To Kill a Mockingbird: a classic everyone should read

To Kill a MockingbirdOften times classic novels don’t appeal to me because they feel over-hyped, but every so often one catches my attention and I give it a go.

What intrigued me most about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Well the themes played a big part: racial injustice, class, gender roles, the loss of a child’s innocence. But it was also the way she went about telling the stories in the small southern town of Maycomb, Alabama – through a child’s lens.

Taking place during the Depression, the book is split in two parts. The first part focuses on telling the story of Scout Finch, the protagonist, and her brother Jem. The two of them, along with their summertime friend Dill spend much of their time preoccupied with trying to catch a glimpse ‘Boo’ Radley, the reclusive neighbour at the end of their street. The second part focuses on the children’s perspective of a very adult case of Tom Robinson, a black man their father Atticus is defending, who is accused of raping a white woman.

Scout is one of my favourite literary characters – young and naive, but curious with a strong, take no bull attitude. She always tried to push buttons by not conforming to societal norms – basically acting like a boy, which was radical in the 30’s. Much of her spark, she got from her father Atticus, who raised his kids to understand the world they lived in and that it wasn’t perfect, but did so in a way that went against the grain of the time. As she learned more about the Tom Robinson rape trial, from speaking with him, he didn’t sugar coat it or push her aside as most parents would, which helped Scout’s character mature. His character is flawless in his values and though it must have been a struggle raising his children on his own (with a lot of help from Calpurnia, their maid) he always empowered his children to learn for themselves. His biggest lesson, and one that weaved the two plot lines together was that it’s always important to view the world in the other person’s skin, so you get a better understanding of where they’re coming from.

I’m happy I read this small novel that packed such a memorable punch. If you haven’t managed to pick it up, I highly recommend you do – you won’t be disappointed. As an aside, I watched the movie after I finished the book, and while the casting was spot on, I found it omitted a lot and changed around so much of the story that it lost what made the book great. I give To Kill a Mockingbird a 5/5.

The Help (movie) does The Help (book) justice

The HelpWhen I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett earlier this winter, I couldn’t help but put it down. At the time I wrote my review, I was happy to see a movie was coming out – I just hoped that it could live up to the book.

Starring the amazing Emma Stone as Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, the story takes place in early 60s Jackson, Mississippi where racist tensions are at their thickest between whites and blacks. ‘Skeeter’ is a recent university graduate who really isn’t fit for the small town living int the south, and is looking to make it as a big city journalist, or writer. After some advice from a New York editor at Harper & Row, she finds an issue she’s passionate about, and that’s giving a voice to “the help” of Jackson.

One of the first maids to help by providing stories for her book was Aibileen, as played by Viola Davis. It’s Davis, along with Octavia Spencer as Minnie, that steal the show. Skeeter is the one that gives them the platform, but they’re the ones that bring the life and personality to the story. They’re also the ones that help gather the rest of the maids to help make the book a reality.

Minnie is such a strong woman and Spencer plays her perfectly – I’d even say it was an Oscar-worthy performance. Every time she was on screen it was hard to pay attention to anyone but her. In an ideal world, I’d say Viola Davis also deserves a nod for her role – it would sure be more deserving than that nod for Doubt.

The evil Hilly Holbrook, as played by Bryce Dallas Howard, has already been added to a list or two of top movie villains, so it goes to show you how disliked she is. What’s unfortunate, and I’m sure I’m not exaggerating, is that there were many Hilly Holbrooks across the States and even Canada. The story played it off as if all the other housewives were just sheep to whatever Hilly had to say, but she was probably closer to the norm for how many thought at the time. That being said, she was a great villain and Howard played her just as I’d imagined when reading the book.

I was worried the movie wouldn’t do the book justice after watching a few of the overly lighthearted previews. In the end, I’d say the movie did a great job of mixing humor with the serious racial tensions of the time and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. If you’re looking for a story that explains the racial tensions of the time, but one that isn’t too heavy for kids to watch, then this is a great place to start the conversation. I highly recommend reading the book first, then checking this one out. I give The Help a 5/5.

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