To Kill A Mockingbird – Why Read the Haunting and Awe Inspiring Bildungsroman Before Seeing the Movie?

By: Carmen Ureña

Movie: ⅗ stars

     To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an evocative and dazzling bildungsroman, but the movie does not reach the breathtaking quality of the book.  

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     Lee’s controversial novel is a bildungsroman that takes place in Maycomb County, a racist and close-minded town in South Alabama, United States. Scout Finch (Mary Badham) and Jem Finch (Phillip Alford) are exposed to a society full of racism and prejudice, while their father, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) teaches them a set of values that go against the expectations and ways of Maycomb County’s residents.  He defends a black, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), from rapping a white girl, Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox), the reason why his neighbors categorize them as a “nigger-lover.”  

     To Kill A Mockingbird (movie version) was directed by Robert Milligan, and although the movie gives you some insight about how was to live in the 1930’s in the South of the United States, he did not include many parts from the book in the movie that showed “the scary neighbor,” Boo Radley’s connection with the Finch kids, and the scene were Aunt Alexandra visits the family showing the difference between raising children by a white woman and Atticus raising his children in Maycomb County.  Additionally, he also changes the perspective from which the movie is told, giving you a different perspective of the plot.

     The movie does not include the scenes where Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) leaves gifts for Jem and Scout in the tree hole, nor the scene where he gives a blanket to Scout, protecting her from getting sick.  These parts were key since they give you an understanding of how deep the connection is between Boo Radley and the Finch kids. Boo Radley lives near the Finch family, he is shy and the subject of rumors and legends that circle Maycomb County. In the book, Lee describes every scene where Boo Radley leaves gifts for Jem and Scout inside the tree hole, while in the movie, they just show the scene where they find the soap figures; followed by Jem showing Scout all the other things he had previously found.  In the book, the value/personal significance of each object is clear and are a symbol of Boo’s interrupted childhood, wanting to create a connection with the kids, even though they made fun of him in his porch. The first gift is gum since Boo is conscious that a piece of gum is irresistible to children. He also gave them his Spelling Bee medal he won while he assisted to school; an old watch since Atticus allows his children to carry their grandfather’s watch once a week, now they could have one of their own; and the knife and chain were a form of foreshadowing to the attack from Bob Ewell to Jem and Scout.  All these scenes would’ve have served as a way of showing and emphasizing Boo’s connection and humanity with Jem and Scout, sense/feeling that is left out in the movie.

     The books include the scene were Miss. Maudie’s house caught on fire, while the movie does not. Scout complains of being cold, and Boo Radley quietly comes from behind and gives her a blanket; showing how much he cares about Scout.  In the movie, when Jem loses his pants, he immediately goes back to look for them, while in the book, he waits until two in the morning to go look for them. By making this change, the movie loses the “risk” felt by Jem and Scout when visiting the Radley’s place due to the rumors that go on the neighborhood after Boo Radley being a delinquent in his adolescent years.  It would’ve been beneficial if in the movie, Jem would have waited longer to look for his pants as a representation of the fear he feels after listening to the gunshots.

     Aunt Alexandra, not been part of the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, makes Atticus teachings less eye-catching.  Aunt Alexandra is Atticus’ Finch sister and aunt to Jem and Scout.  She lives in the family landing, and her particular personality sticks out when compared to her easy-going brothers.  In the book, Aunt Alexandra visits the Finch’s house; in here she talks to Atticus about how he should not allow his children to visit Calpurnia’s (the Finches’ black maid, in the movie represented as Estelle Evans) house.  By including this scene, viewers would’ve been able to compare how two members of the same family have different perspectives towards the black community.  Aunt Alexandra’s character in the book works to make emphasis on Atticus’ character and teachings. She serves as a foil character to Atticus as he tries to teach Jem and Scout a set of morals and ethics from which Aunt Alexandra disagrees. Atticus has an open-minded perspective, while Aunt Alexandra fits into the close-minded society of Maycomb County, she likes gossiping and is racist.  

     The movie To Kill a Mockingbird is told from a different perspective and is rarely seen through the eyes of Scout, unlike the book, which is primarily told from Scout’s point of view.  Because the movie is told from a different perspective, we can’t easily see how Scout grows, evolves and matures. While you can have a faster and clearer understanding in the movie since it is told from a reliable source and issues are given directly, the book is told from a naive and immature perspective, which gets you thinking and analyzing what’s happening; an engaging technique which grabs the reader’s attention.

     To Kill a Mockingbird in its visual representation misses major parts presented by Lee in the book that would add to the viewer’s’ understanding.  At the beginning of the movie starts out with Scout talking, Robert Milligan later changes the narrator of the movie, a good opportunity just for those who read the book, to see compare how the ages and roles in the community affect your understanding about what is going on around you.  Although it is a good technique to change the narrator’s, those who have not read the book miss the essence of Lee’s book, to see the story evolve through a coming-of-age girl who doesn’t fully understand what’s going around her.

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Journal Entry #5 – Characters Responses To Dilemmas

The way characters respond to dilemmas will be based on personality, age, level of maturity, education, understanding of the events that happen around him/her, and a clear understanding of the limitations of the setting.  Most stories’ dilemmas are common dilemmas that happen in anyone’s life since this help readers connect to the story.  Having dilemmas with which readers can feel identified with, might have an impact/influence on the reader’s decision towards the dilemma since they can learn from the character’s decision and how it brought rewards or consequences to the plot.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, there are definitely models we can apply to our lives, while there are others we should reject.  Atticus is an example of a character that we should use as a model in our lives, as well as Ms.Maudie.  Both are really patient and take the time to teach Jem and Scout how to act appropriately, and important values such as not judging, making an assumption of others’ lives without knowing what they’ve gone through to get where they are, especially when they live in a town were neighbor like gossiping.  An example of this is when Ms.Maudie asks Scout to please change the way she talks and refers to Boo Radley since she doesn’t know the whole story, she had just heard the rumors of the town.  Their desire to guide through a good path to Scout and Jem is a reflection of their values, the mindset in which they grew in, maturity, and a clear understanding of the negatives and positives of Maycomb County and the society in which they live.

Unlike Atticus and Ms. Maudie, Scout is a type of character that should be eluded in our lifes.  Because of her young age, she still doesn’t have a clear view of what’s happening around her, basing her decisions and actions more on what other people tell her.

Journal Entry #4 – School Punishments In The 1930’s

In this image, we can see how kids were smacked in the hand with different materials.

In Chapter 2, page 28 of Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, we receive a glimpse at what was like going to school in the 1930’s.  Scout, the narrator of the story, has a tomboyish personality and likes getting into fights.  If she doesn’t like something, she’ll comment on it.

In page 26, Ms. Caroline, Scout’s teacher, offers money to one of the students, Walter Cunningham. The Cunninghams are known in Maycomb County for how poor they are.  Walter, knowing that probably he wouldn’t be able to pay back to Ms. Caroline, refuses to accept the money.  Scout, goes up and explains Ms. Caroline the reason behind Walter not wanting to accept her money.  Ms. Caroline gets annoyed by Scout and on page 28, she takes Scout’s hand and hits it with a ruler.  For those of us living in the 21st Century, might think that was a not the correct response to the situation, that if Ms. Caroine was annoyed, she should have sent Scout to the principal’s office.

During the 1930s, the school system was not the same as it is now.  Back in the days, if teachers had a problem with a student, they’d solve it themselves.  In case of a punishment, teachers whipped students with a rattan cane, wooden paddle, slippers, leather straps, or wooden yardsticks.  For major misbehavior, a razor strop or a hickory switch was used on the child’s bottom.  In some rare cases, punishments included smacking students with the open hand, this kind of punishment was avoided even more so in elementary school level.  In certain schools, the punishments for girls were less harsh than for boys, while in other schools there was no differentiation when it was related to punishments.

Years later, this kind of punishments was prohibited since it promoted violence to students and harmed their bodies.  It teaches students that violence was the way to solve problems.  With the evolution of time, we can see how problems between teachers and students are solved differently, by visiting the principal’s office or by calling the student’s parents.  In the present, if a teacher was to punish a student this way, unlike in the 1930s, it would cause controversy, with the possibilities of the teacher’s farewell.

Reaction Paper: “Why did Biloxi pull ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the 8th-grade lesson plan”

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    Biloxi school district considers that it’s not an appropriate language usage for a book in the eighth grade English Language Arts curriculum.  “Why did Biloxi pull ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the 8th-grade lesson plan” article written by Karen Nelson on October 12, 2017.  The articles talk about Biloxi school district, in Mississippi banning the book by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird.  To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age-novel, a classic in eighth-grade curriculums.  It deals with racism, raping, though a very compassionate, dramatic, novel which causes a sense of commotion to every reader.

    I still haven’t read the novel, but I have heard and read that is a wonderful novel. In my own experience, I have read a banned book, The True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  In the case of The True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian, it was banned because the main character mentions that like masturbation.  The article explains that To Kill A Mockingbird was banned because of the use of the “N” word.  I respectfully disagree with Biloxi’s decision of banning this book.  I am conscious that sometimes the usage of a certain language or books that talk about certain topics are considered as disrespectful to certain cultures, or make people uncomfortable, but I believe that just because of the use of the “N” word, it’s not a reason to ban a book.  

    In the case of To Kill A Mockingbird, Biloxi complains about the type of language used by Harper Lee when writing the novel.  Maybe, they banned the book in the schools believing that their students were going to start using that type of language.  We have to be honest, all of us have heard swearing words, but that doesn’t mean we once hear and/or read them, we add them to our vocabulary.  In my opinion, if children have a good education at home, they are least likely to swear.  Although they might receive a good education at home, sometimes parents do use swearing words, they are conscious that, and don’t mind if their children use them as well.

    Although I can understand Biloxi’s school district concern, I feel they took extreme consequences.  From my point of view, by eighth grade, students are mature enough to handle a book with some obscene language, and with topics such as rapping, and racism, but I’m nobody to judge someone’s decision since in the majority of the cases, their reason go further from what we know.


    In conclusion, the coming-of-age novel by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird has caused issues in schools of Mississippi, specifically in Biloxi due to the type of language used in the book.  Due to this problem, the book has been pulled out of the English Language Arts eighth grade curriculum.   According to school authorities, the books still can be found in the school library, though it’s no longer part of the eighth-grade curriculum.

Book Banning

1. Is book banning ever acceptable?

  • In my opinion, book banning shouldn’t be acceptable.  I strongly believe that anyone should have the right to publish a book without it been banned or challenged, I believe that writing is a form of expression.

2. Do schools have the right to ban books?

  • In my opinion, schools shouldn’t have the right to ban books.  Many times they are banned due to parents/guardians request, but I believe that it shouldn’t keep others that don’t mind reading a certain book from reading it and learning from it.

3. Do parents as taxpayers and funders of public libraries, have the right to choose what books libraries provide?

  • From my point of view, no, parents as taxpayers and funders of public libraries should have an opinion on what they want and don’t want their kids to read, but shouldn’t control what can a libraries offer to its visitors.  If parents would take control on what a library can offer, that would cause conflicts since every person has different interests, and limits when talking about what is considered appropriate and what not depending on age, culture, and maturity.

4. When do books cross the line and who gets to decide?

  • There’s no line to define when a book “crosses the line” or not.  That “line” is defined by guardians/teachers/government or any authority.  For example, in the video by Rocketboom in May of 2013, they talked about book banning in the 21st century.  They make reference to the a children book: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and how it has been banned because it talks about two male penguins, a transexual couple, who raises a baby.  And Tango Makes Three has appeared on the #1 of the banned books in the United States, while books talking bout how to kill someone with your hands, and how to hack computers haven’t been banned yet.

5. Is there even a line?

  • In my opinion, theres no line.  Wether a book is banned or challenged depends on the person who reads the book, their interests, and their perspective.  For this question, I’ll make reference to the previous question and how the children book was banned, while other books dealing with murder haven’t been banned.

9/19/2017 Word On Wednesday: “Toil”

HOUSE

Seven Months, And I Still Cry Over It

By: Carmen Ureña

 

One more month, another doctor visit

physiotherapy and tears.  

Now, seven months and a half,

seven months and a half without seeing the  light,

the light at the end of the tunnel.

Seven months and a half that to me

seem infinite.

I ask myself with no hopes at all,

I’m I ever going to recover from this?

 

Four doctors,

three radiologists,

50 therapy sessions,

ultrasounds, magnetic resonance.

360 pills, Lidocaine and Corticoid injections.

but my pain is still there,

as a constant reminder of my barriers,

the ones I can’t overcome,

the ones that haunt me everyday.

No changes,

the pain,

is even worst than when all of this started.

 

Seven  months,

and I just keep losing hope.

I toiled,

I have taken care of this injury as I have never done with any of my previous accidents.  

Even though I hate it,

I toiled,

3,000 hours stuck resting in a bed.  

Always the same, hot packs, cold packs,

magnetic waves, electric current.  

3,000 hours stuck in that cabin,

and it still hurts,

even  when I have to stretch the softest of the

strengthening rubber bands.

 

Seven months,

and I still cry over my lost of strength, muscle

and endurance.

Seven months,  and I keep crying about my

tonified calves, thighs, and arms.

 

Seven months,

and I keep crying over the races I had planned for this year.  

My hopes of competing  around the world,

are gone.  

I toiled to reach time limits to compete around the world,

5 years toiling,

just to see all of my efforts vanish before me.

 

My bike, full of dust,

waiting for my recovery,

seven months,

without anyone using it.  

My cycling shoes,

waiting for me in my closet.  

Every morning, afternoon, and night,

I open my closet,

I can hear them calling me;

while I can hardly walk.

Seven months,

without buying any running shoes, energetic

gels, goggles, or trisuits.  

Seven months, that changed my life.

 

Seven months,

and I know there’s at least four more months of

my suffering.  

Ahead of me,

and unusual Christmas,

an unusual New Year.  

No parties or high heels,

instead, a cast,

crutches, and stitches.  

What I thought was a simple ankle twist,

that will recover within  days,

has turned into an unuseful foot,

needing surgery.

My “insignificant” injury, has now destroyed

 

Seasons pass by,

leaves fall,

and they grow back, but I’m still here.

 

The days pass by, and I feel numb,

trying to understand how to live with the pain I feel,

but it just gets worst every day.  

 

Me, the strong woman,

or so I thought,

the Iron Girl,

is now crying,

crying because of her situation.

 

Seven months,

I toil not to,

but I keep crying,

Crying like a three-year-old on their first day of

school.  

Seven months,

and I now understand the importance of taking

care of injuries.  

Seven months,

and I still try everyday to do what I love the most,

triathlon,

my life,

but I fail.

 

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Poetry Friday: Women, Who Dress Up, Who Dress Up To Impress

Women, who dress up, who dress up to impress men; like the houses in the magazines my mom buys every month.  Then, there’s me, and my friend, breaking stereotypes.

Why do we get picked-up by men, while we are not interested?

Millions of women, behind make-up, surgeries, and well-dressed; waiting to get picked-up, and no one notices.

There we are, two girls, standing still, all sweaty, in the Panamanian heat. Focused on cadence and time, like elite athletes training for a world championship.  Two girls, with no intention of calling the attention, the attention of older men.  

Two girls, shocked with horror at the thoughts of men who passed us by on Monday afternoons, we were eye candy, just like three-year-olds who are scared of clowns.

Even if we wanted to call their attention, we only receive nasty pick-up lines.  We are seen just as sexual objects, like women in the past. Sitting by the window, with hope, waiting for their man.   Like women in those old stories, we read about in books.

Why do we still suffer from sexual abuse? Like if we were living in those old stories where women were seen as an entertainment.  

Why can’t we be seen as normal people?  Why can’t women walk down the streets without people looking and calling out their body?   Why can’t people focus on emotions and internal beauty, instead of on how your body looks?