Book Club

Why Read This Book: To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

“Jem, my brother, was nearly thirteen at the time he badly broke his left elbow. When he recovered and fears of having to stop playing football passed, Jem hardly thought about it anymore. His left arm had remained a little shorter than his right; standing or walking, the back of the left was at a right angle with the body, and the thumb was parallel to the thigh, but Jem didn’t care at all: it was enough for him to be able to continue playing, to be able to pass or catch the ball on the fly.

Then, when so many years had passed to be able to remember and tell, every now and then we discussed how things had gone that time. In my opinion it all started because of the Ewells, but Jem, who is four years older than me, said that we had to go back much further, and precisely to the summer in which Dill happened to us and first gave us the idea of ​​getting out of the house of Boo Radley.

But then, I said, if you really wanted to go back to the origins, why not say that Andrew Jackson was to blame? If General Jackson hadn’t chased the Creek Indians along the stream, Simon Finch wouldn’t have gone up Alabama in his pirogue, and where would we be at this hour? We were too old, by now, to settle the dispute in a barrel; we consulted our father Atticus, and he said we were both right.

As we were in the South, it was a shame for some of us in the family that we did not count ancestors who, on either side, had fought in Hastings. We had only Simon Finch, a fur-trapping pharmacist from Cornwall, whose piety was surpassed only by stinginess. In England, Simon did not like the persecution of those who called themselves Methodists at the hands of the more liberal brethren, and because he too felt Methodist, he had made up his mind to cross the Atlantic, landed first in Philadelphia, then in Jamaica and then to Mobile, and finally went up the Saint Stephens River. Mindful of John Wesley’s reproaches to those who waste words to buy and sell, Simon had made his fortune practicing medicine, but even in this activity he felt unhappy because he was always afraid of falling into the temptation to do something that did not have the glory of God as its end. , like putting on gold and sumptuous dresses. So Simon, forgetting his master’s words against the ownership of earthly goods, bought three slaves and with their help founded a farm on the shores of Alabama, about forty miles north of Saint Stephens. He returned to Saint Stephens only once, to procure a wife, and with her he originated a lineage consisting mostly of daughters. Simon lived to a very old age and died rich. “

by Harper Lee, To kill a mockingbird

Why read this book?

Because it is a contemporary classic

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by the American writer Harper Lee. Released in 1960, the book was a resounding success, and just two years later a film was made. In 2016, then US President Barack Obama said: “Fifty years ago, a film came out that instantly conquered the nation. Based on Harper Lee’s timeless novel, The Darkness Beyond the Hedge gave birth to an unforgettable story of courage and conviction, of doing what is right, at any price, and gave us one of the great protagonists of American cinema: Atticus Finch, played admirably by Gregory Peck ». The darkness beyond the hedge is one of the most widely read works in schools throughout the West, and which is always worth having in class. The book tells of the events that take place between 1932 and 1935, during the period of the “great depression”, in an imaginary town in Alabama, Maycomb. In Maycomb there is a rigid division between whites and blacks, and racism is ascertained as an indisputable fact, as an element of identity. In this small country, a black worker, Tom Robinson, is wrongfully accused of sexual assault against a white girl. For the trial, Atticus Finch, father of Jem and Scout, protagonist and narrator of the novel, is chosen as a lawyer.

Because it is a story that concerns us and calls us into question

So why read The Darkness Beyond the Hedge at school? Why it concerns us and why it is an important book. It is not a simple novel, and at first reading it may cost students a little effort. But this effort will be rewarded, because as the story progresses they will become passionate and at the same time they will ask themselves questions that do not concern only the text, but the life that is outside the text: because we feel distrust for what appears to us “different” ? Why do we tend to absorb false and dangerous ideas and prejudices from the environment in which we live as we grow up? How can we overcome the fear of what appears new or distant to us, and the hatred that often accompanies it? The main theme of The Darkness Beyond the Hedge is racism. In the deep American Southeast, Alabama, coexistence between whites and blacks is difficult. In fact, blacks feel rightly exploited, marginalized, frustrated because they do not enjoy the same rights as whites, while whites constantly feel a sense of threat, fearful that their fellow citizens of color will give birth to a rebellion or commit violent acts. After all, what is represented in the novel is not very different from the tense situation that exists today in many European cities, characterized by a high rate of immigration. By reading this book, students will discover something that they have always known (and that we can simplify in the formula “racism is wrong”), but which will now “live” on their skin, identifying themselves with the experience of the protagonists. To Kill a Mockingbird will provide the class with the tools to take a stand on this issue and exercise choice. Because the choices that matter are the ones the kids will take out and about after reading.

Because it has an exciting storyline that intertwines defeat and hope

The plot of the novel intertwines two narrative lines that proceed parallel to then intertwine in the finale. One narrative line concerns the summer raids of Jem, Scout and their friend Dill, which often lead them near the house of a mysterious neighbor who never goes out: Boo Radley, a “different” with mental problems. The second narrative line, which has a preponderant importance, is centered on a legal matter and has as protagonist Atticus, the father of Jem and Scout. Atticus Finch is a democratic lawyer who has been a widower for many years. Charged to defend Tom Robinson, he fights for the trial to run smoothly and lead to an impartial verdict. Although he produces all the clearest evidence proving the innocence of his client, Tom Robinson will be convicted. In fact, it is unthinkable that in the Alabama of the thirties a black could win a case against a white: all the more so if it is a case of rape. But the trial does not end the hatred. Tom Robinson, once convicted, is killed in prison following an escape attempt; the family of the girl who accused him of rape swears revenge to the lawyer Finch, guilty of defending a black man. In the final, Jem and Scout are attacked, and only manage to escape thanks to the unexpected intervention of Boo Radley.

Hatred seems to triumph, and this pessimistic conclusion is only partially redeemed by the scene of Boo Radley’s saving intervention. Yet the novel is full of agonism and hope: another world is possible; a world of equality and equal rights. And it will be men like Atticus Finch and his children who will build it, for the benefit of all.

Because it is a novel that addresses universal themes and speaks to young people

The story is told by a young girl, Scout Finch. Scout is the protagonist of the novel and is an internal narrator of the story. In the fictional narrative Scout recounts events in 1960 that occurred almost thirty years before her: in short, she is an adult woman who remembers her events as a child. Scout is the protagonist of a training course: just by witnessing the dramatic events involving Tom Robinson she accomplishes a growth and maturation. To Kill a Mockingbird is a hymn to childhood and adolescence. Jem, Scout and Dill are positive characters: their minds are not polluted by the stupid prejudices that lead to racism. The three boys are able to ask simple but revealing questions, to look at the world without conditioning, and above all to consider a man for what he actually is, regardless of race and skin color. All this is also due to Atticus: lawyer Finch in fact educates his children in the principles of tolerance. In this way, The Darkness Beyond the Hedge can also be read as one of the most beautiful stories that address the issues of growth, education, parent-child relationship.

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