Consequence and To Kill A Mockingbird

download (1)I read To Kill A Mockingbird today. It’s been a long time since I read it last. It was interesting to read it again with a different life perspective. I’ve always thought it was fascinating that you can read the same words more than once and get a completely different experience each time, if you put some life-mileage between them. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

How I actually came to read the book again was kind of strange. Just last week a friend happened to bring it up in conversation. I remember agreeing with his point, but feeling frustrated with my lack of memory for the specifics of the storyline. I did not possess a copy of the book as of last week, and so promptly forgot much of the conversation. Then, last night, J and I went to Crowder’s and Murph’s. After watching Crowder beat the hell out of a TV with a baseball bat, I began to peruse his small bookcase for interesting titles. The last time I had done this, I’d commented on the high quality of The Giver, and Crowder had ended up giving it to me. To Kill A Mockingbird caught my eye this time, and the forgotten conversation came back to me. I plucked it out and told Crowder I was borrowing it (to which he replied that I could have that one as well). I deemed it fated. And so, I spent the better part of my day engrossed in the awe and adrenaline that comes with Boo Radley.

I found the story, for the most part, excellent.

Now I find myself contemplating its use in schools.  When I was a child, stories such as this one and Huck Finn were a given as part of middle age curriculum.  Now, these tales are practically gone from the education system until college.  Why?  I know why.  I suppose we all know why.

I grew up in a South that was very cautious about its reputation as “racist.”  We were deliberately presented with literature such as this to make us understand the depth of human fallibility.  To remind us how easy it is to be completely and utterly wrong without ever realizing it.  The language shocked us.  Our teachers said, “Good, you should be shocked.”

Children today are almost never shocked.  Even fairy tales have been sugar-coated.  No one ever dies as a result of a poor choice.  Mistakes are fixed with a change of heart and a sincere apology.  What are we teaching our kids?  Is is really in their best interest to teach them that consequences are either temporary or nonexistent?  What will be the consequence of letting our children believe such lies?


I find myself of the side of those teachers.  Be shocked.  You should be shocked.  Some things are worth fighting for, worth dying for.  Never forget the massive mistakes we have made in the past.  And when you see something that is wrong in the world, stand up and say something.

Go Set A Watchman is on my night stand.  I don’t know if I have the heart to face it yet.


One thought on “Consequence and To Kill A Mockingbird

  1. Great article, Cari.

    I agree: Some of our fictions should make us uncomfortable. Sanitized fairy tales have taken the sting out of the complexity of their intended morals; bloodless action movies (like Fast & Furious) have rendered violence and death meaningless; YA fantasies like Twilight don’t attach any cost to personal growth. There’s a great quote from master of horror Wes Craven about the endless Nightmare on Elm Street sequels (I promise this is relevant!) and how they were more amusing than they were scary: “The fact that they made Freddy more and more jokey took him farther and farther away from that child-molester thing that just kind of sticks to you in a way that maybe you don’t like.”

    Fiction has always been one of our most important instruments to address sociocultural issues that are, for all sorts of reasons, difficult to speak about directly; when we censor even our metaphors, though — for being too controversial or too “shocking” — fiction ceases to serve us in any meaningful capacity besides escapism. And what good does that do any of us — or the culture?


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