I had to stop everything and watch To Kill a Mockingbird on TV this afternoon. This morning I’d checked the television schedule in Sam’s newspaper, but had no idea what kind of movie Arabama might be. Oh. Yes, To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Alabama and this is what the movie is known as in Japan. Learn something new every day.
I cried practically through the whole thing, I love this movie. It makes you really feel like you’re inside the head of a kid, that kid-world with scary neighbors and bad teachers and weird kids in your class and getting in trouble for stuff you think isn’t your fault. The 1930s. There’s a block of ice outside the courthouse for people to cool off with, like they do in Kanazawa’s outdoor market Omicho in the summer. Children carry lunch pails, wear overalls, girls have pigtails, they go out to play after dinner (no TV or computers) until parents step out onto the porch and yell their names when it’s time for them to come in for the night.
“You come on in here, boy, and bust up this chifforobe and I’ll give you a nickel.”
Especially since 2008 it has become very clear that for a segment of American society, the old Southern ways of (some, of course) lower class white’s hatred of Americans of African slave ancestry, whom they were only marginally better off than (and that fact made them seethe with resentment), is alive and well. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Maybe that’s why the movie seems suddenly so great again, because the United States is still dealing with its past.
I love that Harper Lee only wrote this one book and won the Pulitzer Price for it. I know I must have read To Kill a Mockingbird in school, but have no recollection of it. I read a few chapters on the computer machine after watching the movie and it’s like a new book.
From To Kill a Mockingbird:
“There are just some kind of men … who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.
“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 you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. … He asked how I was getting along [in school]. I told him. ‘If I didn’t have to stay I’d leave. Jem, that damn lady says Atticus’s been teaching me to read and for him to stop it.’ … Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching me. … Calpurnia was to blame for this. It kept me from driving her crazy on rainy days, I guess. … If I reproduced her penmanship satisfactorily, she rewarded me with an open-faced sandwich of bread and butter and sugar.
“Jem ran to the kitchen and asked Calpurnia to set an extra plate, we had company. Atticus greeted Walter and began a discussion about crops neither Jem nor I could follow.
‘Reason I can’t pass the first grade, Mr. Finch, is I’ve had to stay out every spring an’ help Papa with the choppin’, but there’s another’n at the house now that’s field size.’
‘Did you pay a bushel of potatoes for him?’ I asked, but Atticus shook his head at me. While Walter piled food on his plate, he and Atticus talked together like two men, to the wonderment of Jem and me. Atticus was expounding upon farm problems when Walter interrupted to ask if there was any molasses in the house. … Walter poured syrup on his vegetables and meat with a generous hand. He would probably have poured it into his milk glass had I not asked what the sam hill he was doing. The silver saucer clattered when he replaced the pitcher, and he quickly put his hands in his lap. Then he ducked his head. Atticus shook his head at me again.
‘But he’s gone and drowned his dinner in syrup,’ I protested. ‘He’s poured it all over –‘ It was then that Calpurnia requested my presence in the kitchen. … ‘There’s some folks who don’t eat like us, she whispered fiercely … .’
“‘Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand.’
“‘I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’
‘If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time. It’s because he wants to stay inside.’
“You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men cannot be trusted around women, black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.
“‘I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown,’ said Dill. ‘Yes, sir, a clown… There ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off.’
‘You got it backwards, Dill,’ said Jem. ‘Clowns are sad, it’s folks that laugh at them.’
‘Well, I’m gonna be a new kind of clown. I’m gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.’
“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.”