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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Border Crossing Review

imagesMaria Colleen Cruz’s realistic fiction, shows the importance of knowing and understanding your cultural identity, in order to understand where you come from and who you are.

In “Border Crossing,” even though, there are some predictable situations thanks to foreshadowing, there are several unexpected events, such as Tony turning to be Cesi’s cousin.  “Border Crossing” is a book which unfold pretty quickly, the author gets trough the whole book just giving details to specific situations, allowing her to describe the whole situation in a few pages.

As soon as you start reading Border Crossing, Maria Colleen Cruz, you immediately feel engaged.  The narrator, a 12 going to 13 year old girl, has crazy plans about crossing the border by herself, which makes you question what is going to happen? How will she accomplish that? Why would she want to go all by herself? As you continue reading, thousands of questions will pop in your head, motivating you to continue reading.

At the end of the book, Cesi learns a lot abut herself, about her Mexican culture and her father’s past. She learns that she shouldn’t be afraid to ask her parents for support or to take her to Mexico,  instead of running away. Cesi also learns that her father didn’t want to talk about his past because he didn’t’ want  her to have a hard childhood like he did, it was all a way to make her life easier, but Dad figures out after Cesi runs away, that probably hide his past to his’ kids wasn’t the best idea.

As well as Cesi learns about herself, Dad changes his dynamics.  For so long, he has hide his’ past to Max and Cesi because of the difficulties he faced when he was a kid.  He has also decided to not teach his’ kids Spanish, because a lot of the difficulties he faced were related to the language and ethnicity.  Since Cesi is a curious girl, trying to find who she is, she decides to learn about her Mexican heritage, even though it has been hidden from her for so long.  In her head, Dad wouldn’t want to take her to Mexico to find more about who she is, so she runs away by herself.  Dad find out that she has crossed the border and realizes that hide his Mexican culture to his family wasn’t a good idea, but his family later understands the reason Dad had to take the choices he did.

“Border Crossing” is narrated in an interesting way, one chapter is from the present, the next one from the past, as a flashback, then, the following in the present, and it goes the whole book like that, back and forth.  Probably, Cruz decided to tell the story in this specific way in order to give the story more drama and entertaining, since if she would have tell the story explaining all the past, and then present, probably it wouldn’t had been so engaging or entertaining.

In “Border Crossing,” you can fins several themes, but in my opinion, “Knowledge on your cultural identity is important because knowing where you come from, helps shape who you are, and contributes to the personal development” is the theme that works the best.  It shows how Cesi after knowing and understanding her Mexican heritage grows culturally and emotionally, adding to her personal development.

“I can’t believe I was that stupid, that I trusted these people.  I should have known better.”  When Cesi arrives to Mexico, except for the twenty dollars she had in her pocket, all her money was stolen.  There is a stereotype about Mexican being robbers, and when Cesi gets her money stolen, she makes tis stereotype.  This passage surprises me because Cesi is trying to know about her Mexican heritage, and even she being Mexican, makes this stereotype. When she says “these people” she is making a derogative comment on Mexicans, but later she realizes (with Tony’s help) that it was unrespectful, derogatory, and that by making that stereotype, she includes herself in “these people” since she is also Mexican.

The ending of the story is satisfying, Dad and Cesi go and visit Douglas and Nogales, important towns in Dad’s childhood, and Cesi learns a lot about her Mexican heritage thanks to aunt Delfina and Dad.  It all was an expected ending, except the fact that Tony and Cesi turn be cousins.  This is the only part of the story since in my opinion, I think its too much chance to cross the border by yourself being a 13 year old girl, then meet a boy in a train, with the same destination, and later it turns to be your cousin when you meet with his aunt  which is actually your aunt as well, but you don’t know it.  Then, after so long without seeing each other, she calls your Dad to inform him that you are in her house.

This is the first book I read by Maria Colleen Cruz, but I wouldn’t mind read other books about her.  If I had the opportunity to ask one question to the Cruz, it would be: what inspired you to write the story the way you did?

This novel has made me realize that the struggles Mexicans facing in the United States in the present, with Trump and all the deportations, did’t start a few years ago, they has been around for a long period of time.  This novel has inspired me to know more about the situation Mexicans are facing, since they are looking for better lives, and taking jobs that many people wouldn’t take.  This novel I can connect it with the situation in Panama right now, since many Panamanians complain about immigrants taking jobs, but in reality,  many people in Panama don’t want to work, and prefer that the government take care of them with indemnifications.  Additionally, in the border, there are many Cuban immigrants retained by the border patrol, since they don’t want to let them enter to Panama.