Friday, March 4, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird

As part of my Creative Writing course with the Sydney Writers' Centre, I had to reread To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

It really is a great piece of literature. Very subtle, because the narration is by a child. The girl Scout is a beautiful character - she is real, innocent, and so intelligent. But the events are a loss of innocence for Scout, and more so for her older brother, Jem. It is significant for Scout to look back on those years, but she did not have a full understanding at the time. Jem, who was just reaching puberty, experienced the trial through the eyes of a young man - I can only imagine how it shaped him in years to come. I hope he still became a lawyer, and wasn't disheartened.

It's the third time that I've read this book, and I have got something different from it each time I've read it. Having been a lawyer myself, for 4 years now, I could sympathise with Atticus Finch much better. Particularly when he never took on another criminal matter after Tom Robinson's trial. The justice system is soul destroying. Atticus believed in morality and justice. His views were advanced for his time and for the place his lived in.

The racism is shocking, and the class division is almost unthinkable - and it wasn't that long ago. The life in southern USA is shocking. But then I think of what the Aboriginals suffered in Australia, as recently as in my parents' life times. And the continuing inequality - are we that much different?

Prejudice and racial injustice - what would Atticus Finch think of us now? Would he be proud that so much has changed, or would he be disappointed that so little has changed?

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