It’s Still Wrong To Kill A Mockingbird!
Fifty years on, the book still sells. I picked up my old, much-thumbed copy the other day and it made as great an impact as when I’d read it years ago. It made me realize once more just how wonderful a writer Harper Lee is and yet, this is the only book she’s ever written. Did she feel she couldn’t write another one that compared? Or did she just want to pour everything she had into this one book and then let it loose in the world? What does this 84-year old really think of her bestseller?
The scenario is different from what it is today, the people are different, the way of life is different and maybe even the values are different. However, what this book does is to rise above the backdrop of the then world in which it was set to bring home to us certain essential truths and universal values.
Yes, it is still wrong to kill a mockingbird – a bird that never harms anyone, never destroys anything, is never a nuisance. All it does is sing and you can’t, you mustn’t, you shouldn’t destroy it. It’s more than just living and letting live. It’s living and opening our eyes to what is good around us, to what is beautiful, to what is right.
Harper Lee’s world is so early American, so Southern – and yet, isn’t there a Tom Robinson we know that we turn our eyes away from, refusing to fight for his rights? Isn’t there a Boo Radley we know that we ignore because he is different, hoping that when we do that, he ceases to exist, at least for us? Aren’t there issues, incidents, crimes and inequalities around us that we prefer to shut our eyes to? For fifty years, Atticus Finch has been the protagonist who could not be corrupted, a lawyer whose moral fibre couldn’t be questioned. Never mind what the state of the world around us is in, some part of us reaches out and admires a man like him, never mind how old we are, never mind in what part of the world we are in. Would that the universal values we admire in a book spill over to real life!
The problem is, we think we have an ordered existence and we don’t want to rock the boat. If we open the door even a little bit to let what is different into our lives, it might just turn the safe world we know upside down. So we turn away and stay silent when we should go forward and speak out. We pass by the unfortunate and by not letting them intrude into our world, we try and forget they exist. Wasn’t this what the parable of the Good Samaritan was all about?