Saturday, 5 September 2009

Who is Boo Radley?

Literary classics are classics because they've made a certain mark, but, usually I confess to not always enjoying the books that the world, in some form or other, seems to follow. (Perhaps this is changing, but) ordinarily, I've tended to avoid the crowd telling me what I should think. This book, therefore, presents itself as something of a surprise discovery.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a modern literary classic. I never did read the book at school, had never read a review and knew little of the classical film that it was turned into. All of which is a relief because the book would have had a different set of attachments altogether. I happened to pick up the book, quite by accident, at a bookstore here in Abu Dhabi last year. I began reading it before summer, but forgot to pack it when I travelled. I then resumed the remainder of the book on my return.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a real warm story of growing up in Alabama in the 1930s, seen from the perspective of a (white) child. The moral of the story? Never be too quick to judge ... you never know a person until you've walked in their shoes. The children in the book, Scout and Jem have an inspirational father in the shape of Atticus Finch who remains a level headed character throughout - he stands up there as a fine role model for both his children and his community. The racial tensions are captured by Harper and dealt with sensitively - Tom Robinson, the (black) man on trial becomes a fall guy, though as Atticus points out, not the first in America's history.

Boo Radley, is an interesting character - he lives only doors away - the children's imagination about him only adds to the rumours of his isolation. Harper Lee never wrote much beyond this book after it was published in 1960, and whilst Boo Radley turns out to be a hero in the end, he is never seen again by Scout and Jem never gets to thank him. We never, as a result get to know him and continues to remain a mystery that Harper, never quite solves for us.

Favourite quotes?
1. "Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts."
2. "Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in."

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