by Anna DiBenedetto
This Valentine’s Day, some people will take their loved one to a romantic dinner, others will send their daughter roses and some will even venture to the premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But my plan for this year is to snuggle up on my sofa and celebrate my love of literature by rereading my favorite book, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
I will admit that staying in and reading a book is not my ideal Valentine’s Day evening. However, the recent news that Lee will soon publish Go Set a Watchman, an accompaniment to her beloved classic 1960 novel, sparked my interest to revisit the novel.
Lee’s first novel (widely thought to be her only) is well know, having sold over thirty million copies and been translated into forty different languages. With the announcement of the release of Watchman, fans are re-reading the tale in preparation. According to The Telegraph, “sales of To Kill a Mockingbird [have rocketed] by 6600%.” I think it is safe to say that I’m not the only one who thinks of Lee’s novel as a favorite.
But what exactly about Lee’s novel makes it such a cherished read? After thinking about the question for a while and thinking about the new novel, set to publish in July, I came up with three specific reasons that I love the book as much as I do.
The first reason I love Mockingbird is because of the nostalgic feeling that comes over me when I think of the first time I ever read the novel. The book was first introduced to me in my 7th grade English class. I remember reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and discussing racial issues for one of the first times in my sheltered, predominately all-white school. In high school, another one of my English classes read the same novel and examined the book’s title and the theme of loss of innocence (seemingly fitting for high school students). Perhaps my sentimental feelings surrounding the book exist solely because I read it when I was younger, but I think there is something more to it. Just as most people have beloved books from childhood years, I think of Mockingbird as a milestone book for me in forming my interest in literature as a young girl.
Scout Finch is the second reason I admire this book. Scout’s tomboy persona and mischievous attitude aligned with myself as a young girl. I found her youthful and innocent nature to be a sense of comic relief in the narrative. This is exhibited in the part of the story when she, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill decide to play “Boo Radley.” The three create a game of acting out the life and times of the Radley’s, the odd family of Maycomb. Scout elaborates, “As the summer progressed, so did our game. We polished and perfected it, added dialogue and plot until we had manufactured a small play upon which we rang changes every day.” Her enacting the reclusive Boo reminds me of “playing house” with my own siblings. Her carefree attitude speaks to a young girl that I could identify with as a young girl, and even now that I am older.
Finally, and most importantly, Scout and Atticus’s relationship is the third reason I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout’s relationship with Atticus emulates a picturesque bond between a father and daughter that I did not appreciate the first time I read the novel. But having matured since 7th grade, a relationship with my dad is something I value and cherish greatly. In the novel, Scout goes to Atticus after she and Jem have been attacked by Bob Ewell and saved by Boo Radley. After imagining Boo’s character in the first half of the book and listening to Atticus’s demands to stop messing with him, she finally tells her father:
‘When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .’ His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’
Her recognition of Boo’s character and harmless nature align with everything that Atticus had previously told her. Scout’s admittance to him that Boo is “real nice” acknowledges Atticus’s influence on her. His fatherly role is solid and resilient, and his sense of right and wrong remains constant throughout the novel. Atticus’s strong presence in his daughter’s life stands as one of the most important bonds in the book and is one of my favorite relationships in literature.
My favorite novel may very well be shared with a million other readers out in the world. So maybe I won’t be the only one reading it alone this Saturday night. But who knows, maybe with another reread of To Kill a Mockingbird, I will have to expand my list of why I love Lee’s book so much.