Part A – We finished the book! I really loved the novel, and from the trial of Tom Robinson on I couldn’t put it down. I like how every character in the novel is very well-rounded, they all have their good parts and their flaws, and I think this is crucial to a good book. The characters feel like real people you’re interacting with. Also, I really appreciate Scout’s point of view throughout the novel because I think it was an effective way for Harper Lee to leave some details ambiguous and left to the reader to figure out in an interesting way. Nothing made me happier than the fact that Boo Radley comes back to save Jem and Scout, since we finally get to meet the biggest mystery in the book.
Our discussion this week focused on the events of Jem and Scout on Halloween, and I loved what someone said about how Arthur was the kids’ guardian angel. We talked a lot about the foreshadowing and irony seen throughout the books with ghosts, but I liked that Boo Radley was painted in this more optimistic light. It is interesting, though, how Jem and Scout would always talk about ghosts, and Scout realizes near the end of the book that as they got older they moved past that, symbolizing their shift of thinking around Boo.
Now for my character, Atticus. His part lessens dramatically after the trial, but he is still there to guide his kids and fight the morals of the town. The most important part Atticus has at the end of the book is when he fights Heck Tate over making Mr. Ewell go to trial. Originally I thought that Atticus thought Jem had killed him, and that’s what their argument was about, but it wasn’t till our discussion that I realized he knew Boo Radley had killed him. Atticus wants to do the right thing and set a good example for his kids, and nothing can sway him until Scout says, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ s mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (Lee 276). Here they show that Arthur is innocent and he truly is a good person, and it comes up again at the end of the book where it says, “‘… an’ Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things… Atticus, he was real nice…’ … ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.'” (Lee 281) I love how this really sums up the novel on the last page, as it shows Atticus’s nature and his values. It supports the theme that everyone is nice as long as you give them a chance.
Part B – After our first discussion, we read “On a Certain Blindness” by William James and had a discussion on that in addition to TKAM. The essay basically talks about how one person can never really know the perspective of another, but they can try to be understanding.
This relates to the kids in TKAM because in a way, they don’t have the blindness the adults have in the novel. While society’s ideals change the opinions of the adults and cause them to turn away from the truth, the kids aren’t exposed to all of society’s values. Being raised by Atticus has made Jem and Scout both very open-minded, and this allows them to see more than other people because they don’t see a person as one thing like their aunt, they see people with rich lives like their father does. They haven’t been forced to conform to society’s ideals just yet, so they can remain understanding and pliable.
Some aspects of society in Maycomb and the 1930’s South that cause people to be blind to each other is the social norms of segregation and prejudice. People in the South have been prejudiced against blacks throughout history, but this prejudice is so ingrained in their morals that they never question it. This doesn’t make racism right, but many people never fought the system like Atticus tried to in his trial for Tom Robinson. What happened to Tom in the book was common back then, and here’s a really interesting article I found about the Scottsboro Nine, which shows how blacks were convicted of a very similar rape case.
Blindness is still something we must overcome today because racism still exists. America still has hate crimes against blacks, and the prejudice found in the 1930s South can still be found here. The novel reveals our own limitations into understanding the lives of others because we can never truly expect how someone will be without getting to know them. Going back to what Atticus said at the end of Part A of this post, “Most people are [nice], Scout, when you finally see them.” As long as we remain open-minded to others, we can try to remove the blind society puts over our eyes against them.