Sunday, September 28, 2008

Great Ending

Wow, I hardly know what to say. I agree with everything that Mom and Shyla said. I definitely had tears in my eyes when I was finished with the book. How scary for Jem and Scout! What is that crazy Ewell trash thinking! Poor Atticus is so shook up (as he should be) that he cannot even think straight. I do not think that the thought even entered his head that Boo Radley ( I perfer Boo over Arthur) was the one that saved his children and killed Bob Ewell. And I am interested in why Aunt Alexandra feels that the whole thing was her fault (page 307). She said she "...had a feeling about this tonight...". Of course Alexandra and Atticus would feel safe letting Jem and Scout go to the school alone. Didn't Scout say that everyone in Maycomb knew everyone elses voice?(page 302) I know they feel bad about not being there and I am sure there is a lesson there. Listen to your gut feelings, alot of the time they are right. I also like how the author does not try to tie up all the lose ends and ruin the novel. The characters in the book are living life and trying to deal with things that happen to them the same as the readers. I feel sad that Scout never saw Boo again. I hope he was happy the rest of his days. So Shyla, are you saying that none of her other books are any good? If they are, I would like to read them. Good book choice Shyla, and excellent book. Definitely one to keep in your library at home.

What a book!!

I have mostly rambling thoughts and comments about the text but was hit hard with the powerful ending of this book. Lee writes with such simple intensity. Another way to describe childhood. Scout's simple directness is refreshing, almost an interruption, in the way we do adulthood. I liked the way Scout gets mixed up about time and decides she needs to ask Jem (p. 278) For instance, the way she spoke to the men in front of the jail and the way she took Arthur's hand and led him through their home, chatting all the way. And the description of Boo (p. 310). Humor in one liners runs through the book p. 309 "We'll have to make him a deputy, go ahead." and when Tate says "Scout is eight years old, he said. ' "She was too scared to know exactly what went on." "You'd be surprised," Atticus said grimly."' Or when Scout says "I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn't much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra."

Why this book isn't about Tom Robinson at all. He's almost a minor character! I liked the objective of "current events" (p. 279) I am a bit confused about Arthur or "Boo". Wasn't he the son who was rebellious and was confined to his house? But according to the end of the book, he was really a painfully shy individual. Perhaps there comes a point in the relationship between a child and a parent when the hug is more for the hugger (Atticus) than the huggee (Scout) p. 307.

So Scout, in her simple direct way thought accusing and then ultimately convicting the man who actually committed the crime (if crime it be), Arthur, was like "killing a mockingbird". A sin indeed.

So Boo killed Ewell, right? Initially, Atticus thought it was Jem. Heck knew it was Boo but blamed it on Bob Ewell.

Yes, that is the beauty of a good book. A classic. The next time I read it, I will love it all over again. It's not a book; it's a friend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What an Ending!

The end of this novel is where Harper Lee shines. I stayed up an hour past my bedtime to finish it, even though I have read it before and know exactly how it ends. I love it when a book is so good that I get the same rush reading the ending no matter how often I've read it before.

I especially admire the end of this book in light of other books I've been reading lately, where the author really doesn't know how or when to end the book and does a poor job. The need to resolve every past and future issue ends up in an anti-climatic, poorly written ending that usually doesn't flow with the rest of the book. No interruption of flow here. I like Harper Lee's writing all the way through, but it is these last chapters: the descriptions, the seamless weaving of storylines, the drama, the final character sketches and revelations (both Boo and Tate), the right mix of action, dialogue, and internal thinking, where she really rises above the average writer. Just like last time, Lee had me absolutely entranced and by the time I was done reading, I have to admit I had a big lump in my throat.

The idea of this book is fantastic. She writes about big issues from a child's point of view. It feels realistic and sincere. She tackles racism, poverty, ignorance, women's issues, cruelty, violence, and even single parent families (both Scout and Dill). She doesn't go into each issue in depth or even try to pinpoint and resolve Scout's feelings on each issue. She is surrounded by it, and like the rest of us, is constantly working through her feelings and understanding of issues and doesn't come to any final resolves or resolutions in life. Because it is written from a child's point of view, the language is simpler, which is more powerful. This is a kid we can all relate to, but contrary to what many of her contemporary critics said, this is not a kid's book. You have to be an adult to really "get" this book. Absolutely beautiful and fantastic. If I had written this book as my first novel, like Lee, I think I would have been pretty reluctant to try and follow it up. If everyone just wrote the one good novel they had in them and skipped the rest of the crap they write, it would be quite a compelling literary world.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Victims of Bigotry and Heartbreak in Knowledge

Atticus knew all along. When he was talking to the jury he was speaking to the individual juror. And this book says something about jury selection. It also says something about women serving on a jury. Talking about individuals taking opportunities, Miss Maudie was the only one in the ladies' group to speak up as well. And Mrs. Merriweather is leading the pack of hypocrites. It takes courage to fight evil on an individual level. I'm ashamed to admit I don't do it every time I get the chance (or perhaps ever). That is one of the powerful things about this book, it causes self reflection, something usually painful. Atticus is trying to teach Jem (but Jem already knows this lesson) on page 251 "If you had been on that jury, son, and eleven other boys like you, Tom would be a free man." When reading, an eye closing moment: p. 231 "This case is as simple as black and white." Then Atticus furtively pitches equality to a jury made up of "Ewells." Mr. Gilmer's questions to Tom:
"But you weren't in a fix--you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?"
"No such, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now."
"Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?"
"No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do."
Tom isn't the only victim of bigotry. His wife, his family, Atticus, Atticus' family, Heck Tate, Mayella, everyone. And yet, the evil lingers. Even Scout says to Dill when Dill has a fit about the way Mr. Gilmer talks to Tom, "Well, Dill, after all he's just a Negro."
Jem's right, why can't we all just get along. But we can't! And that includes me. The days of "...fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water." are over (p. 266)
Note the words used to describe the atmosphere of the courtroom "...same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie's new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted, waiting, empty street.." All references to previous events in the book. Nice writing tool.
Adolescence is killing Jem. At least he started to grow hair on his chest (well, theoretically) and hair under his arms. We all know you need armpit hair to play football. Isn't adolescence when you learn that grown ups aren't perfect, even the ones you love? This knowledge is breaking Jem's heart.
I knew this book would be painful to read.
I have a question. I don't understand Dill's purpose in this book. Wouldn't the story be just as good without Dill?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Does any one know?...

I have been waiting to ask this question. When Miss Maudie is at Alexandra's party and the other ladies are talking about Aticus being led wrong. They say he's a good man but he's 'misguided'. Now from what I remember Ms. Maudie doesn't say much and she's not too open about her stance on things, but she says on page 233 1st para. down "his food doesn't stick going down , does it?" and it seemed to somewhat shut them all up. But what does it mean? It's been bothering me for some time now.

Tom's fate is sad. He kinda went crazy. But who wouldn't. And poor Jem, facing the hard facts of life. That some people think they are better than others. And are we? We learn we are not or at least that is the wrong attitude to have. It is so obvious to us now looking back on history the wrong choices people make about putting themselves above others and how does that happen now? I think it's interesting. I also like how in chp. 22 at the end how Ms. Maudie (and I love how she has a relationship with the kids now, like a grandma) how she says that Atticus can't win. There is no way he can, but he's the only man who could keep a jury out that long and that it was a baby step. It just reminds me that one person really can make a difference. Not in the movement of civil rights, that takes many people. But one person can make a difference in giving others courage to do what they think might be right. How difficult that would be to do by oneself. It would be much easier with a group of good friends to all make the right choice all at once, but that's not usually how the cookie crumbles is it?

The courage in this book amazes me as I think about real life. This is a great book. I can't believe I didnt' read it in high school! What kind of school did I go to?

Don't forget about my question!! :P

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Disturbing Reality

This was a pretty heavy set of chapters. It ended heavy with Tom's death. I feel sorry for Jem in these chapters. He is just so hopeful and confident that people's decisions will be based on purely the legal issue of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt instead of having the other nonlegal factors come into play.

Tom's death is disturbing. I'm not frustrated that he didn't wait for his appeal. I think Atticus knew that the chances of a court ruling favorably on an appeal of the case of a black man allegedly raping a white woman was rare; additionally, even if the appeal were granted and ruled on favorably, Tom would have gotten another trial but the result more than likely would have been the same. And I guess that is the disturbing part. We are sad Tom dies the way he did, but we know it doesn't matter because any way you cut it that would have been his ultimate fate. The distubring part of Tom's death is the reality that he couldn't avoid it from the day he was accused no matter what great lawyering and what great facts were on his side, combined with his final realization that that was his reality.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


At the beginning of Chapter 10, Atticus tells Jem and Scout that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie (who else?) explains that "mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy." As I read the court proceedings, specifically of Mayella's Ewell's testimony, it occurred to me there is more than one mockingbird in this book. Poor Mayella. Poor, dumb, bigoted, lonely, unhappy, abused white girl. She's goin' down and she's taking Tom with her. Although I view her with disgust and shame, do you ever wonder why some are born Kennedys and others are born Ewells? Of course, unlike a mockingbird (although Nathan says they just make a bunch of loud noise) she doesn't do much to brighten the world. But what a victim!! However, there were more than several moments to snicker over in these chapters:

"Will you write your name and show us?"
"I most positively will. How do you think I sign my relief checks?"

When Gilmer objects to Atticus browbeating the witness (Mayella) and the Judge says:

"Oh sit down, Horace, he's doing nothing of the sort. If anything, the witness's browbeating Atticus."

Now the book is getting heavy. It isn't fun anymore. However, it is still an essential read. By the way, what is the next book?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Main Message

I thought the main message of the book was about racism and equality of men. That all men can be good or evil, no matter the color of thier skin. We have very obvious examples. The Ewells- white but ignorant, disrespectful, and trashy. And then we have Calpurnia and Tom Robinson-honest, hard working, good morals, respectful. Clearly we can see that the color of skin doesn't matter. But what Shyla said is true. The small mindedness of Aunt Alexandra cannot be changed even when they have the good example of Atticus around. Atticus is respectful of all persons and treats them well. I enjoyed reading the whole court scene. I thought it was well written. The only part that I thought got a little long was when Atticus was delivering his final speech to the jury. We got the point already. I feel the author could have cut at least two paragraphs of the closing speech and it would still be enough. Too bad the Sheriff and the Ewells did not get thier stories straight before they got on the stand. What a bunch of idiots!!

Mrs. Dubose-poor lady

I actually have to say that I agree with mom and Shyla about Mrs. Dubose. She is that word that Shyla said. And why I think she was an old cranky lady anyway, (she probably had cats), the addiction to morphine made her not herself. It never says how or why she got addicted. Some people are in some real pain. And her life sucks.

I do think Atticus is teaching something important to his children which is respect and I do agree that many kids aren' t taught this. But that does fall back on the parents. Good for Atticus for sticking to his values and instilling them in his kids.

One thing I think the book really teaches us is that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes. And that people are people and every one should be treated with respect and like a person and that they have value. And sometimes just because everyone else is doing it and it's important to know ourselves and what we beleive despite 'everyone else jumping off the cliff'. Mom, no one is perfect and it is possible that sometime in your life you will make a mistake at school. I think it best to treat her like a person who has value and prove her wrong in a nice way by asking her questions and letting her figure it out on her own. As opposed to the 'I said so, and I'm the adult and it is that way' response. Kids don't respond to that, probably because it doesn't really work. Not that you do that... Not that I do this either, but it's what Eddie would do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


no, no, No, No, NO! Mrs. Dubose is nothing of the kind! True, she is rude, cranky and speaks badly of Atticus to his children. There was a time I believe, in Massachusetts or New England some place, where children could be executed for being incorrigible. Pre Word War II children were to be seen, not heard. The last several generations have been robbed of the opportunity to respect adults if for no other reason than because they are older. I had a student today challenge me loudly, repeatedly and disrespectfully on whether a question on a quiz was correct or not. She is nine!! What the hell does she know about it? Mrs. Dubose's treatment of Jem and Scout is a reflection of that attitude. And I'm telling 'ya, I don't know if our children are better because they have "rights" that they tend to exercise boldly and without authority or buy-in. Current generations would not even respect Atticus enough to obey him and he is a hero of character, integrity and grit. Mrs. Dubose is harsh and rude but it is reasonable to me that Atticus expect his children to be respectful and polite. The true test of character is not how we are treated but how we treat others. The entire book is about how people can be their worst selves when their very foundation is challenged. Add mob mentality to a segregation south and you have Maycomb. But this book is a reflection of a the time and culture of Maycomb Remember the copyright date of this book is 1960. Our nation was fast approaching the reality of segregation and it was violent and vicious. There are no bad guys in this book (yet). However, the reactions of the people of Maycomb to Tom Robinson's crime is almost more hideous than what Tom did. And we would be smug to think that our behavior is "far" above that of the citizens of Maycomb. Maycomb represents the "best" and the "worst" in all of us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Nothing but a bitch

I don't feel sorry for Mrs. Dubose. I don't think she is just cranky because of her addiction or that she really does like Atticus. I think she is unbelievably rude, ill-mannered, and ungrateful. Of course, that was no reason for Jem to destroy the yard of an old lady. Although I will say the kids are in a hard spot because defending themselves (or their father) against her comments or even ignoring her is considered rude and disrespectful. And it's not like they seek her company out--they are just trying to walk to town.

She had every right to be upset at Jem and I am okay with the fact that she made him read to her. However, I am not okay with the fact that she started each reading session with a string of insults about the kids and their father.

I think the whole Dubose experience demonstrates Atticus's patience and politeness. It also shows that Atticus is the type of person who sees the good in everyone, is always willing to help people, and is the person his townsmen seek when they need something. However, some of those people, including Dubose, are quick to forget about how he has treated them and what he has done for them, and instead contribute to a growing town mob that makes the life of his family miserable. In Maycomb, the depths of the people's racism goes so far as to turn them against a person like Atticus, who has been nothing but a friend and is still the person they call whenever something is needed.

The presence of Aunt Alexandra highlights Maycomb's way of small town thinking outside the racism context. As with the racists, Alexandra's thinking irrationally grasps on to traditional ways and a small, closed world view (only families who have been on the land for years are of any worth, strict categories of ladylike and unladylike), and she even creates her own truths/seeks to perpetuate false ideas (Cousin Joshua is not crazy). Sure, I think we are supposed to see that there is more than one side (Dubose is a bitch, but she is also a heroic morphine addict overcomer; Aunt Alexandra is usually ridiculous but is trying to help Atticus and do what she thinks is best). Nonetheless, what it comes down to is that unlike Atticus, these people maintain their small mindedness and aren't willing to buck any traditional but irrational way of thought and that is what lies at the heart of the main conflict in this book.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Better late than never!

Well, I finally caught up on my ten chapters that I was behind on. I am really enjoying this book. Harper Lee is very good. Like someone said in their post (mom I think) she really puts you there in the story. One of the things that hit me was the death of Mrs. Dubose. I guess she couldn't keep her mouth shut because she was so cranky from her morphine addiction. But how brave of her to want to die without it. And what a good lesson for Jem and Scout. Atticus said he would have made Jem read to her anyway. Too bad about her plants that Jem ruined. And how sad to send him a flower after her death. I think this gesture showed forgiveness and love, but Jem didn't seem to like it too much. It hurt too much. The other thing that sticks out to me is at the end of Chapter 15 when Jem, Scout, and Dill save Atticus. Now, I am trying to figure it all out still. Was it Scout's kindness and good manners that saved him? I am going to assume that it was. Those men must have realized that Atticus is a good man after all. That or they didn't care to beat the tar out of him in front of the children (I'm not sure that is true for all the men).I liked Jem's stubborness. I'm so glad he didn't go home. It is hard for Jem to grow up, you can tell. It is hard on everyone. I also liked when Calpurnia took the kids to church with her. I liked how she scrubbed them up real good (not giving Jem his privacy) and how the people there accepted them. I am glad that Cal is smart and has good morals. She is perfect for those kids. I have read the book before but have forgotton the whole story. I am excited to see what happens.

Gabby 'Gilmore Girls' Give

So, I have been watching Gilmore Girls from the first episode. And last week I was watching an episode and they were in their town meeting talking about their town someone whether. He was an obscure person and no one really knew him personally, but they were all kinda familiar with him. And Laurali said something to the effect of "but if we get rid of him who is going to be our town Boo Radley?" It's true. Can you imagine my delight?!! I felt so educated and read. It was priceless I tell you, priceless.

Anyway, I already finished the book. It was very good. So I don't really know what to comment on because you haven't read the chapters that I really had comments about. So next post should be better. I did want to make sure I mentioned the Gilmore Girls part. I think reading classics is very informative because there are references to them often in all genres.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


This book is better than gossip! Lee takes half the book to develop the characters! And characters (even our own) are developed through actions. Mrs. Dubose (how do you pronounce that?) doesn't hate Atticus at all, she just hates what he is doing. Another thing about Lee's writing style which we tout to students in writing classes, vary your sentence length. She has some classic short one liners. And the first line of each chapter (so far) is italicized, notice that? (that could be the editor or even the printer though, huh?) But her descriptions, you are there. The entrance to Mrs. Dubose's home p. 121, the description of Mrs. Dubose on page 122, the way the children were treated at First Purchase (p. 135), description of Aunty on page 145 and many more. Scout's personality is cleverly revealed in her thoughts , her comments about Jem on page 131, and on page 132 "With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable. I stayed miserable for two days."(she was talking about Dill not coming for the summer). And I really like this one, "That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages."and conversations with Atticus. And Atticus's principled pontifications (no examples, but they are carefully strewn throughout the book) when he is conversing with and teaching his children not only reveals his personality and values but serve as foreshadowing, a tool of good writers.
I do have a question though. At the end of Chapter 13, the last line. "I know now what he (Atticus) was trying to do, but Atticus was only a man. It takes a woman to do that kind of work."
Powerful was the conversation between Atticus, Aunty and Scout on pages 154 and 155. I knew what Scout was going to say before I read it. She said "I didn't ask you!" but Atticus "...pinned her to the wall with his good eye" and she was payin' attention. Atticus takes a strong stand for Cal and against Aunty on p. 155. I was thoroughly entertained when Scout called Jem a "damn morphodite and then proceeded to fight "her equal" until Atticus arrived. But even at the conclusion of the episode Atticus smiled and said "Let's leave it at this: you mind Jem whenever he can make you. Fair Enough?" I can't do that still. When the Jarman kids fight it breaks my heart. Eddie, on the other hand, lets it go on for awhile, thoroughly entertained, and then he urges them to stop. Watching your kids raise your grandkids is a killer.
Poor Jem. He's maturing and it's breaking his heart. And it's killing Scout too. When Dill had run away and was found at the Finches. Jem said "You oughta let your mother know where you are. You oughta let her know you're here..." Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. Jem of course tells Atticus that Dill is there. It made me think of the comment Scout made on page 63 "It was then, I suppose, that Jem and I first began to part company." So among the many themes of this book a "rite of passage" surfaces as well.
I can't put this book down. But I must because Book Club is next week, at my house, and I'm leading the discussion on Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons. I'm going to the ASU game tonight with Margene Burk (Rick is out of town). I was going to "comment" on Cy's rude comment and then she apologized and ruined the whole thing. Tell me, please, how can anyone not love Cylynn? That's like somebody not liking Shy. Ok, well this is going someplace uncomfortable. POST YOU GUYS.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I wanted to "comment" on Cy's comment but I couldn't figure out how to get to comments. (now that is a metaphor as well as being repetitive. So what does Cy mean when she says bigheadedness? I ask all of you because I'm sure she doesn't know (or else I'd ask her)
And while I'm at it, why aren't other people posting?

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Deadest Shot "or Gentle Giant

From the beginning, Dill has been the culprit. Dill is forcing Jem to question the status quo and that is part of transitioning from a child to an adult. Jem begins some tangent that Scout doesn't understand nor can she accompany him. On page 63 she says "It was then, I suppose, that Jem and I first began to part company." And while the kids are wrestling with Boo Radley, Atticus is wrestling with doing what he knows is right (representing a Negro) and protecting his children from what he knows will be ugly-the persecution the Finches will endure because Atticus is doing what he thinks is right.
I am constantly impressed with Lee's style and her one liners. The description of climate on page 65 and "Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts." And her use of metaphors (however, I think I identify things as metaphors and they probably aren't) p. 70 "Tree's dying. You plug 'em with cement when they're sick. You ought to know that, Jem." But why is Jem crying at the end of Chapter 7, page 71?
I remember so little of the book. But starting from Chapter 8, I am beginning of Mr. Avery is a good guy or a bad guy.
Atticus is gentle with Scout on page 77. I don't think I would say Atticus isn't gentle it's just that a parent doesn't need to be gentle all the time. So is it Boo who puts the blanket on Scout? And is Mr. Avery really the hero of the fire? And Atticus, a lawyer, really has a way with words. When he and Scout our discussing what Cecil Jacobs said "'s what everybody at school says." "From now on it'll be everybody but one--"
When Scout lies about hitting Cecil, I don't think it is because she is ashamed of Atticus and is loyal. I think it is because she told Atticus she wouldn't fight anymore when she heard things about Atticus. She didn't want Atticus to know she broke a promise. Promises are precious.
And I think Atticus wanted to keep the "deadest shot" issue quiet because he is ashamed that he once enjoyed killing things. And maybe to the wise Atticus, they were all "mockingbirds."
Notice Uncle Jack, one of my heroes, has a cat for a companion.
However, the classic Atticus parental style is reflected at the end of Chapter 9 when he knows Scout is listening to his explanation to Uncle Jack of what he is worried about.
It is interesting to note that the children are missing a part of growing up by not having neighborhood children to be with.
"Nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street." Why did Atticus gind his glases to powder after he dropped them while shotting Tim Johnson? And is it another metaphor when Mr. Tate says"You were a little to the right, Mr. Finch". Atticus respond s with "Always was" "If I had my 'druthers I'd take a shotgun." Miss Maudie who continues to prove herself in these chapters says "People in their right minds never take pride in their talents..." And Jem sums up the entire episode with "Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!"
I not only get excited by the contents of the text but by Lee's style. As you can probably tell by my post, I have underlined many, many passages. This has become a labor intensive exercise that I am thoroughly enjoying.