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.
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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