The fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic often read by teens, came this past July. This anniversary drew many tributes, leading to readathons and viewing parties of the superb film adaptation. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my favorite books in high school, and it’s one I’ve reread several times as an adult. It’s an occupational hazard that you reread very few books as a librarian, so what makes me keep coming back to this book?
What makes a book endure for fifty years? To me, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird‘s combination of rich characters, vivid setting, compelling plot, and a stirring theme that has kept it alive for readers. And even though our society has changed since To Kill a Mockingbird was published, we still find food for thought in this novel, questions that we ask about both the characters and how we react to those characters. Could Atticus have done more to confront the racism in Maycomb? Would Scout become the proper girl that her aunt Alexandra wanted? What are our own attitudes when it comes to black and white, poor and rich?
To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t just about racism. It’s about the South, lawyers, class, growing up female, family and more. While there have been criticisms of the book since it was published relating to its treatment of the African-American characters, as laid out in this Wikipedia article, it seems that this novel will continue to resonate with readers. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary, the book Scout, Atticus & Boo collected interviews with twenty-six writers and public figures speaking about the impact of To Kill a Mockingbird. One of those interviewees was Anna Quindlen. In an excerpt published by the Huffington Post, she speaks about the continued appeal of To Kill a Mockingbird.
“The difference between “The Catcher in the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” is, “The Catcher in the Rye” usually doesn’t survive adulthood. I’ve known some people who’ve gone back and read it and thought, this was my favorite book when I was sixteen. What was I thinking? I don’t know anybody who feels that way about “To Kill a Mockingbird.” You come back to it and you are still just sucked right into it. You know, you are sucked into it in a completely different way as an adult than you were as a kid because you understand what Atticus is facing as what was not then called the single parent. You are sucked right back in it.”
I know that happened to me–I meant to just reread a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird to write this post, and I ended up reading the whole book in one night. If you’ve recently rediscovered this novel, did you find your feelings had changed since the first time? And if you didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird until you were an adult, what resonated for you?