If you were an elementary school student in the United States in or near 1976, your teacher likely gave you a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for assigned reading. For decades, readers have been drawn into the world of Scout, Jem and Atticus Finch as they navigate tumultuous times in a community that was greatly influenced by prejudice and segregation. Harper Lee’s great work of fiction became one of the most-read novels of all time. Published in 1960, the characters were introduced to American readers at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Now, more than five decades later, crowds still take to the streets waving signs that say, “Black lives matter!” leaving one to wonder how much has changed since Lee’s character, Attorney Atticus Finch, courageously stepped forward to defend a black man accused of rape. In some ways, the face of daily life in the U.S. looks drastically different from scenes that unfolded in the 1960s and 70s on the pages of Lee’s book. In other respects, however, time has apparently passed quite slowly, if at all.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is back, this time on Broadway! The Pulitzer Prize-winning story will now be told on the New York stage. Theater-goers will likely be captivated and intrigued by the timeless thematic elements of this thought-provoking, controversial, enthralling tale. The idea that good and evil will always co-exist in the world is one of the main take-away messages of the story. Atticus, of course, embodies all that is morally upstanding and right in the world while the life experience that unfolds as he rises to defend a black man shows how prejudice, hatred and corruption constantly threatens communal peace.
Lee imparts lessons regarding the importance of understanding, empathy and compassion as key factors necessary to peaceful living in a world of diversity. Division of social class status is a subtheme of “To Kill a Mockingbird,“ where income level, job description and skin color dictate so-called appropriate social interactions, leaving young Scout to wonder why her aunt refuses to allow her to associate with Walter Cunningham, simply because his father is a farmer and her father is an attorney.
The fact that Tom Robinson is wrongly convicted warns readers that there is sometimes grave injustice in the world, even within the very institutions that have been formed to prevent it or at least overcome it by using reason as opposed to passions and just punishment as opposed to revenge.
Are people inherently good or evil? What is justice? How is it served? When it is not served, what should be done about that? If all men are created equal, why does inequality continue to exist in modern society? “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway is revisiting these questions. Whether you take a road trip to see the show or read the book, we‘d love to know your thoughts! Has life in America changed much since Lee first wrote her novel?
Writer Bio: Judy Dudich
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.