Working at HarperCollins, we’re always talking about books: what we’re reading, what we want to read next, what our all-time favorites are… A very well-read colleague, who grew up in France, admitted that she’d never read To Kill a Mockingbird. It wasn’t in the curriculum when she was in school. I lent her a copy (it’s one of my all-time favorites…). Here is her response to Harper Lee’s master work:
As the mother of a young child, I am newly attuned to learning about different approaches to raising children. Atticus made me think about which principles are important to me. I was particularly sensitive to some of his own: respecting and supporting my child’s individuality, guiding my child’s intellectual development, letting him make mistakes and take responsibility, all while setting clear limits and being available, loving, and helpful. I also appreciated the delicate balance that Atticus managed between letting his children be children and introducing them to the adult world.
So many themes from To Kill a Mockingbird are interesting and important to discuss. To me, what really set this book apart from others I have read over the years is the depiction of the children. While they may not have initially comprehended the exact words or situations they were confronted with (as an adult might have), they were able to assess situations fairly accurately based on the emotional reactions of the people around them. What people said or didn’t say, their mood, who they were looking at or not looking at… This perception of the world and of people’s intentions and disposition is a skill that’s developed early and is often a very accurate representation of the dynamic of a given situation. It is also often completely missing from the description of children’s behavior in other books, which is a gross reduction of their characters.
With thanks to Claire Goldwitz, for these insights.