For those following the read-along, things have gotten rather intense in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The children are learning a lot more and growing up while it feels like some of the adults are becoming less and less respectable. The court case has come and gone with an unsatisfactory verdict. Atticus continues to be a bad ass. You know, the important stuff. I have many thoughts, but for now I’ll focus on the questions from Adam’s post.
1. Jem clearly changes some from Part One, when he was telling Scout to stop acting like a girl. But Scout, Dill, and even Atticus all change in some ways during this second section. What are your thoughts on these changes?
The children certainly change from Part One to Part Two. Jem finds himself leaving behind his childish airs in exchange for a sense of maturity and understanding of the adult world. He begins to identify with more serious subjects and scolds Scout’s behavior rather than encourage it. Scout, on the other hand, finds herself clashing with not only Jem, but also Aunt Alexandra. She turns into the leader of a vanishing pack, and because of Dill’s absence at the start of the summer, she’s quite alone in her thirst for adventure.
Dill experiences a huge character change during this part of the novel. Although he arrives and starts up with his grand story as to what happened with his step-father in true Dill fashion, he turns into a confused and saddened child during the trial. He has a rather emotional reaction to the trial, and his eyes open to the injustice of the world.
I don’t have a lot to say about Atticus in regard to this question. I feel like we’re continuing to learn more about his personality. While he is assigned the court case, his protection of Tom Robinson at the jail doesn’t surprise me. He’s a compassionate man seeking justice while trying to help his children grow.
2. As I mentioned above, there has been much debate about the mob scene outside the jail. This seems to be a part of the book where many opinions could be found equally valid. What are your thoughts about what happens between Scout and the men? Why does it work? Is it believable? Does Scout know what she is doing? And what do we think about Mr. Underwood’s covert stake-out, having Atticus “covered all the time?”
I have no trouble believing the scene outside the jail. I also don’t believe Scout knew exactly what she was doing when she approached the mob. I understand that she pulls the brave and tough role, but that’s with people around her age, not adults. I don’t think she walked up to the mob thinking she would save her father. I don’t think she even understood how serious the situation was until she was already speaking to the men. I see this novel as a journey through a child’s eyes, so most of these situations are more about Scout learning something for the first time rather than her already knowing everything. This scene is simply heart wrenching as a young girl sees her fellow townspeople for who they really are as their opinions and prejudices are uncovered.
As for Mr. Underwood, I think he goes to the jail with the intention of helping Atticus, but he chickens out after seeing the mob. I find his appearance at the end of the scene to be comical more than anything, but of course it’s also disappointing how quickly people turn a blind eye to injustice.
3. In the first check-in post, I raised a question about the possible “statements” being made in this book about education. Some felt the scenes of Scout in school were realism for realism’s sake, others thought Harper Lee might have been trying to say something more. In light of the above, I’m still convinced that Lee has strong opinions about education – what are your thoughts on this? Have they changed from last week? What other conclusions can we draw from Atticus’s assertion that the only way in which we are all equal (in the U.S.) is in the eyes of the law? And is this true?
I agree with Adam about Lee having strong opinions on education. See my Part One review for my full opinion, which has not changed. In regard to what Atticus says about the law, this novel and history have proven that we are not all equal in the eyes of the law. I think he wants to believe that we have even that much equality, but we don’t. The law doesn’t grant Tom Robinson his freedom. Prejudice is still present, and because of that an innocent man is declared guilty. There’s a lot of injustice that Lee uncovers in To Kill a Mockingbird. Race and education are two big subjects that Lee is criticizing, and her criticism is justified.