louise has is that when she decides she’s going to leave Maccomb county forever her Uncle comes to try to stop her. He says Maccomb needs people like her to show them another way of thinking. That it takes a certain level of maturity to be able to live around people who think so differently from you.
With everything that has gone on lately in our world some of us are quick to shout our convictions and burn bridges with those that think the opposite as us. Science has shown us that when someone is deeply rooted in their beliefs, when they claim an ideal as “mine” that not even logical facts or reasoning can draw them away to see things in a different light. So what are we to do when no one’s speaking to eachother and we have pressing issues that need to be addressed? Do we really have to burn every bridge? Or is there another way?
I’m not saying be best friends with someone who believes treating someone else differently based on the color of their skin or their religious beliefs or what side of a border they were born on is justified. No, you don’t have to accept injustice. But they are not the enemy.
If we can’t change people’s beliefs by showing them facts maybe we need to try a little of what Jean Louise did and show our communities through compassion and respect that there are other ways we can achieve peace and justice.