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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's Your Take On To Kill A Mockingbird ?

Last August, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an essay, for the New Yorker, about this iconic book. I’m amazed at how people’s take on the book/movie has changed over the years. I’m pleased to hear interpretations that are more complex and honest. I remember clearly reading this book almost 35 years ago, and knowing, both intuitively and experientially as an African-American female teen with a Southern mother who told many stories, that the premise of the book was dishonest and myopic.

Here is a link to Gladwell’s essay.

And here is a response from my little brother, now a middle-aged man, to the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird and his memories of his gut reaction to it, as a young black boy seeing it in the confines of his elite Main Line School.

I first saw this movie when I was at Waldron Academy. I was the only black person in the room. I've never liked this movie. Ever! I saw in it ,even then, everything that was wrong not just with movies, but with America in general. I told you long ago what was wrong with this film. The article touches on a lot of what I said. The novel itself could not follow it's own implications. Making the Boo Radley character the "Mockingbird" was a patent sellout. The obvious "Mockingbird" was Tom Robinson. The sheriff (and presumably everyone else in the country) does not mind having a dead black man on their conscience. But their sensibilities can't bear to have the sequestered life of the town recluse disturbed. "That would be like killing a mockingbird," says the son at the end of the film. They can't bend the racist protocols of their society to let an obviously innocent black man go free. But obstruction of justice is morally appropriate in the case of Boo Radleys all over America. America has been grounded in bullshit from the beginning; in politics; in business; in sports; in journalism; in everything. It is unrealistic to think that what passes for cinema in this country should be any different.


*Drawing of  Mockingbird by Andrew Saeger

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