I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird for a class I was taking. I first read it in high school. I liked it. I could relate to Jem and Scout. I found the social justice themes exciting. Reading it again thirty years later, though, was way better.
There are several reasons why, I think, the book improved with (my) age. First, I could identify with all of the adult characters, especially Atticus and Cal. I’m not claiming to be a lot like either of them. I don’t know that I’d have the guts to take on a lynch mob with only a newspaper. But they are both parental figures for Jem and Scout, trying to set a good example and teach important lessons. Since I have a daughter not much older than Scout, that really speaks to me.
Second, the narration really struck me this time around. It’s first person from a child’s point of view. This allowed Harper Lee the ability to make her points so much better than third person or an adult POV would have. Third person would have been too heavy handed. And Scout being so young, it allowed for explanations that would have been absurd with an adult point of view. Too many authors fail to take POV into consideration, but Lee nailed it.
Third, the setting hit a lot harder on this read. I don’t know if that’s because I had never really traveled when I first read it. Or maybe it’s climate change, I totally get Jem desperately wanting to build a snowman now. Maybe it’s because I read it long before Michael Brown, George Floyd, and Trayvon Martin. Heck, it was even before Rodney King. I was aware of the history in high school, but it didn’t feel like my lived experience in any way. I know that speaks to my somewhat insulated childhood. Let’s just say that, as an adult, Scout’s experiences are more mirror than window.
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I know lots and lots of us read this book in high school like I did. I strongly recommend dusting it off and reading it as an adult. It’s wonderful and you won’t be sorry.