Thursday, April 3, 2008

Chapters 1-7 Only

Chapters 1 through 7

When is the last time you sat and watched a sunset? I’m not even commenting on this. The scene below is one of my favorites because I remember lazy evenings, when I was kid, sitting in the front yard of my grandmother’s house, watching the sky come alive with orange, red, and yellow. It was so hot—most houses didn’t have air conditioning—the cooler evening air was welcomed, even to a young girl with tons of energy.

“In the summertime, twilights are long and peaceful. Often as not, Miss Maudie and I would sit silently on her porch, watching the sky go from yellow to pink as the sun went down, watching flights of martins sweep low over the neighborhood and disappear behind the schoolhouse rooftops.” (This comes from chapter five).

Can’t you just see that sunset and feel the air? It’s too hot to do anything but just sit on the porch and be silent. I love it. And it’s enough.

The first seven chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird remind me of an easier time, even though in reality it was one of the worst times in our country. The book is set in the south during the depression, but Harper Lee’s approach in the first seven chapters is to build a vivid place in the reader’s mind, a place that they feel comfortable and at home.

The characters in this book are real to life for me. I’ve met them all. Some of them are part of my family. I love Maudie. Isn’t she wonderful? I see her working in her garden, baking cakes, and calling the children over for a treat. All the while she is a woman with an opinion and drive, but she presents it in a way that is nothing but a Southern Lady.

“Miss Maudie stopped rocking, and her voice hardened. ‘You are too young to understand it,’ she said, “but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of—oh, of your father.’” (also from chapter five)

The description of Scout rolling in the tire made me feel dizzy. I knew where she would stop, but still I hoped for a different outcome because it is here that the children’s relationship with Boo begins. Some might argue it’s when Jem touches the house, but I beg to differ. The author’s use of description in this scene is once again so vivid she brings me into the story.

Jem’s dialogue is particularly real for me. I grew up with people who talked like this and told stories just as wild. My favorite:

“’What’s a Hot Steam?” asked Dill.’
‘Haven’t you ever walked along a lonesome road at night and passed by a hot place?’ Jem asked Dill. ‘A Hot Steam’s somebody who can’t get to heaven, just wallows around on lonesome roads an’ if you walk through him, when you die you’ll be one too, an’ you’ll go around at night suckin’ people’s breath—‘” (from chapter four)

When Ms. Lee’s art reveals itself in chapter seven. The reader sees everything through Scout’s eyes and thoughts. While we remain with Scout, we watch Jem’s reactions after he’s gone after his pants late at night. We know like Scout that he is bothered, but we begin to guess why. Then as the children find the hole in the tree filled with cement, we understand that Jem suspects Boo as the gift-giver. Steadily, Ms. Lee has Jem evolve in front of our eyes. He views Boo as a real man; instead of the legend in the Radley house. We see this through the eyes of Scout, who has not put two and two together. She is still trying to guess who has been leaving the gifts. One guess is Miss Maudie.

I can’t wait to read more!

Comment this week on chapters 1-7 while reading chapters 8-15. We will begin comments on week two on April 11th.

Happy reading
Writer Woman


Melissa said...

First of all, I love that the author asks that the book be spared an introduction. In her words, "Introductions inhibit pleasure, they kill the joy of anticipation, they frustrate curiosity." She is confident that her book says what it has to say without need for an introduction.

Now on to the first seven chapters...

I am thoroughly enjoying the reading of this book for the very first time.

I have to keep reminding myself of Scout's age, because her knowledge is well beyond her years.

Being a homeschooling mom, I am particularly appalled that Scout's teacher is bothered that Scout already knows how to read. She tells her not to have her father teach her anymore.

"I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers."

The poor kid!

I love the Southern dialect. I have no trouble reading it, because to be quite honest I hear and speak some of these same words daily. I'm proud it is part of my heritage.

Miss Maudie is a hoot! Her trouble with the foot-washin' Baptists tickles my funny bone. Especially since I am a foot-washin' Baptist! But, not by her definition! :)
However, I think there is a point that too many times people with the same goal will attack each other over insignificant nothings to boost their own pride.

I have yet to learn enough about Boo Radley to know what I think of him. I can say that were I Scout's or Jem's age, I would have been right their with them scheming up ways to make him come out.

Can't wait to read what everyone else has to say!

Happy Reading! :)

Ann Hite said...

Wonderful take on the first seven chapters, Melissa. I agree with you about Scout's age. I don't even give it any thought and then something in the story will draw my attention back to the fact that she is only six.

Excellent points. Can't wait for more.


heather r. lowe said...

okay, so we all know i have read this book before and seen the film(as ann will attest much later by a stupid question i asked her;) but to me, the thing that harper(because i don't think she would mind me calling her that)always does beautifully are the little details. the tertiary characters like little chuck little...i love him!

"little chuck little was another member of the population who didn't know where his next meal was coming from, but he was a born gentleman...'now don't you fret ma'am, he said. 'there ain't no need to fear a cootie. i'll just fetch you some cool water.'"

one part southern gentleman, one part impoverished child. and when's the last time any one of us used the word "cootie"? i was howling!

for me, it's always the characters in this book. the elusive mystery of boo radley, scout's stubborn independence, dill's...well, just dill. i imagine a miniature truman capote(which isn't difficult because he was a tiny man anyway). but it's atticus that always shines brightest. a true gentleman in every way and a fine upstanding member of humanity who raises his children as best he can. we need more people like him in the world.

as i flip through the chapters little clips come to my attention...dill madly ringing that silver service bell while atticus is standing RIGHT THERE. jem talking to scout about the indian head pennies, "they're real strong magic, they make you have good luck. not like fried chicken when you're not lookin for it, but things like long life 'n' good health, 'n' passin six-weeks tests...".

fried chicken when you're not lookin for it. man, to be that young again.

this innocence is something that doesn't seem to exist today. and that's why this book is so important to's a way to recapture it, hold onto it. i can even share it when i feel like it.

i can't wait to discuss further!!

Ann Hite said...

These are wonderful comments, Heather. I look forward to more this week. I will be off line until Wednesday due to spring break and a wonderful visit to my daughter's home.