Friday, March 6, 2015

Who Killed Bob Ewell?

Yep, I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, most folks read it at some point in school, but somehow I missed it. Better late than never, right?

There is much to appreciate in this book. Foremost, of course, is what’s generally believed to be the primary moral, which is the harm caused by the pre-judging of others. It is a blistering critique of not only the prejudicial systems of the South, but also the unrecognized hypocrisy which allows its justification.

I find it interesting that the title of the book reflects not that, but another of the many lessons contained within the writing: before deciding how or even whether to act, consider whether any particular course of action is likely to have any beneficial outcome. If not, why choose the action? Many recent news stories bring this thought to mind, proving the timelessness of Mockingbird.

Despite the many morals, the book is not at all preachy, and I quite admire Lee’s ability to pull this off. I don’t believe she would have been able to do so had she not told the story from Scout’s perspective; the child’s voice as she observes the often confusing actions of the adults around her keeps the reader in a questioning mood, rather than a defensive one.

I was pretty surprised at Atticus’ reaction to the climactic event. I felt that he was a bit too perfect through the rest of the book, which made his immediate accusation against Jem out of character. Although I understand that we readers are supposed to think this is another example of Atticus’ fairness (“no special treatment for Jem”), to me it was a jarring injustice. Well, we all bring our own experiences to our readings, and I’ve been unjustly accused of too many things, I guess. Plus, I never had a doubt as to who killed Bob Ewell (hint: not Jem), and I was surprised to find, when reading others’ thoughts on the book, that this is a point of debate. What do you think? Was Bob killed by Jem, Boo, or an accident?

Edited to add:
Speaking of Harper Lee, I just looked up her forthcoming book, and am a bit confused by the description. Here’s part of it:
Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.
Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic.”
Is it just me, or does this sound like a sequel? Phrases such as “twenty years later,” “returning home,” and “the characters...are adjusting” strongly imply a story that follows the original. Why is this confusing? Because the description also states that this is “the earliest known work from Harper Lee” which was “submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird.”
I had heard something about a controversy surrounding this new book, but thought it was more about whether Lee was really the author and/or whether she really wanted it published. Obviously there’s more to the story. I’ll have to dig out the details at some point, but I just don’t have the time right now. Anybody know about this?