Ongoing Stories of My Soul

Look over my shoulder as I ponder life.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Once a Classic Always a Classic

So, Harper Lee has taken the world by storm, once again. Way to go! On July 11th, 1960, she set the literary world on its ear by creating a story rich in character, theme, and social overtones which resulted in the book being banned in many libraries. That is fame in itself, if you ask me! Write a book that teens will read and make them think. Wow…dangerous stuff back in the day.

Now we are ready for ‘Go Set a Watchman’ to be released. The title is straight out of scripture. It tells the watchman, that if he does not sound a warning to whom he is called to protect, he will be held accountable for judgment and punishment by God as much as those who did not heed the warning. Well, there were all kinds of warnings and sirens in ‘Mockingbird’.

But here is what I know. I have loved Atticus Finch since the day I finished the book. I adored Scout and her perspective on life and how the story just flowed like a lazy southern river. It had every component that made it a classic. When defining a classic to my students, the number one quality is that it withstands the test of time. The world can go from number two pencils to calculated fly-bys past Pluto, and good literature, art, music, will connect those worlds for us in a way we will not forget.

Or, let’s look at it another way. In ‘Mockingbird’ Scout/Jean Louise is telling the story as a seven year old. One of the most critical aspects of writing is creating an authentic ‘voice’ for each character. Author Harper Lee nails it with every person we meet. Scout reveals a love and reverence for her father, Atticus. Think about it. As seven year olds, didn’t we all consider our parents to be perfect? Didn’t they reveal the world to us, complete with filters and careful lies? Scout processes her world from her precocious and southern point of view. It is, well, classic! And then the story came to the cinema, cementing poignant dialogue and events in our minds, and becoming a classic in another genre.

Now, Scout, is a grown woman, having abandoned her beloved nickname for her given moniker, Jean Louise Finch. And with that metamorphosis comes the realization that her father, Atticus Finch, is not perfect. Well, wasn’t that a lesson we all learned as adults? That our view of our mothers and fathers became a bit skewed when we held them up to the light? I think that is one of the biggest ‘coming of age’ story lines out there. I get it. Why?

Because I was once Scout (little Debbie Martin). I lived for summer adventure-filled days, and with Frankie, the neighbor boy, we would have knocked on Boo Radley’s door and tormented that mystery man day after day. I loved my father deeply, but had to learn quickly that the man I idolized fell fast and hard—with many folks watching. And then it happened. I grew up to be Jean Louise (Debbie Martin Coffing-Hall) and learned that I was as imperfect as the next guy and am still living in a world harboring a hate that divides people, cultures, and countries. I have always tried to savor my days as ‘Scout’ and the love of an imperfect father. Oh….that neighbor boy, Frankie? We see one another and laugh at every crazy prank and person we encountered in our youth. In our minds, we remain Scout and Jem.

So now you have it. I will read the new/old book by Harper Lee. I am anxious to meet Scout again as a grown-up. Yeah, it is time to see how we did. I have been warned not to read it as it will ruin my ideal of Atticus. Naw….nothing will do that. ‘Mockingbird’ and I have been companions for so many years. I have carried my love for this literary work into naming my pets: Scout, Atticus, Harper, and Boo. Besides that, I have had plenty of practice in loving imperfect people.

After all, I am one of them.

Bring it on, Harper, I’m ready. Scout was always brave. And forgiving.

Let’s see if I can be as well.