Monday, July 31, 2006

Atticus Finch lives on!

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow,’ thus begins To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s first and only novel. Narrated from the point of view of an 8-year-old girl, Scout, the novel recounts the story of two siblings, Scout and Jem, their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, friend Dill, and mysterious Boo Ridley, in a small Alabama town of American south called Maycomb. ‘Boo was our neighbour. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.’ Thus begins the children’s adventure story that gradually turns into a poignant human drama, raw and unadorned as life itself, filled with candid simplicity and heart-rending pathos.Lee called her novel is a love story, pure and simple. But there are other loves than romantic love and it’s about these loves that Lee talks about: love of a father to his children and vice-versa, and love of a man to his fellow men, despite racial and other prejudices. It is love that Atticus Finch spreads among those who know him without even uttering the word. If ever there was a fictional character who has the power to stand before his readers, as flesh and blood as anyone, it is definitely Atticus Finch (portrayed memorably, in the 1962 film adaptation of the book, by Gregory Peck.), who teaches his children to love life and live life unapologetically, who stands by his cause to fight for a ‘Negro’ in a racist society where everyone is against him. Someone once wrote, every lawyer has something to learn form Atticus. Probably, every father has something to learn from Atticus. His relationship with his tomboy daughter Scout and teenage son Jem is one of the most touching relationships ever depicted in a work of fiction.The novel follows Scout in her adventures as she grapples the ways of the big, bad world outside, which comes to an conclusive end with Boo Ridley finally coming out of his house, and how! As you flip through the pages, you become the inhabitant of Scout’s world, sharing her trauma and anticipations, her anger and the lessons she learns. As the novel ends, Scout tells her father about Boo that he’s a nice man, to which Atticus replies, ‘everyone is, when you know them.’ And we swear by Atticus. ‘A touching book, so funny, so likeable,’ said Truman Capote. So true!

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