To Kill A Mockingbird – Banned Again
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill A Mockingbird has a long history with censorship. It is one of the most challenged books in American Literature – from strong language, sex and rape to it makes people uncomfortable and now it is racist.
The plot and characters are loosely based on the author’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her Southern hometown in 1936 when she was 8 years old.
Atticus Finch functions as the moral backbone of the story, a person to whom others turn to in times of doubt and trouble. His daughter Scout is the narrator and the story is told through the eyes of an eight year old girl. Unable to abide the town’s comfortable ingrained racial prejudice, Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man with trumped up charges against him. After losing the trial, Atticus practices empathy and understanding and teaches this to his children Scout and Jem. He never holds a grudge against the people of Maycomb. Atticus accepts all people because he is an expert at “climbing into other people’s skin and walking around. “
My son calls him the world’s greatest dad. To Kill A Mockingbird is a book I reread often when faced with a moral dilemma. It has always been a lesson in doing the right thing for no other reason then because it is the right thing to do even if you know the outcome.
The story reflects the time and language of the South during the depression. Yes, as a child It made me uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable for the black people in my class also. I was also uncomfortable reading Anne Frank. Why did people hate us so much?
Literature is not history. There is this wonderful moment in reading a novel where you think “You feel that way too? I thought that I was the only one.” I relate to Atticus Finch’s moral dilemma, Anne Frank’s fear and resilience, Hamlet’s indecisiveness, Holden Caulfield’s bad atttiude, Celie’s rise from nothing, Florentina’s love (In the Time Of Cholera) and Don Quixote snd Sancho Panza’s friendship. The list goes on and on.
Having students read about racism is not an act of promoting racism. While some aspects of history can be “uncomfortable” to read, they are also thought-provoking and encourage important discussions on race. it provides students the opportunity to read and analyze the characters on their own terms and develop their own sense of morality.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn and other novels are being considered to be banned in California. The banning of books sparks serious debate over literary censorship in the classroom. If we continue to ostracize and disallow certain texts to young readers, we are limiting their access to ideas and opinions which vary from our own. If we begin to exclude anything that may “trigger” a specific group, we will be grossly limiting our children’s education.
My boyfriend is rereading Hemingway. He said that Hemingway is casually antisemitic and racist. I have no idea what that means. Further along in the book, he said, “It’s not so casual anymore. He is antisemitic and racist”. Is Hemingway next?