Saturday, November 3, 2012

“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” by Harper Lee: RELIVING MY CHILDHOOD


“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”
by Harper Lee

OVERVIEW

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

PURCHASE LINKS


MY EXPERIENCE

“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Reading has always been my escape from reality, as it probably is for most readers. I never would’ve guessed, though, that a book would come my way—no, not simply a book, but an ingeniously-written work of art—which would have me reminiscing about life lessons and values my father taught my brother and me. Such is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, recently highly recommended to me by a friend. “Highly recommended” might be putting it mildly, but nevertheless, thanks to his unrelenting persistence, I came to experience the epitome of reading bliss—a book which I feel should be considered a manual to all aspiring authors as an example of how to write a book that captures the heart and soul of a reader in its opening chapter alone. If ever I had to single out a book that has inspired the utmost awe in me, this would be it. This is the book through which I, for three hundred and seventy-six pages of exceptional writing, relived my carefree childhood by way of a fictional household headed by a father whose existence revolved around his children, giving me a brief flashback to nine years with my own real-life Atticus Finch—my dad.

Now, Atticus, he was an attorney at law. My dad, on the other hand, held a less impressive position at the City Council where he was employed as a city planner—a title sounding much fancier than it really was. He and my mom divorced when I was nine and my brother six. We were placed into his custody, and the first thing my father did was move us into a bigger house with a pool and a backyard with a sloping lawn that would’ve been any child’s dream lawn to whiz down on a flattened cardboard box straight into the pool had it not been for the pool being fenced in. Transitioning from married life to being a single, full-time father with two lively kids was quite an adjustment for my dad, but he took it in stride and did the best he could with the limited knowledge each parent has before brutal experience wizens them up to Murphy’s malicious law lurking in phrases such as “what-could-possibly-go-wrong?” Clearly, as my dad learned the hard way, parenting is a matter of learn-as-you-go, and something in which you’re pretty much on your own.

Like Atticus, my father was also a humble man. There were no airs and no pretense to him. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was that uncomplicated.  No matter how tired he’d be after a long day at the office or on the road, my dad always had time for us. One of my fondest memories is of me and my brother, in our pre-teens, running to the gate in the front yard when our dad came home from work, and how seeing him after being away from us for eight long hours was the highlight of our day. We’d wrap ourselves around his legs and make him walk—or rather shuffle—to the furthest point in our house, while weighing down his feet with our bottoms and giggling uncontrollably at his over-the-top, theatrical suffering. School holidays our dad never said no when we dared him to go swimming with us late at night, taking along our Maltese doggies who’d bark madly at the lot of us in the pool while running around in circles, chasing their tails and waking up the neighbors with their high-pitched yapping. We were lucky to have such tolerant neighbors. I also remember when, before I became a teenager and wore self-awareness like a glove, my dad always had space for us on his lap. Sometimes I had to wrestle for that space on his lap, having to contend with my younger brother and two miniature Maltese poodles for that coveted spot against my daddy’s chest where I could rest my ear and listen to his heartbeat—something which made me feel safe and secure in the knowledge that we were loved. Never did he turn any of us away—child or poodle—when either came to him for a much-needed reassuring hug at whatever time life became a little overwhelming. For nine years we were the centre of his existence, and he of ours. My only regret is that I never made the most of these times with my father in the short nine years we had him to ourselves. If only I had known then what I know now.

I have a treasure trove of similar memories of all the fun things my father never hesitated to do with us and which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. But he was so much more than just a father generous with his time spent with his kids. Like my now most favorite father-figure in literary history, my dad also trusted us and treated us like equals. He taught us that if you show respect to people, no matter what their background, race, or creed, you will receive it in return, as respect needs to be earned. He was patient, he was kind, and additional to being a doting parent, he showed his love for us in many little ways. He was approachable, and he was fair. He listened to us and gave us as much rope as was necessary for us to be carefree children, but within the safety of our home. My dad wasn’t without fault. He had his limitations, and like every parent from the early days in Eden, to date, he also made his fair share of bad choices. But he always tried to do the right thing, and he led by example. Often, my dad’s family—stubbornly set in their archaic ways—would lecture him on “proper parenting techniques” and freely offer unwarranted “advice” on how he should raise his kids the way “proper” parents do. He tolerated their well-meant intentions, yet never permitted himself to be led by the nose. Instead, he continued to parent us the only way he knew how: with his heart. Admittedly, my brother and I, time and again, got away with more than most kids were allowed to; still my father remained unwaveringly true to his renowned patience, and often our punishment was simply the consequences of our actions, followed by a stern look from my dad which clearly said: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”  

If I aspire to anything, it would be to become a role model parent to my children, the same way my father was to us. For me, To Kill a Mockingbird will always be that one book that will forever stand out amongst all my favorite books as the one that allowed me the brief opportunity to walk down memory lane with a character—the legendary Atticus Finch—who in his capacity as a fictional character, embodied a real-life father who will never be forgotten.   

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To read my review of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, please visit either of the below links.

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