Tuesday, June 3, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird a few days ago, and I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder if serious literature isn't wasted on High School students. No offense to High-Schoolers, but I certainly wasn't at a maturity level in High School to appreciate the themes that this book brings up. It makes me think that I should re-read The Outsiders and Fried Green Tomatoes, the two I remember reading in High School.

I have a lot of respect for the way writers like Harper Lee are able to create engaging, enjoyable stories and characters and at the same time address themes like racism, stereotyping, and cultural norms. Getting into the minds of Scout and Jem as they attempted to reconcile their natural and innocent understanding of fairness with the behaviors and attitudes of the community around them was fascinating. I wonder what assumptions I make on a day to day basis just because, subconsciously, I've agreed to it with everyone around me. I have a suspicion that the underlying principle persists, but I think in 50 years we'll look back and see the effect in totally different issues. Animal rights, maybe? Consumerism and "externalized costs" (see thestoryofstuff.com)? Probably not - probably something else I haven't been smart enough to question.

Atticus Finch will go down as one of my favorite literary characters. I'm going to try to remember to flip through this book again when I'm a father. I hope my kids and I have the same type of relationship he had with Scout and Jem. I also wonder if I'll ever face "that one thing" that I need to do. Hopefully I'll see it coming if I do.

Anyone have any recommendations for other classics I should put on my list? I'm trying to work up the courage to start Anna Karenina, but I'm afraid I don't have the attention span for it... Maybe I should stick with high school level classics, and then when I'm 50 I might be ready to take on Tolstoy.


raskolnikov said...

My recommendations for you Jared...
Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
Crime and Punishment -Dostoevsky
A Tale of Two Cities - Dickens
Les Miserables - Hugo
The Wars - Findley
Tomorrow City - Hughes (read in highschool)

You've seen the list on my blog, its more thorough but these are good.

Jared said...

Grapes of Wrath - That's a good one for the list! I've got The Red Badge of Courage (Crane) and The Jungle (Sinclair) on my bookshelf waiting for me. Have you read either?

Patrick said...

Red Badge of Courage is quite good. Modern Classics (as in "Modernist," not as in "recent") I'd recommend are Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Richard Wright's Native Son.