The Wight Fair Writers & Artists Circle

A Place for Isle of Wight Authors, Writers and Artists

Chestnut’s Corner March 2015


Melanie ArcherBy Melanie Archer

The Reading Chestnut

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, but remember it is a sin to kill a mockingbird’

I first encountered Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as part of my English GCSE exam and because I was being made to read it, pick through it and analyse it, I admit I did not enjoy it and was not a fan, and at the time I had no passion for reading. But when I was 18 or 19 my best friend suggested that I read it again and I fell in love. Reading for pleasure gives a whole new dynamic to a book.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a story seen through the eyes of an 8 year old girl, Scout, and her brother Jem, where their father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man charged with the rape of a white girl, in the American deep south of the 1930s. Harper Lee explores and challenges the prejudice, irrational attitudes, violence and hypocrisy of adults through the innocent eyes of children.

There is however more to this tale than that of race, which is mirrored in Scout, Jem and their friend Dill’s mission to make their recluse neighbour Boo Radley come out of his house. Each time I read this book I take away something new from it, and I think every reader reads it differently, this has the ability to become personal to you; it is no longer one man’s fight for justice against the weight of history and prejudice, it is one man plus you.

Recently I was fortunate enough to see a production of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, and I felt such an emotional connection to the story that at the end when Atticus hugs his daughter, Scout, I had to take several breaths to calm myself as my heart was bursting out of my chest and my eye’s were filling up. Beautifully told and beautifully crafted with a talented cast who told it true to the words written by Harper Lee. Cleverly told as the cast read from their own, well thumbed copies of the book telling the story as if we were reading it to ourselves and watching the characters come to life before our very eyes. This is a play that I will never forget seeing. Several high school classes were in the audience of the production and I could not help but think how lucky they were to see this book come to life and be inspired to take away as much understanding as they could to help them and hopefully be successful in their studies and exams based on this book.

I have lost count of how many times I have read this and how many more times I will continue to read it, still as fresh and inspirational today as it was then, and a topic that is still relevant today, this is my favourite book of all time, and I urge you to discover or re-discover for yourselves.

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