To kill a mockingbird?

August 18, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest, most important books in my opinion, ever written, at least in the 20th century. It is also one of my favourite books.

I remember when I first got it for a Christmas present from my parents; I was 13. My grades at that point were slipping, so my parents got me some books to improve my vocabulary and get away from video games.

I wasn’t happy at first, being forced to read something I didn’t want to; I got enough of that at school. My parents instructed me to read one chapter a day, and to summarize it to them. So every day I read a chapter on the bus (my bus ride was over an hour, I had plenty of time to kill). Gradually, I didn’t read a chapter a day, I read two or three. Soon enough, I finished the book, and was mesmerized by it.

For those who haven’t read it in awhile, I’ll give a brief summary. Set in the 1930’s Great Depression in Alabama, it deals with a young white child, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, and her essential loss of innocence to racism and injustice, as her father, Atticus, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, for allegedly raping a white girl. Though her father puts up a strong case that clearly shows Tom didn’t rape the girl, he is found guilty, and shortly after, dies when attempting to escape. Throughout this time, Scout deals with her father being ridiculed around her town, not only by her friends, but family too.

The movie, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus, is just as good as the book, as it conveys the themes found throughout the novel, and since getting it the following Christmas, I watch it every summer with my mom and dad, still making me sad when seeing the outcome and the history behind it.

Come Grade 10 when everybody had to read it, I was so excited. I aced every quiz, essay and test given, bringing my own book to class, ready to read it again (though at that point, I had read it so many times I memorized it, so I just skimmed through it.)

Of course, the more popular the book, the more controversial it seems to be. At times, debates in schools rise on whether to ban the book or not, and some are successful, one being in Virginia. Even here, the Durham District School Board recently announced it’s giving high school students a choice whether to read it or not. In an article published in the Toronto Star, the reason behind this was because of the “book’s use of racially charged language,” which a spokesperson said, “could make some students feel uncomfortable.” Another reason was,  “It was a different time, different era,” so the novel may be inconsistent, as well as “concerns raised by some teachers about whether the novel could still be taught.”

It’s safe to say as long as there’s racism in our world this novel can always, and should be, taught. The use of racially charged language (the N word) is set with the time, and today unfortunately, people still use it. What better way to teach children about racism and inequality than reading this book? It’s been continuously prevalent with the time.

Yes, giving a diversity to books since its release in 1960 is good, there have been some terrific novels out there since, but really, the theme of “shooting a Mockingbird” how, according to Atticus is a “sin” because they do nothing wrong, is perfect. It’s easy to understand, those reading it clearly see Tom having already lost but committed no crime, simply because of the colour of his skin.

However, it should make students uncomfortable, because they will know how wrong racism is, and seek equality. By almost shocking them, maybe some will go into the justice system, and change it for the better.

Look at the Civil Rights movement, segregation, and the Rodney King beating riots; they all stem from racism. Why take away something that will teach our children, the future, about the history and wrong doings of racism?

If not To Kill a Mockingbird, than something else that deals with racism. I was 13 when I read it, and I understood the message clearly, and when I was explained to what the N word meant I knew it was an awful word, and taught fellow classmates on it.

Heck, look what’s going on in Virginia, think now we still don’t need to read this book?  Maybe one day when someone reads it and doesn’t understand it, or isn’t taught because there isn’t racism, then fine, but right now, it seems like we need this book now more than ever (especially now in Virginia).

We’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s still a ways to go. So go to your local bookstore, pick up a copy, or take it off your dusty bookshelf and give it a read. Maybe then you’ll see my point; maybe we can stop further incidents like Charlottesville from happening.

What did a mockingbird ever do to you?

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