Lisa Lieberman in Deathless Prose:
I recently listened to Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird, which was simply wonderful. We’d been assigned the novel in a ninth grade English class—not the ideal circumstances for encountering a work of literature. Laboriously, we dissected the book’s message, extracting solemn truths like that line of Atticus’s: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
The injustice of a white jury in Alabama convicting a black man, Tom Robinson, on false evidence for the crime of raping a white female was awful, but not surprising. I was more shocked when Bob Ewell attacked Jem and Scout. It was 1970 and George Wallace was running an ugly, racist campaign for governor of Alabama. Calling his opponent names, showing ads depicting a white girl surrounded by seven black boys alongside the slogan, “Wake Up Alabama!” He won the election in a landslide and entered the presidential race the day after his victory, gaining momentum in the primaries until an assassination attempt forced him to withdraw.
No, Tom Robinson’s conviction was expected, and I didn’t need to have all of Harper Lee’s foreshadowing pointed out to me by my English teacher. I knew what was coming.