To shelve a ‘Mockingbird’: Is it time for Scout and Atticus to retire?

Sara Miller Llana in The Christian Science Monitor:

Last fall it was voted America’s best-loved book. This winter it made it to Broadway, grossing more at the box office in its first full week than any other play in history. Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” became a classic the moment it was published in 1960 – a tale of racial injustice set in Depression-era Alabama told through the eyes of 6-year-old Scout. It garnered the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and its movie adaptation won three Oscars in 1963. That it has smashed theater records and risen to the top of a PBS nationwide popularity poll of American literature nearly 60 years later speaks to the lasting power of the narrative of a little girl making sense of racism and hypocrisy around her, as her father Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.

But its endurance is not just its clear-eyed depiction of a moment in time in the American South. It is the book’s evolution itself, from a groundbreaking text in its time to one today that raises complex questions about how the story is told – who tells it and, notably for some, who doesn’t. As “To Kill a Mockingbird” gets adapted for the stage, giving more voice to the black characters that were secondary or silent in the original novel, and gets re-examined in classrooms across North America, some are asking if a time comes when a book should be retired despite the impression it made on generations of students and the nostalgia many still feel about the work. That discussion gives it even more staying power.

More here.