Saturday, July 18, 2015

Scout 'n Me

I haven't yet read Go Set a Watchman, although it's sitting on my ipad, and I don't know that I will.
All of the reasons pro and con have already been thoroughly digested and analyzed on every form of media outlet, and I don't have anything new to offer.

I just have Scout.  And me.

TKM was my first grown-up book.  I read it when I was ten and in fifth grade, mostly with the aid of a flashlight, in the event that one of the real grown-ups would get up in the night to go to the bathroom and see a sliver of light under my door.

I was mesmerized.  I did not know what the word "rape" meant and, when we discussed the book at dinner, my own father, who looks a great deal like Gregory Peck, did nothing to dissuade me from the notion that it meant a violent act by a man against a woman which was, for some reason unclear to me, more heinous that a man pummeling someone of his own gender.

I did not understand anything at all about racial tensions in the South, or anywhere else.  In my rural, all-white world, they were not discussed, at least not in my hearing.  Within the next few years that would change, and I would discover a depth of racism in the extended family of my own dead mother that left me as as stunned as a girl otherwise unexposed to much of the world could be, but at ten I did not understand.

What I did understand was Scout, and Jem, and Dill.

To the extent that TKM is a coming-of-age novel, it was ours.

I was Scout: motherless, feisty, disinterested in convention, absorbed in figuring out a world in which adults played significant but peripheral roles.

My step-brother, same age as me, was Jem: physically bolder and more adept, but still my partner in our age of discovery.

My younger biological brother was Dill: the face of daydreaming innocence in the wake of tragedy, easily overlooked by adults until suddenly and occasionally he wasn't.

The shack down the road was the Radley house, and the elderly owner's German shepherds, lolling in the sun as they stretched across the blacktop between us on our bikes and town with its dime store and ice cream, were our Boo.

The town, a couple of miles down that road, was our Maycomb.  Many of the adults who populate Scout's world were easily recognizable in ours.

I can't relate many of our stories, as they involve how country children with free reign and bicycles spent their time in the early 1960s , and we will probably carry them to our graves.

But I can say that the curiosity, and recklessness, and sometimes courage, and fierce loyalty evinced by the Finch children and their friend Dill were ours.

I'm not sure that, even all these decades later, Jean Louise will speak my story as Scout did.

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