LJ VP LAFIURA
Editor's Column: The greatest book I’ve ever read
When one asks me what my favorite book is, they typically gawk when I say To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Most people can’t understand my fascination with a novel published 62 years ago that everyone was forced to read during high school. I’ve read this book five times, and the truth is, the book is more than meets the eye, and it’s helped shape the way I see the world and live my life.
At its core, To Kill a Mockingbird is a matter of cultivating and defending the consciences of children in a world where many try to tear that away. In the world of Maycomb County, Alabama, tradition, reputation, and, sadly, race talk. Despite this, Atticus Finch promotes the values of respect for life, equality, and thinking for yourself to his children while dealing with his own personal crisis, choosing to do the right thing, defending Tom Robinson at the risk of his life, business, and reputation. An ambitious undertaking, Finch’s even-keeled and reflective approach gives us a roadmap to remain firm when faced with this universal truth; the right thing will not always be easy to do.
Finch also had to encourage his children to blaze their own trail, especially if it deviated from the norms of their small town. For Atticus and his brother, being the first in the family to get out is difficult in a world where tradition rules, but for his daughter, breaking away from the southern standards takes much more resolve. While there are factors in which his kids must grow compared to the rest of society, disrespect towards the best parts of society is just as bad. Finch must also teach balance, a virtue that, when lacking, sours the best of intentions. To walk this line is a challenge, but to guide others along it as well shows true strength.
Through this story, I have also learned a lot about the nature of man. I can state this simply, man is inherently good; it is our extraordinarily rotten society that takes someone away from their well-meaning beginnings. Look at Walter Cunning- ham Sr., a poor-off but well-mannered family man who refused to take what he hadn’t earned and tried to do right by his kids. Cunningham was radicalized by his rural neighbors and the era’s status quo, leading him to join a mob seeking to kill a man before his rightful trial. Mob think doesn’t make a man, but it takes good men and women to see the light in someone and pull them back toward the side of what is right.
I feel comfortable saying the majority of this campus was supposed to read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. Whether you actually did the work or not, I implore you to read it again. I can confidently say whether I was in the eighth grade, in the midst of a pandemic, or a junior in college looking towards the future, my circumstances while reading have allowed me to be drawn to something differ- ent every time I’ve flipped through those pages. We can all be a little more like Atticus Finch. He defines much of my growth as a person, and when people tell me my personality is half Atticus Finch and the other half Kevin James, I wear that with pride.