19th February 2016, Harper Lee sadly passes away at the age of 89.
It’s been expected for a while, actually given her frail condition, but the news still saddens me.
You see, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is possibly one of my favourite novels, and I’m certain others feel the same.
It’s a novel that still resonates every time I pick it up and read it from the first time I taught it in 1987 to the final time in 2013. It’s an exquisite narrative told expertly through the eyes of Scout, or Jean Louise Finch. Its message of tolerance to others, Atticus’s liberal but fair minded parenting, is still as powerful today in this age of eurosceptic xenophobia, anti-refugee polemics and the vile politics of Donald Trump, a coiffured caricature of Bob Ewell?
I read “Go Set a Watchman” last year on its release, and though it withers in comparison to the 1969 classic, it has its great moments too. Atticus Finch transmogrifying into a KKK sympathiser failed to add up, admittedly, but certain chapters in there (the river swimming) were as majestic as the Maycomb county court trial scenes.
2016 has so far been a cruel year for deaths. I won’t detail them here.
Looking forward though it is the 400th year since William Shakespeare died (23rd April 1616) and perhaps in 100 years, we’ll mark the passing of Harper Lee, in a similar way.
She deserves it for creating one of the narrative classics of the 20th century and the patriarchal heroics of Atticus Finch, amongst others:
“When he gave us our air-rifles Atticus wouldn’t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn’t interested in guns, Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
That was the only time I heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
The mockingbirds will be singing tonight, with Harper Lee.