To Kill A Mockingbird: Review
To Kill a Mockingbird is a must read book for many a junior high school student and should be a must see movie for them and their families. No other film provides such an ideal depiction of a father relating to his offspring, not as children, but as young human beings. Translating the character of this ideal father to the screen would be a daunting task for any actor. Fortunately for movie-going audiences Gregory Peck wasn’t just any actor, he was Atticus Finch personified.
I was fortunate to still be a child when I first watched To Kill a Mockingbird. And even more fortunate to have been in a Junior High English class where many of the more complicated themes were clearly explained. However, it isn’t necessary to have that kind of professional help to understand what’s happening in the story. That’s one of the pure beauties of this film, that as adult as some of the topics are (unconditional friendship, abject prejudice and severe poverty) the story is told in a very straight forward and simple to understand manner. And even though a young mind may not be capable of forming the words of expression, the feelings are there, feelings that will grow and mature just as an individual.
The story is told from the point of view of a child, and therefore revels itself in a manner understandable to a child. A tomboy named Scout lives a quiet life with her older brother and widowed father in the impoverished American South of the 1930s. Life as a kid is great, but Scout is learning that childhood will not last forever and the world is strange and complicated, and sometimes even a dangerous place. Her father, Atticus does not claim to know all the answers, but he encourages his child to be curious all the same. He meets her questions regarding the behavior of others with patience and compassion, and empathizes with her regarding the difficult learning she has to experience. He does the best he can and asks the same of his children, especially when it’s not an easy thing to do.
Atticus, as a father leads by example and must do some very difficult things in the face of great opposition, like defending an African American man (a young and compelling Brock Peters) in a highly biased courtroom. But he could do no less than to uphold the law as he sees just, and hopes that his children will understand (at least eventually) even if it means great sacrifice in the here and now. Scout’s father lives by the only standards he knows. So, he may not always be a winner, but he’s always a hero for standing by his beliefs regardless of the pressure to do otherwise.
Atticus Finch is an awfully high standard to hold to any father, but I’m sure even the most confidant dad can relate to the pressure of living up to your own ideas as well as your children’s. To Kill a Mockingbird helps both adult and child realize that there is no such thing as the perfect father, except in the eyes of his children.