But, before you go … I want to make sure you’ve read this great guest post from earlier in the week, in which an educator shares her approach to getting her students into the minds of the TKAM characters.
** change of plans! I wrote the outline/bones of this post a few weeks ago, and sat down last night to fill in the content. You guessed it, I’ve had too much summer vacation this week, and my mind wasn’t really analyzing or even adding much insight. I pulled the plug on my post, but invite you to join in with your own thoughts about To Kill a Mockingbird (Part II).
As is the case with my readalong thoughts for Part I, these are notes of things that struck me as they might a first-time reader. Nothing earth-shattering, but things that I noticed and connected to on this reading. Several times I stopped to investigate words or references; in fact, much of what follows are simply definitions that I finally took the time to confirm – I hope you find some of them as interesting as I did.
If you want to ponder the official discussion questions, visit the To Kill a Mockingbird Reading Guide on the Harper Collins website (read the entire book first, as the questions cover the whole novel, not just Part I).
But, if you’re willing to buckle up for another meandering ride on my train of thoughts, let’s go!
- Part II opens about two years after we first met Scout, Jem, and Dill. With this reading I laughed out loud at the opening paragraph. I don’t believe it was meant to be funny, but Scout’s decription of her brother is my older son to a “T” these days:
Jem was twelve. He was difficult to live with, inconsistent, moody. His appetite was appalling, and he told me so many times to stop pestering him I consulted Atticus. … Atticus said … Jem was growing. I must be patient with him and disturb him as little as possible.
- Scout and Jem attend First Purchase African M. E. Church (“Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekends”) with Calpurnia. When they arrive, Scout describes a “warm bittersweet smell:”
Hearts of Love hairdressing mingled with asafoetida, snuff, Hoyt’s Cologne, Brown’s Mule, peppermint, and lilac talcum.
You’re curious aren’t you – what’s asafoetida?! According toWikipedia, it’s an herb often used in cooking; raw – it has a strong and repulsive odor, cooked – its scent resembles that of leeks. Asafoetida is also used medicinally as a digestive aid and antiflatulent. I kid you not (and can’t help but wonder if it’s simply used in its raw form to distract from the other odor. Seriously, that’s my 12-year-old son’s input as he reads over my shoulder!)
- One of my marked passages is this sentence: “Reverend Sykes was standing behind the pulpit staring the congregation to silence.” I admire the strength and command Harper Lee gave Reverend Sykes with his stare. Later, Lee gives a similar strength to Atticus, when he “turned his head and pinned me to the wall with his good eye.”
- Calpurnia told the Jem and Scout that she learned to read from a book that the children’s grandfather gave her – Blackstone’s Commentaries. Blackstone was an authority on English common law, who wrote his Commentaries in the mid-1700s!
- Aunt Alexandria was welcomed by the whole town, including Miss Maudie, who “baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” A Lane cake is a four-layer cake with whiskey-enhanced filling.
- How about the sly humor that Lee gave Scout’s observations?:
- … Aunt Alexandria was positively irritable on the Lord’s Day. I guess it was her Sunday corset. she was not fat, but solid, and she chose protective garments that drew up her bosom to giddy heights, pinched in her waist, flared out her rear, and managed to suggest that Aunt Alexandria’s was once an hour-glass figure. From any angle, it was formidable.
OK, I can hear you crying Uncle! I’m committed to getting this post published on the day I scheduled it (regardless of the content), so you can add your comments on Part II (or the book overall), and/or leave a link to a TKAM post of your own.