Tag Archives: To Kill a Mockingbird

Eight Minutes Forty-Six Seconds in this Heartless World

I watched George Floyd die. 

It was barely a surprise to be reminded of the existence of racism, I knew that, already. However, that it can be so brutal, so cruel and so clearly played out that someone could make a video, yet not be able to stop it – that was the horror of it.

It was like a page from The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. 

Only, this was real life where a real man lost his life.

Since then, it has been heartening to see thousands of protestors out on the streets. I promised myself I’d do what I do best – write about it, read about it, mostly read – as many stories as I could, acquaint myself with as many perspectives as I possibly could.

I began to think back to the books I’d read on racism. The first one to come to mind was obviously To Kill A Mockingbird. I’ve read it more than once, watched the film, quoted from it over and over again.

Yet when I thought about it, I couldn’t find George Floyd in it. 

There’s Atticus and there’s Scout and Boo Radley but where was George Floyd? Oh, there was Tom Robinson, tucked away somewhere, but he was barely there. I wanted to hear his voice. What was he feeling? What was he thinking? What was his family going through? I found barely anything.

If an anti-racism book doesn’t get the oppressed to speak out, if it continues to speak for them, it’s barely serving its purpose. It can only be a start, a small start in the right direction, nothing more.

Believe me when I say that it has taken a lot of introspection and some amount of courage to say this about a favourite book of mine.

I understand those were different times…

… that Tom really didn’t have a voice back then. I understand that a white man’s support would have been a large step. I’m not trying to take away from its merits. Atticus was a good man, a brave man, a just man and a wonderful role model as a father. 

However, to continue to hold the book in high esteem is questionable

Specially in this time and age, when there are stories, scores of them, written brilliantly by people from marginalised sections themselves. (The Hate You Give was one such. Have you read it? The film is out on one of the streaming channels. Do try to catch it.)

Books like To Kill A Mockingbird and even The Help (another huge favourite) promote the white man/woman as the saviour. They seem to be giving a voice to the black man but what we really are reading is a white man’s story. It’s time the focus moved from the privileged sections of society to the marginalised ones. Tom needs to take centre-stage and tell his own story. We need to read his story rather than Atticus’.

These lines from a piece I found online articulate my thoughts well:

To Kill a Mockingbird is a white story written by a white woman in which black people are depicted as ignorant, hopeless, and in need of white saviors.  

Read the full piece here.

Another one on The Help from this article here

The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own. 

I realise now, I need a better perspective. I also realised I didn’t have enough books on my shelves, even on my TBR list, where diverse people spoke out in their own voices. I set out to rectify that.

Here’s a fantastic list I referred to, for my TBR list. It has both fiction as well as non-fiction books on racism. You can pick out ones that appeal to you if you want to read more.

As readers, this is what we need to do – read, as many stories from as possibly diverse voices as we can. Read, not just stories of struggle and strife, but stories of happiness and love and friendship, because it is these stories that make people human, that help bridge the gap between the ‘us’ and the ‘them’.

Five reasons I love Atticus Finch

This comes much much later than I planned but here it is – my own personal weekly A to Z series. This year in April I signed up for the A to Z Challenge with the topic ‘Fascinating characters from books we love’. However I bowed out for fear of not doing justice to the characters under the pressure of daily posting.

Starting today I hope I can bring out a well-loved character each week. Endearing, annoying, good or evil the one thing they’ll have in common will be their ability to enthrall and entertain. They’re the ones that outlived the books.

I begin with the letter A and I couldn’t have found a better person to kick it off with than my favourite man Atticus Finch – the gentleman, the lawyer, the father from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. It couldn’t have been better timed either since Harper Lee’s sequel ‘Go Set a Watchman’ went on sale yesterday, 20 years after her first and only book. To read reactions to her new release you can go here. Harper Lee modeled Atticus Finch on her own father and went on to face plenty of flak for that. I blogged about it earlier at my  other blog.

Here are five reasons why I love Atticus Finch

1. He’s the best go-to dad
He’s the kind of father you could ask almost anything and get a satisfactory answer. He doesn’t patronise or pamper. He imparts simple everyday values in the most uncomplicated manner. Look at how he explains empathy to his children. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Isn’t that brilliant?

2. He is a man with a conscience
.. an active one that he considers very important. Says he, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” He goes ahead and takes up the case of a black man at the risk of being ostracised and in the face of threats to his children’s lives for as he says, “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.”

atticus finch

Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch in the film adaptation of the novel

3. He’s brave
Bravery in everyday life is a very underrated concept and that’s what Atticus had. He doesn’t wear his courage like a badge. Scout, his ten-year old daughter, comes to feel the same when later in the book she says. “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.

4. He’s modest beyond reason
He is always falling short on his kids’ admiration scale yet he never defends himself. Scout feels his inadequacies most strongly. ‘He  cannot tackle a football, doesn’t drive a dump truck and was practically blind in one eye’. She’s desperate to find a redeeming factor in her dad. Then one day he picks up a gun, albeit reluctantly, and in a single shot takes down a mad dog, to her complete awe and delight. Miss Maudie, their neighbour, explains, “..Because he was a crack shot he realised God had given him an advantage over most living things….. he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to,..”. Hello! Who does that?

5. He is a perfect gentleman
…a gentleman in a true blue, old-fashioned understated way. He’s not beyond taking his son to task for falling short on his ‘gentlemanly’ traits no matter how trying the situation.

I’ve been reading with a tiny pang of apprehension, that in Lee’s new book Atticus turns racist.. You can read the article here. I am trying to keep my faith. I just hope Lee does him justice. I’d hate to see him fall. Need to get to that book fast.

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Do share your favourite characters with me. And don’t forget to come back next week. Meanwhile take a guess about the gentleman in my next post. Yes, he’s a man again and he’s a teacher. Go guess.

Joining in the ABC Wednesday fun. The meme is in its 17th round. Today’s letter is of course A.

abc 17 (1)