To Kill a Mockingbird
Let me tell you two secrets about To Kill a Mockingbird.
1. The best scene of the entire book is egregiously overlooked. And it stars Mr. Avery. Wait – who? Yep, Mr. Avery – the faceless grumpy neighbor man nobody pays attention to. However, in chapter 6, he does something that earns the unquestionable admiration of our juvenile protagonists.
"Mr. Avery boarded across the street from Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose’s house. Besides making change in the collection plate every Sunday, Mr. Avery sat on the porch every night until nine o’clock and sneezed. One evening we were privileged to witness a performance by him which seemed to have been his positively last, for he never did it again so long as we watched. Jem and I were leaving Miss Rachel’s front steps one night when Dill stopped us: “Golly, looka yonder.” He pointed across the street. At first we saw nothing but a kudzu-covered front porch, but a closer inspection revealed an arc of water descending from the leaves and splashing in the yellow circle of the street light, some ten feet from source to earth, it seemed to us. Jem said Mr. Avery misfigured, Dill said he must drink a gallon a day, and the ensuing contest to determine relative distances and respective prowess only made me feel left out again, as I was untalented in this area."
As a girl who grew up sandwiched between brothers, I complete appreciate Scout’s lack of talent in this area as well as the fascination with Mr. Avery’s hidden talent. I just love that Harper Lee chose to include this detail in her great American novel.
2. Atticus’s epiphanic statement is more poignant than you might think. In chapter 30, when Atticus finally agrees that the lie Heck Tate proposes holds more integrity than the truth, he turns to Boo Radley in gratitude and says, “Thank you for my children, Arthur.” But here’s the rub: he doesn’t say, “Thank you for saving my children, Arthur,” which is what I would have said, given the circumstance. No, he thanks Arthur for the entirety of his children, not just the life-saving moment. In other words, Atticus credits Boo with all of the imagination and mystery and wonder and little epiphanies that Jem and Scout encounter within these pages. Boo gave them their very childhoods. That’s pretty cool.
Take-Away: If it’s been a while since you read To Kill a Mockingbird or, (gasp!) you’ve never read it, consider it one of the most highly-prioritized items on your bucket list. I can guarantee you that your adult reading of this novel will be drastically and rewardingly different than your high school reading. You grew older, but Scout did too. Sit down and stay a spell with her. You won’t regret it.