June ,24 2015
Read It or Watch It?
It was a well known rule in my high school years that first semester English students read the better selection of books. I can definitely attest to the truth of it. During one of those fortunate times to have first semester English, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee came to my desk. My young self had previously never heard of this book, the book once being banned from classrooms, yet I was eager to give it a go. A few pages in and I knew this was a book that would not be quick to leave my memory. Years later now, Lee’s book is still a favourite of mine and its film adaptation is one I would praise for it’s accuracy.
Just in time for the upcoming release of Lee’s second novel Go Set a Watchman, I’m going to start what may be a new series (we’ll see how this goes first) called Read It or Watch It? and see if Hollywood can stand its ground next to some of literatures favourite novels. And mine too, of course!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Novel Published: July 11th, 1960
Movie Release: Christmas Day, 1962
Time Between Book Release and Film: 2 years
Author Still Alive at Time of Film Release: Yes
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is a six year old girl living with her thirteen year old brother Jeremy “Jem” and attorney father Atticus, a widower and well respected member of their town of Maycomb, Alabama. Told from the perspective of an adult Scout, the novel focuses on the two most complicated events to unfold in front of Scout, Jem, and their summertime neighbour Charles Baker Harris, better known as Dill. The first: a childhood legend about the mysterious Boo Radley and secondly: a complex rape trial with the defence spearheaded by their father, Atticus. Setting itself in the thick of the 1930s, the shadow of the Great Depression draws a background of complex racial inequality issues and how easily innocence can be shifted into adulthood.
The film delivers every aspect of the original novel in one of the most spot on adaptations I have ever seen. Both key facets of the plot are related and go from running parallel to one another to becoming beautifully intertwined. Small details excluded in the film are nothing to cry over, while the tiny features most likely to be deleted in a modern film adaptation, still exist to provide a deeper insight into Lee’s world.
I find it incredibly difficult to imagine anyone else but actor Gregory Peck playing the gentle, moral Atticus Finch. The now famous courtroom speech towards the conclusion of Atticus’ defence, is delivered with such humility and strength, finding yourself speechless is not uncommon. In other words, the power to make a room of thirteen and fourteen year olds silent. A feat not easily achieved. Well done, Mr. Peck!
Young actors Mary Badham and Phillip Alford, Scout and Jem respectively, give strong performances and a sense of adult maturity gradually uncovered as the realities of life impact their young characters. Child actors often find it difficult to bring a balance of emotion without overacting. This is not one of those times. Carrying a large portion of the film on their shoulders, Badham and Alford are a large selling portion for me.
Having grown attached to the novel characters and being able to relate to children faced with their first taste of adulthood, my first impressions were very positive. As time passes and I reread the novel, I find a new take away each time. More lessons and ways to deal with moral dilemmas very transferable to everyday life. For those reasons, I will always return to the novel. Similarly with the novel, the film brings a stunning visual performance that I crave to watch every few months or so. You’ll want this on both your shelf and your movie rack.
Read It Or Watch It?: Both!
Have you ever read To Kill a Mockingbird
? Have you ever seen the movie? Let me know!