Sunday, 3 December 2017

To kill a mockingbird/Jako zabít ptáčka (1960)

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“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.” 

“Myslím, že je iba jeden druh ľudí. Ľudia.” 
To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic, set in 1930s but written in 1960. I've read the book, haven't seen the film yet but I'll use the pictures from the film with Gregory Peck.

In a small sleepy American town named Maycomb everybody knows everybody, everybody watches everybody, everybody gossips about everybody. Ladies stay at home and look after children. Children climb trees and every day is an adventure. Respectable people live in pretty houses. Poor people in shacks. Moreover, there are white people and black people. They try to get out of each other's way but in this small Southern town nothing is a simple as it seems.
I've recently pick up this book not having any good expectations but it proved me wrong. From the initial pages Mockingbird got me long for childhood when everything was magical and exciting. Little Jean, nicknamed Scout, and her older brother Jeremy, called Jem invent a new adventure. One of their favorite past times is inventing stories about their shut-in neighbor Boo Radley, who they have never seen even though he lives next door. 
In summer they meet a new boy, named Dill, whose mother ''had entered his picture in a Beautiful Child contest and won five dollars.'' When Dill has ''been studied and found acceptable'' he joins Scout and Jem and together they enjoy their childhood to the fullest. The author Harper Lee has a wonderful way to describe the town and people in those simple times when some people ''bought cotton, a polite term for doing nothing'' and Sundays were days of formal attire - ''ladies wore corsets, men wore coats, children wore shoes.'' Despite the raging racism Maycomb somehow still feels like a cozy little paradise town with long warm summer evenings spend on a porch doing nothing. 
I loved the relationships between the kids. Scout is Jem's younger sister and he feels responsible to protect her and educate her about the world, society and all. Even though he goes through puberty and becomes an insufferable know-it-all for a while it's such a pleasure and delight to see the siblings' interactions. If there's something that warms your heart in this cold pre-Christmas weather, it's the anticipation of Christmas and the book To kill a Mockingbird.
Another element I loved is the kids' father Atticus Finch, who works as a lawyer and is one of the best fathers in literature. I had flashbacks from O.C. and Sandy Cohen, who also works as a lawyer and is a rare exception to the rule of bad parents on TV. See, the kids have very open relationship with their father (their mother died long time ago), who patiently explains them the world and shows them a great deal of trust and the kids trust him back. One might say it's too good to be true but I just love it.
“Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.”
The books is full of many good advice without, in my humble opinion, sounding moralistic. The Finch family employs a black cook, who also plays her part in teach the kids acceptance and respect.
“That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear?”
However, just when we're lulled in the sense of security, enjoying Scout's and Jem's adventures and wondering if we'll ever see Boo Radley before the book is over a huge scandal shakes Maycomb to the ground. A trustworthy black man is accused of raping a girl from a poor family, who lives in a shack in the outskirts. The respectable Maycomb community despises the lazy drunken and unemployed Ewells and don't believe their story but it's 1930's and it's a word of a white man against a black man.
Atticus Finch is chosen to defend the suspect and he goes though with it despite respectable people raising eyebrows and Ewells' threats.
“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe- some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others- some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men. But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.” 
Atticus Finch the ever sensible yet loving father and a exemplary citizen admired both by his neighbors and puberty stricken children, which is even bigger accomplishment I'd say.
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” 
 
 Sadly with the trial the kids learn their biggest lesson - the world isn't a fair place and the good doesn't always win.
“If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside.”

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