Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

To Kill a Mockingbird

Over Thanksgiving weekend I finally read to “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  I’m sad that I missed this beautiful book in high school but I’m glad I read it while living in Alabama, which permitted me to savor it in unique ways.  It helps, too, to have visited Monroeville, Alabama.  I can imagine Jem and Scout sitting up in the balcony with African-Americans as Atticus commanded the courtroom.

This book is about many things including, among others, race, class, rural-urban cleavages, parenting, and, not least of all, a look at Southern culture during the Great Depression.  Above all, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about ecumenical righteousness and justice.  Its main thesis is simple enough: we can improve our world by striving to be just no matter what predicaments we find ourselves in in life.  There is room for necessity, but we must nonetheless try in all circumstances to do what’s right because it makes for might.

If we pursue righteousness we will infect those around us into changing their outlook, habits, and behavior.  Slowly, culture will evolve.  In other words, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a Quixotic book. It’s view of human nature is realist — there will always be horrible people in the world and this will require the institutions of legal justice which, at times, must be bent to necessity by righteous individuals. Even Atticus learns these lessons.  In the end, though, it’s a profoundly liberal look at the world.  Democracy, law, and education can lift up an ever-larger chunk of humanity.  We can improve ourselves as do Atticus, Scout, Jem, and many of the novel’s heartwarming characters.

To Kill a Mockingbird Courtroom.  It warms the heart to imagine Scout and Jem among African-Americans, watching their father during the trial.


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