Like many of you, I can probably recite from memory exact lines of dialogue from the 1962 movie classic, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I love that film. I cherish that film. I wish one of the three senior networks -- ABC, CBS or NBC -- would air the film annually in prime time the way it does It's a Wonderful Life and The Ten Commandments. I truly feel that seeing Gregory Peck in his Oscar-winning performance as attorney Atticus Finch could be significant family viewing once a year nowadays. We need films like this.
Harper Lee's novel was published in 1960. On screen, we see Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the black man unjustly accused of hitting and raping a young white woman raised by a racist, abusive father.
Scout is the narrator. Reverend Sykes tells Jem and Scout that Tom Robinson got his arm caught in a cotton gin when he was a boy. He almost bled to death. We, the readers, know from this that Tom Robinson was child labor. Child slave labor.
In that same Chapter 24, Miss Maudie states the help needed from the other people in the community like Atticus: "The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; the handful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord's kindness am I."
To Kill A Mockingbird, a story that takes place in 1935 in a small Southern town, is still relevant. If you've never read the book, give it a chance this spring or summer. There is humor and sentiment and tenderness in the novel. There is also racial frankness, the stink and bile of bigotry and a plea for tolerance. There are subsets, if you will, of racism. Mr. Dolphus Raymond is a character in the novel who didn't make it into the screenplay. He's a loner in the town who has bi-racial children. Even if you look white, you're still discriminated against. Because if you have one drop of Negro blood in you, you were considered Negro. There's also black-on-black anger. In Chapter 12, Calpurnia, the maid in the Finch household, causes friction when she brings Jem and Scout to her church. Some black folks feel that white children are not welcomed in their house of worship. There's also religious bigotry. It's mentioned that the Ku Klux Klan has gone after Catholics. Keep in mind, this book was published in 1960. In 1961, John F. Kennedy would be elected as America's first Catholic President of the United States. Harper Lee's novel is challenging stuff. It has grit. In these modern times when issues of race and fairness and equality still need to be discussed, this story holds up. That goes for the novel as well as the film.
"...The older you grow the more of it you'll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is the courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box..." ~Atticus Finch to his children in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.