Thomas was a red-eared slider turtle. He was called a red-eared slider, because he was able to slide off of rocks easily in the pond, and there were small red stripes around his ears. Sometimes he put a claw in each ear hole and made faces at himself in the bathroom mirror. He also liked to admire his red stripes.
One day when he had his eyes closed and was reaching for a towel to dry his face after washing it, his sister walked up behind him and grabbed his sides – the squishy part of his body underneath his hard shell.
Thomas let out a loud cry and jumped a foot off the floor. His sister laughed, “Ha, ha! Gotcha!”
He turned to her with angry eyes and yelled, “Don’t do that, Tamara! I don’t like to be tickled by surprise!” He finished wiping his face and hung up the towel.
“I don’t know. It makes me feel funny.”
She snickered, “Well, it’s supposed to! Tickling is supposed to make you laugh, and laughing is funny. Besides, everyone knows you’re the most ticklish turtle in town.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like being surprised like that. I hate being grabbed in the sides. So please don’t do it anymore, okay, Tamara?”
Tamara hung her head and slunk away muttering quietly, “Okay, Thomas. I’m sorry.” (But she thought to herself, “until next time!”)
Thomas went to his bedroom, put on his favorite baseball cap and jersey, picked up his mitt, and ran out the door without saying good-bye to Tamara.
He walked down to the baseball diamond at the park to look for Garrett. They were supposed to meet there to toss the baseball around after lunch. When he reached the dugout where they usually sat after playing, no one was there. He still felt angry at Tamara, but he decided to look down in the dirt for money which he and Garrett sometimes found lying there. Just as he spotted a shiny quarter and bent down to pick it up, someone grabbed his sides and tickled him. Not only did it scare him, but he lost his balance and fell over on his back. He wobbled around on the back of his shell and stretched his neck and front legs out so he could flip himself over when he heard a familiar laugh. Then someone grabbed his front leg and pulled him up which brought him face-to-face with Garrett.
Garrett’s laughter was met with Thomas yelling, “Why did you do that?”
Garrett said, “Sorry, buddy. I was just playing around. Besides, everyone knows you’re the most ticklish turtle in town.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m so tired of being called that! You would think by now everyone would realize how much I hate being sneaked up on and tickled!”
Garrett looked at the ground and said, “Sorry, Thomas. I just came by to tell you I can’t play today.”
“What? Why not?” Thomas felt even more frustrated at the disappointing news.
“My mom has to take me to the shell doctor.” He turned around and showed Thomas a big crack in the side of his shell.
“How’d you do that Garrett?”
“I fell off the wall in front of our house.”
“What? How’d you get up there? It has to be two feet off the ground!”
“There was a wide board leaning up against it so I walked up it towards the wall. Then my back foot got caught in a big hole in the wood. I sort of did a twist, and as I fell, I heard my shell crack against the edge of the board.”
Thomas hesitated, then asked, “Did it hurt?”
“Yeah. When I fell…..”
Thomas interrupted and said, “Good! I get hurt somehow almost every time someone tickles me by surprise! You deserve it, Garrett!”
Garrett scowled. “Hey! I said I was sorry, Thomas. I won’t tickle you anymore, okay?”
“Whatever. I’m leaving. I’m glad you can’t play. I don’t feel like it now anyway!” Thomas turned and ran away.
Garrett yelled, “Fine! I don’t think I’ll meet you here tomorrow either then.”
Garrett’s feelings were hurt. He really hadn’t meant to make Thomas angry. Then he thought about all the times Thomas had asked him not to walk up behind him and tickle him like that. He felt badly, but when he looked up, Thomas was already gone.
Thomas decided to wander over to the pond. He saw his friend, Maya, which already made him feel better. She was the nicest friend he knew. Maya was a painted turtle so her shell was flatter than Thomas’s, and a deep olive green color. She had bright yellow stripes on her face. Thomas thought she was beautiful. He had known her since they were two years old. They had both had their 12th birthdays that year.
She crawled out of the cool water just as Thomas ran down the hill and jumped off a rock making a huge splash.
Maya laughed and yelled, “Good one, Thomas!”
Maya ran up the hill, turned around, and yelled, “Watch out, here I come.” Then she came barreling down the hill, but at the edge of the pond she spread out all her legs, went flying through the air, suddenly pulling all her legs in and did a cannonball and splashing Thomas.
When she came out of the water, Thomas was grinning widely, but she was coughing and sputtering water. “Wow, Maya! That was a great jump. Are you okay?”
“Sure. I never get hurt doing that, but I always get water up my nose and sometimes swallow some. She smiled and said, “But it’s just so fun.”
She swam over to him giggling and asked, “So how’s the most ticklish turtle in town doing today?”
Thomas burst into tears and said, “Don’t call me that, Maya.”
She crawled out onto the bank of grass and sat beside him. “Whoa, what’s the matter Thomas? I didn’t think that nickname bothered you that much. I’m sorry.”
He cried for a minute and then said, “Well, it does. It isn’t the nickname so much. I probably am the most ticklish turtle in town. What I hate is when others come up behind me and tickle my sides by surprise. I really don’t like it at all. It scares me and then I feel embarrassed. Both my sister and Garrett did it to me just this morning! I was so mad, I yelled at both of them.”
“Oh, that’s too bad, but they need to stop doing that. I know what you mean by it scaring and embarrassing you, too. My brother tickles my feet all the time. I don’t like it either. Sometimes he gets a hold of me and won’t stop, and I accidentally pee myself! That is really embarrassing. Then I cry. Tickling is only fun when I’m letting someone do it at the same time that I’m tickling them. Then I have more fun, because I know what’s coming and laughing feels good then.”
“I know. I keep trying to tell my sister and my friend, Garrett that, but they just won’t listen!”
“I try to tell my brother, too, but he just gets mad and calls me a baby. That hurts my feelings. I am not a baby just because I tell him to stop doing something I don’t like.”
“What are we going to do about it, Maya? I am so tired of this.”
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do. It’s really annoying when others won’t listen to us when we tell them to stop doing something that makes us feel uncomfortable.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes thinking about how to solve their problem. Maya’s face brightened suddenly.
Thomas asked, “Did you think of something?” She grinned, and he said, “You did think of something didn’t you?”
“Yeah. I think I did.” She smirked and nodded her head, then leaned over and began to tell Thomas her plan.
The next morning Thomas was in the kitchen getting his breakfast. He didn’t hear his sister sneak up behind him, because he had his earbuds in listening to his music. He felt little nudges on his sides and turned to see Tamara rubbing her front feet together. She started to cry. Thomas felt a little bad but he took one earbud out and asked, “What’s the matter, Tamara?”
She cried, “What is that under your shell? I tried to tickle you, but my feet feel like I got stabbed by something! It hurts! What do you have under there?”
Thomas grinned and said, “You mean ‘who’ is under there?”
Tamara’s eye’s widened. “What?”
Then Thomas bent over to one side and then the other. Sitting underneath the sides of his shell were his baby twin porcupine friends, Patty and Paulie. They pulled in their heads to hide when they saw Tamara’s angry and confused face.
She said to them, “Your quills are sharp!”
In unison they said, “Sorry!”
“How come they aren’t hurting your sides, Thomas?”
“I stuck some padding to my sides before I let them sit there.”
Patty snickered and said, “Thomas gave us some yummy pineapple and said he would give us more if we hid under his shell. He didn’t tell us why, and we didn’t ask. We just wanted the pineapple!”
Tamara laughed, “Well, it did hurt, but…” Then peering at Thomas with a look of shame she said, “I deserved it. I guess I wasn’t listening all the times you told me to stop tickling you. I’m sorry, Thomas. I will never do it again. I promise.”
The baby porcupines smiled as Thomas bent down so they could crawl out of his shell. He handed them a big pineapple and opened the kitchen door for them. The pineapple was so large that they had to carry it together. They waddled away yelling, “Thank you, Thomas!”
He laughed and hollered back, “You’re welcome!” Then he asked Tamara if she wanted to go play a game. She happily said yes.
Later that day his friend Garrett came over. He had called Thomas the night before to apologize again so Thomas forgave him. Garrett hadn’t promised not to tickle Thomas anymore, though, but Thomas wasn’t worried.
After Garrett arrived, Thomas reached up to get his baseball mitt off the shelf and expected Garrett to try and tickle him. He waited a moment, but nothing happened. He turned around and said, “Hey, why didn’t you try to tickle the most ticklish turtle in town, Garrett?”
Garrett shook his head and exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Tamara told me about the little prickly friends you have hiding under there.”
Thomas laughed and showed his sides to Garrett. He said, “Nope! No one’s under there now. But I hope you guys learned your lesson. I hate being tickled by surprise!”
Garrett held up both his front feet and backed up a little saying, “Buddy, you got it! I promise I will never tickle you again. I’m really sorry, too.”
“Thanks, Garrett. I’m sorry I said you deserved to get hurt. I didn’t really mean that. Let’s go play some baseball now, okay?”
When they walked by the pond on their way to the park, Maya was sitting on a rock sunning herself. She and Thomas winked at each other as he and Garrett walked by.
Then Thomas became known as the trickiest turtle in town.”
© Patsy H. Parker
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
Hello! I know it has been quite a while since I’ve been able to write anything, but I had just have to tell you about a book I finished last night! I had never heard of the author or this book, but I am so glad I read it. 🙂
It is called “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.” It is by Matthew Dicks. I found it a month or so ago when I was browsing on Goodreads which is where I find out about a lot of good books by the way.
Max is a little boy with special needs, who I think the author hints at his being autistic, who has an imaginary friend named Budo. Max’s parents are constantly fighting about whether Max is different from other kids or not. He goes to a regular school. His mom wants to take him to someone and have him checked out to see if he needs more help. She is concerned because he doesn’t like strangers, not many people at all really, he plays by himself all the time, gets made fun of at school and bullied (even though they don’t know about that right away.) His dad thinks he’s just a normal little boy and nothing is different about him at all. So this is why they fight all the time.
However, I can’t tell you much more because there are definitely too many things I could mention that would be potential spoilers. If you like adventure, fantasy, and/or drama, try it out! I read it in about a week which is fast for me! I couldn’t put it down. The ending is very tender. Sniff, sniff.
I hope everyone is having a great week. I know I am. I have been working on a novel I began a long time ago again, but not doing quite as much art.
I am done with physical therapy and getting to the gym four days a week now! So things are great.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!! 🙂
Hello everyone. Today I am feeling a little bit in limbo. I’ve been doing lots of reading, watching some movies, and drew a dragon yesterday, but can’t post it until my camera comes home. I have yet to figure out our printer’s scanner!
Half of my little family is on the road traveling to Chicago, Illinois! Grace and George are in Seattle today and will spend the night there again tonight. They stayed in what she called a “sketchy” inn last night. The A/C was broken, but luckily it wasn’t too hot. Tonight they will be staying with one of his high school friends sleeping on the floor in their little apartment. Also, they are traveling in a truck with no A/C. I could never go across country in a car without A/C!. I would die of suffocation for sure!!!
So my son and I are at home “holding down the fort” so to speak. I will give him his first real cooking lesson tonight when we make a small lasagna from scratch. I don’t know if he will write down how to do it or not. He will be a little out of his comfort zone, I think, but the guy will be thankful he can cook a few things whenever he moves out. I will be showing him a few of his other favorite dishes over the next couple of weeks also. Otherwise he might live mainly on junk food and boxed mac and cheese! Who am I kidding? He might do that anyway!
The weather here is nice today! It’s almost 10:00 a.m. and it is not hot…yet! The hatchery is quiet, no neighbors around really. All I can hear is some birds ocassionally, and mostly just QUIET! Nice!
I am currently reading two novels at the same time. I began “Go Set a Watchman” a couple of days ago, but unfortunately, it is not as good as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Perhaps the publishers should have left it alone, but alas, it is out there now. I haven’t talked with anyone on Facebook at the book group I’m in about it yet, but I hope to soon.
Scout is in her 20’s in this one and has a boyfriend in Maycomb but lives in New York. Atticus is old and has rheumatoid arthritis. She does some flashbacks to times with her brother Jem and her friend, Dill. However, the stories just don’t have the same Scout “punch” that her first novel had. This was actually her first novel, though, which was revised into To Kill a Mockingbird, which you probably already know. But I will still finish it, albeit slowly I imagine.
The other novel I began this morning is called “Girl in the Moonlight” by Charles Dubow. I’ve never heard of the novel or the writer. I just saw it in the New Books section at the library the other day and picked it up. Why? I have no idea. I have a stack of new books I just got in the mail the other day from Amazon to read! I admit it, I AM A BOOK ADDICT! But it is better than anything else I could get addicted to I guess! 😉
Anyway, this book is about a guy’s obesession with a woman he grew up with, I guess. I fell asleep this morning reading it (not because it’s boring, but that happens to me a lot in the mornings for some reason) and it was right after I read a part about someone falling and breaking his arm. I woke up in a panic when I immediately dreamed that my daughter fell off a roof and I saw it happen! Luckily I woke up while she was falling and didn’t see her go SPLAT!!
Take care everyone, stay cool, and hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll have more art to post! Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
Hello everyone! I just wanted to let you all know that I have been doing a lot of reading in the last week about Vincent van Gogh since I received the book “Ever Yours, The Essential Letters.” It is so wonderful! If you want to know how Vincent thought, I highly recommend it. Such a sensitive and intuitive man.
I went to the library and checked out several other books about him. One is “The Yellow House” by Martin Gayford which is about his relationship with Gauguin and the time they shared the house. It is interesting.
I am also reading “Stranger on the Earth, A Psychological Biography of Vincent van Gogh” by Albert J. Lubin. It is okay, but I’m not sure I’ll take the time to finish it.
What I would like to do is do some paintings of scenes Vincent himself saw that he describes in his letters to Theo. I will write out the quote and add my painting with it. Vincent was amazing in his descriptions of his surroundings. Who knows? I may even try to paint them in his style, although, I’m not sure about that yet! It could be fun, though.
So, that is what I’ve been doing with my summer so far. The kids are out of school now, and my son is still learning to drive. He should be getting his license soon. Hopefully, once he does, they can get to town without me and hang out with friends instead of being bored at home.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
DILL, THE BOY NEXT DOOR
The character from To Kill a Mockingbird I would like to focus on today is Dill, the rascally boy who lives next door to Scout and Jem, but only during the summers. His parents drop him off at his Aunt Rachel’s to stay for the summer every year.
In an earlier post I quoted Harper Lee from one of the few interviews she did after her book came out saying that none of her characters were based on real people even though some people she knew thought they were. Dill is the character whom her friend in real life, Truman Capote, claimed he was.
I have to say after the biographical reading I have done about Truman Capote, I do see many similarities myself! He was left at a relative’s home who really did live next door to Harper Lee when they were children. They did play together, wrote and shared stories together, and became lifelong friends. Truman Capote was known as a sissy boy when he was young, he was beat up at school, and Harper Lee even defended him at times.
Very early in the novel, Harper Lee tells us about the “summertime boundaries (within calling distance of Calpurnia)” (1) that Scout and Jem have for playing outside. She mentions Mrs. Dubose, who was “plain hell,” (2) and the Radley Place which “was inhabited by an unknown entity the mere description of whom was enough to make us behave for days on end.” (3) I find it incredible the way Harper Lee could choose just the right few words to punch us in the face with such vivid images! She sets up the mystery of Boo Radley this early and carries him through the whole novel until who he is finally gets revealed.
What I love the most, though, is how she introduces Dill. After she tells us that “Mrs. Dubose was plain hell,” she makes this simple statement.
“That was the summer Dill came to us.” (4)
I think this statement is filled with so much tenderness. It seems to put forth one of Scout’s fondest memories of making a new friend. This is how she and Jem find him.
They are playing in the back yard when they hear what Scout thinks is a puppy. However, when she and Jem go to the wire fence to investigate, they find something they are not expecting. This is what she tells us: “instead we found someone sitting looking at us. Sitting down, he wasn’t much higher than the collards. We stared at him until he spoke:
Dill boldly informs them that he is Charles Baker Harris, he’s almost seven, he can read, and he says, “I’m little, but I’m old.” (6)
Then Scout informs us that she is much bigger than he is and describes him as a tow-headed, blue-eyed boy who “wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt,” (7) and “habitually pulled at the cowlick in the center of his forehead.”(8) Now if you have ever seen any pictures of Truman Capote when he was about that age, this description of Dill is a strong resemblance to him. So perhaps, as people have believed for years, Harper Lee did put a little Truman into her Dill character.
After Dill introduces himself, Jem says his name, Charles Baker Harris, is “longer ‘n you are. Bet it’s a foot longer.” (9). Dill comes back at Jem with “ ’s not any funnier ‘n yours. Aunt Rachel says your name’s Jeremy Atticus Finch.” (10) Jem just retaliates by telling Dill that at least his name fits him which is an obvious dig on Dill’s lack of height.
What I love is how Harper Lee shows why Dill is so proud and bold. He knows he’s small, so he feels like he has to be outspoken and smarter than everyone else to make up for it.
So the three kids become friends quickly. However, this contest of names between the boys indicates how this newfound friendship is going to go. Jem is bigger and older; he is going to be the boss.
During the second summer Dill comes to them, Jem catches him in a lie about his Daddy. Scout tells us:
“Dill Harris could tell the biggest ones I ever heard. Among other things he had been up in a mail plane seventeen times, he had been to Nova Scotia, he had seen an elephant, and his granddaddy was Brigadier General Joe Wheeler and left him his sword.” (11)
By this time Scout and Jem know he is full of tall tales, but they accept him for who he is. Dill is the only friend that is ever mentioned who they play with in the summers.
I like Scout’s ambivalent feelings towards him. She is torn over how she feels about him following Jem everywhere. She refers to him as “a trial.” Scout doesn’t like the fact that someone else is getting some of the attention she is used to getting from her big brother. She loves Jem, but of course they still fight like most brothers and sisters do at times. So she doesn’t like the way Dill begins to try and boss her around with Jem either. I think it makes her feel more defensive.
On the other hand, she likes Dill and the attention he pays to her as well since she’s a girl. He tells her she’s the only girl he’ll ever love, makes her feel wanted when he tells her he wants to marry her someday, but then he neglects her. She says, “I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem.” (12)
One morning she catches the boys conspiring together without her about something, and Dill gets really bossy with her. She fires back at him, “You act like you grew ten inches in the night! All right, what is it?” (13)
Giving in easily, Scout decides she doesn’t want to miss out on anything fun they are cooking up. When she learns that they are plotting about how to give Boo Radley a note asking him what he does in his house and to come out sometimes, Scout yells at them, “You all’ve gone crazy, he’ll kill us!” (14)
Finally, the scene I love with Dill most is when he is found underneath Scout’s bed one night after she and Jem have had a knock-down-drag-out fight. They each go to their rooms to go to bed when Scout realizes something is under her bed. She asks Jem what a snake feels like. He grabs a broom and swipes it under the bed when he realizes someone not something is under there. Jem barely misses Dill’s head with the broom when he comes out. Scout and Jem are shocked. They inquire about how he arrived there, and he tells them he ran away, but he doesn’t want to go to his Aunt’s house next door. He has run away from his parents in Meridian where, going into another tall tale, he says they have had him chained up in the basement.
After Jem tells Atticus about discovering Dill, Atticus feeds him, and Jem tells Dill he needs to let his parents know where he is which is a very grown-up and responsible way for Jem to react to the situation. So Atticus lets his Aunt Rachel know where Dill is, and after a scolding from her, he is allowed to spend the night at the Finch’s.
Then comes my favorite insight into why Dill is the way he is. A while after all the kids are in bed, Scout is woken up by Dill who wants to sleep with her instead of in Jem’s room. He gets in bed beside her and they start talking.
Scout inquires as to why he ran away and learns that his new father promised to do things with him and spend time with him, but then never did. Dill concludes that his parents just aren’t interested in him. They buy him whatever he wants, but then they tell him to go off and play. He feels unwanted and ignored.
Scout tries to comfort Dill by telling him that she had been thinking about running off that night, too. She tells him that he doesn’t really want the adults in his life around all the time. Then she realizes as she’s listening to him that his parents and Atticus couldn’t do without either of them. They are needed. Dill doesn’t believe it, though, because he goes on to tell Scout how his parents tell him he’s not a boy. He needs to be outside playing games with other boys, not hanging around the house with them.
Dill switches gears in the conversation, though, and tells Scout they should get a baby. He is indicating that he still loves her and wants to marry her. As they are drifting off to sleep, however, Scout asks a poignant question:
“Why do you reckon Boo Radley’s never run off?”
Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me.
“Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…” (15)
Dill, the sad summer boy next door that Scout grows to love is welcomed into the Finch family, loved, and accepted. No wonder he never wants to go home.
Until next Monday, have a wonderful week, and give someone you love a big hug.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, First Perennial Classic edition, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002, pg. 7
2. ibid., pg. 7
3. ibid., pg. 7
4. ibid., pg. 7
5. ibid., pg. 7
6. ibid., pg. 7
7. ibid., pg. 8
8. ibid., pg. 8
9. ibid., pg. 7
10. ibid., pg. 7
11. ibid., pg.53
12. ibid., pg.46
13. ibid., pg.51
14. ibid., pg. 52
15. ibid., pg. 163
I am beside myself with mixed feelings of apprehension and excitement at the news of the publication of Harper Lee’s new novel, Go Set a Watchman, coming out this July. I am stunned at the news to say the least. I don’t expect her to be doing any interviews since she is in an assisted living facility now. She is in her late eighties, deaf, and blind. Her sister Alice just passed away a few months ago, and she has a different lawyer handling all of her affairs. Yet, regarding the novel itself, my head is full of questions about how she handled the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird as it has been said that the new novel is a “sequel” to her first one. From what I can gather from articles I have read, though, Go Set a Watchman was her first novel that her publisher had her revise until it became To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently her editor wanted her to focus mostly on Scout’s childhood. So it will be very interesting to see how Scout turns out as an adult. I hope she is still just as feisty as she was as a little girl!
Here are a couple of links to articles I have found about the new book. There are many, many more. All you have to do is google her name!
I feel excited about the new novel, because the timing couldn’t be more perfect for me personally. I am so into everything about the novel and the person of Harper Lee right now, but you already knew that! I am curious to see who the characters have become twenty years later. Scout would be about 28 years old. What has she done with her life? Did she become a lawyer like Atticus but unlike Harper Lee in real life? Wouldn’t it be interesting if Scout became a writer or a teacher?
What has Jem become – a lawyer, an artist, or an engineer? These are the suggestions of what he could become according to Atticus when Jem built his first snowman in To Kill a Mockingbird. The possibilities of where Harper Lee has taken the characters are endless, of course. Since Atticus is still in the story, he would be elderly now. What is his health like? Does Scout leave Maycomb earlier in her life then go back to visit him? Does this cause the adult Scout to reminisce about what else happened in her and Jem’s childhoods after the incident with Bob Ewell?
On the other hand, the reason I feel apprehensive about it is because I have always thought of To Kill a Mockingbird as such a unique book simply because of the fact that it was the only book Harper Lee ever published. The prospect that this is going to change somehow sets me off kilter a little bit. If this is one of your most beloved novels, how do you feel about it?
You see, I have never thought there needed to be a sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird contrary to popular opinion. It seems that people have felt disappointed that there never was one, though. I admit after I read it for myself for the first time last year, I also wondered why such a talented writer never published another book. Like Harper Lee, though, I felt like her novel was a complete story and didn’t need anything else. It was her business as to why she didn’t publish another one. However, when I have entertained the idea (just for fun) of what I would hope to see happen if there ever were a sequel, these were my thoughts:
1. I would want to see Scout and Jem’s childhood continue with their friend Dill in flashbacks.
2. I would want to see Jem’s reaction the first time he meets Arthur “Boo” Radley, his “savior” from getting killed by Bob Ewell.
3. I would want to see what happens to Bob’s daughter, Mayella, who lied on the witness stand about being raped by Tom Robinson and see how she is going to get along without her daddy.
Yet, I am content for all of that to be left up to my imagination. I absolutely love the ending of the book. I have never yearned for more. Who’s to say that any of my questions will be answered in the new novel anyway? It sounds like it will be a whole new story from one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever read.
I will say, though, that when I heard about the second novel, the questions in my head were What happens to Boo? Do the kids become friends with him? Does he come outside during the day now? I sure hope the character of Arthur Radley is developed more than he was in To Kill a Mockingbird. However, I love the way she used his character to create so much mystery. That was exciting! Besides Scout, Boo is my very favorite character. I thought it was so fitting that Scout was the one who got to see him and talk with him at the end of the book. In her sensitivity to those around her, with her keen observational skills, she notices his curiosity about Jem after he is brought home and the doctor has seen him. So Scout takes Arthur inside to see Jem while he is asleep and tells him he can pet him since he’s asleep. Then when Arthur is ready to go, he asks Scout to take him home. I love his gesture of friendship that reciprocates hers. I might feel a little bit disappointed if it doesn’t happen, but what I want is for Arthur to be able to become better friends with Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Dill. I want him to come out and play, so to speak.
Lastly, I only hope Harper Lee hasn’t been taken advantage of in all of this. To make a long post even longer if you care to read another article, here ya go.
Until next time when I will move onto another character to talk about, y’all come back now, ya hear?
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
Scene from the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird with Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus
The first character I want to focus on in To Kill a Mockingbird is Jean Louise Finch or Scout, as she is nicknamed. She is by far my very favorite character in the book perhaps for the main reason that she is such a beloved tomboy. I only hope you love her as much as I do. I may take more than one post to focus on her. She is complex in a way, because she does not think like the average six year old.
Scout is a keen observer. She notices people’s actions and personalities. She observes her surroundings, thinks about what she sees and hears, forms her own opinions, and speaks her thoughts and feelings as she sees fit. Sometimes this gets her in trouble even though I think she is genuine when she tries to help people such as her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, and her classmate Walter Cunningham.
In the second chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird Scout is beginning first grade. We are told she is turning six. Jem is four years older than she is and going in fifth grade. What I want to focus on today is what I think is one of the funniest parts in the novel. In fact, the other day I was reading chapters two and three at the bookstore and beginning to write this post when I almost had to refrain from laughing out loud several times! Harper Lee is a master at showing us Scout’s curious nature and her struggle to understand the new people she encounters.
The adult, Jean Louise, begins telling us the story of her first day of school by reminiscing about how she felt one winter day about the prospect of going to school in the fall. Sitting up in a treehouse, she spies on Jem (through a telescope he gave her) as he plays in the schoolyard below. She is desiring to join the playing children. Since he is her only sibling, I imagine she feels lonely without him during the day when he is gone, so she imagines school being fun and feels anxious to get started.
What transpires on her first day, however, is not what she had imagined on that winter day in the treehouse. First, when Jem walks her to school and shows her around, she concludes that Atticus must have bribed him to take care of her, because Jem instructs her not to bother him during the school day. Scout tells us, “I was to stick with the first grade and he would stick with the fifth. In short, I was to leave him alone.” (1)
The next thing that puzzles Scout is Miss Caroline, her teacher. She reads a strange story to the class which tells about cats who talk and wear clothes. Scout thinks this teacher does not understand the minds of children in Maycomb. She certainly doesn’t read this kind of stuff at home with Atticus. She sits on his lap at night and reads the local newspaper with him. In class she sits and thinks about how she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t reading. Jem told her she was born reading. What I find humorous here, however, is what is going through Scout’s mind while Miss Caroline reads the story.
Scout believes Miss Caroline is “unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature.” (2)
She is so bored she begins to write a letter to her friend, Dill, but when caught by Miss Caroline, she gets scolded for writing! She isn’t supposed to know how to write yet; she is supposed to be learning how to print in first grade. Writing isn’t learned until third grade according to Miss Caroline.
By the end of the day Scout is feeling like her teacher should have been nicer to her. She doesn’t understand why Miss Caroline couldn’t reason with her the way Atticus does. In her mind all she was trying to do was help her teacher and a fellow student, Walter, who has lied about forgetting his lunch. Scout tries to tell Miss Caroline that he is a Cunningham and can’t borrow a quarter from her to buy a lunch, because his family doesn’t take things they can’t pay back. Instead of the teacher being grateful for Scout’s enlightening her to Maycomb’s ways, where she herself does not live, she smacks Scout’s hand with a ruler and is told to stand in the corner for all of her disruptions.
In the midst of her punishment Scout is rescued by the bell. As she leaves her corner of the room, she stands at the classroom door for a moment noticing how despondent her teacher has become. Scout watches her sink down in her chair and thinks to herself “Had her conduct been more friendly toward me, I would have felt sorry for her. She was a pretty little thing.” (3) So on this funny note chapter two ends.
Chapter three opens with Scout attacking Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard, because she thinks he caused her to “…start off on the wrong foot” (4) with the teacher. Jem tells her to leave him alone and invites him to dinner at their house. This mortifies Scout, and she gets more scolding from Calpurnia at home for being rude to him about pouring syrup all over his plate of food while he’s there.
By the end of her long day of frustrations and scolding, Scout is feeling apprehensive about reading with Atticus like she usually does. He notices her mood and proceeds to find out about how badly her first day at school went when she tells him she doesn’t want to go back. She learns that she has to go back, because Atticus can’t teach her full-time; he has to work. This is when he tells her something that becomes a significant theme in the novel.
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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.” (5)
So begins Scout’s journey towards learning how to see things through the eyes of others and put herself in their shoes before she makes snap judgments about them. So begins her journey in growing up.
Until next Monday, have a wonderful week, and give someone you love a big hug.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, First Perennial Classic edition, Harper Collins Publishers, 2002, pg. 18
- ibid, pg. 18
- ibid, pg. 24
- ibid, pg. 25
- ibid, pg. 33
Photo Credit: Associated Press, New York Times
NELLE HARPER LEE: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE
Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, to Amasa Coleman Lee and Francis Cunningham Finch Lee, in Monroeville, Alabama. Her parents married in 1910 and settled in Monroeville in 1924. Nelle had three older siblings: Louise, Edwin, and Alice. Her sister Louise married and had a family. Her brother Edwin died at the age of 30 from a brain hemorrhage. Alice, the eldest, became a lawyer like her father and worked with him at his firm all her life. Nelle was in law school until she decided that being a lawyer was not for her. She wanted to write books.
In 1949, much to her parents’ dismay, she decided to move to New York City. She was 23 years old. The first job she found there was in a bookstore. “A bookstore was barely within the orbit of the literary world, but at least she would meet writers there. Or so she thought.” (1) Eventually Nelle discovered that her job didn’t pay enough. It barely covered her rent and food. In 1950 she went to work for Eastern Airlines. Her job required that she join the union which improved her salary substantially.
While she worked for the airlines, she spent her evenings writing and occasionally socializing with her good friend, Truman Capote, whom she had known since childhood. He had been left in Alabama when he was a small child by his mother for some time to be raised by his aunts. He lived next door to Nelle for several years. Eventually, he was picked up by his mother and moved to New York. When they were young, Nelle and Truman became fast friends, much like the characters Dill and Scout did in To Kill a Mockingbird. However, contrary to popular belief that she based her character, Dill, on Truman Capote, Nelle says this about the characters in her book in an interview she did in 1963 for a Chicago Press reporter:
REPORTER: “Were the characters in the book based on real people?”
MISS LEE: “No, but the people at home think so. The beauty of it, though, is that no two people come up with the same identification. They never think of themselves as being portrayed in the book. They try to identify others whom they know as characters.”
You can read the full interview here: http://web.archive.org/web/20070701015703/http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/culture/HarperLee/ellison.html
Nelle was a tomboy as a child. She was known as “a fearsome stomach-puncher, foot-stomper and hair-puller…” (2) Similarly her character Scout says in chapter three, “Catching Walter Cunningham in the shcoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt, Jem came by and told me to stop.” (3) Charles J. Shields says about Nelle Harper Lee in his biography, Mockingbird, “Once, three boys tried to challenge her, charging her individually, like kinghts galloping toward her. Each ended up facedown, spitting gravel, and crying, ‘Uncle!’ within moments.” (4)
Nelle was never a “girly” girl. She didn’t like to dress up when she was young. In her younger years she wore mostly pants and casual shirts and sometimes skirt outfits. Her hair is usually in a short wash-and-go style, and she’s not known for wearing make-up.
In college, she enjoyed athletics and was often seen hanging out with groups of boys. Many people there thought she came across more masculine than feminine. Cussing and smoking were two of her trademarks. I don’t know if they still are. She was not part of any specific group of girls. More often than not, she was seen as a loner, spending more time in her dorm room and the library than out socializing or dating. However, this was how she preferred to spend a great deal of her time – alone – reading, studying, and writing.
Yet, in her hometown in Alabama, contrary to her reputation, she has not been known as a “recluse.” Her closest friends have helped protect her from being bombarded by fans of her book through the years, because she enjoys her privacy. However, she has always been friendly and sensitive to others’ needs. She never seemed to be bothered about trying to “fit in”; she did her own thing, which obviously has made her happy.
These things I have mentioned about Nelle Harper Lee – her tomboyish ways, her sensitivity, and her love for reading and writing – are things that have always been pointed out about me from others throughout my own life. Growing up in the South in the 1960s as I did, I had the impression that these qualities were sometimes looked down on by other girls and some women I knew who saw themselves as more “proper.” As a child I thought that women were supposed to be more concerned about learning to cook and sew (both of which I hated) than writing stories or having your nose in a book like I did. I have always thought of myself as a tomboy.
All of my life I have never been one who liked wearing dresses. I hated it when I was a kid and my mother put rollers in my hair, to give me curls that never felt natural, for special occasions like my piano recitals or choir performances at school. I loved playing outside all the time, and I liked playing ball and riding bikes with boys much more than playing dolls or dress-up with girls. I enjoyed being a tomboy, because it was how I felt most comfortable. I liked getting dirty! I haven’t changed! Even now when I have to dress decent to make all my trips to town, as soon as I get home, I take off my shoes, get into my sweats, and breathe in the comfort of home.
Most likely I will never meet Nelle Harper Lee, but I feel like she and Scout have become “kindred spirits” to me. I have enjoyed reading her one great novel and learning about her very much! I have also enjoyed reading the biography Mockingbird, A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields as well. I have found Harper Lee to be a wise and wonderful treasure of a woman.
Until next time, y’all come back now, ya hear? Can’t you hear that wonderful southern accent?
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
1. Shields, Charles J., Mockingbird, A Potrait of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 2006, pg. 19.
2. ibid, pg. 32.
3. Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird, First Perennial Classic edition. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002, pg. 25.
4. Shields, Charles J., Mockingbird, A Potrait of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 2006, pg. 32.
Lately I have become fascinated with the person of Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I have read her book three times in the last two years. This is not because the book is famous. This is not because the author became famous in 1960, the year I was born, when her one and only book was published. I didn’t read it just because the book club at the library read it the year of its 50th Anniversary in 2010. (I am not in that book club.)
I just remember seeing the book called “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee” by Charles J. Shields on the shelf in the biography section at the library a couple of years ago. I picked it up and thumbed through it. I always read the flaps of hardback books before I even look through them, especially if I don’t know what they are about. Mockingbird? I honestly had no idea. The book flap’s first couple of sentences read this way:
“A lively portrait of the elusive woman who created
the American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD IS THE MOST WIDELY
read American novel ever.”
My first thought…really? I had never read this “most widely read American novel.” Where had I been all my life? What is more amazing is I don’t even remember ever hearing about this book or this author in all the years I was growing up in Decatur, Georgia. It was never required reading in any of my English classes, not even in college. My mother who was an avid reader of fiction never mentioned it to me. I have no idea if she ever read it herself. Then I thought, If that book is so great, why haven’t I ever read it? Then just as quickly…If I read this book now and love it, I am going to feel cheated. Oh well. Someday….maybe during the summer. I proceeded to put down the biography about Harper Lee and didn’t give the novel of “To Kill a Mockingbird” another thought until about two years ago.
It was about then that I was reading more fiction that dealt with issues about various matters: lifelong love, teen suicide, kidnapping, school bombings, raciscm, and death. There also aren’t very many books I have purposed to re-read just because I get lost in the story, love the characters, and envy the writing. In fact there are only two (okay, well, now three.)
The first book I have read at least five times is Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Notebook. I also own the movie. I have read and watched both multiple times. The theme of the intense love story and the way the couple stays together until they die is so incredible to me. Who doesn’t dream of that kind of love? I always have.
The second book I have read at least three times so far is The Help. I had never heard of it until I saw the movie in the theater. I loved the movie so much, I immediately bought the book. Of course the book was ten times better in my opinion, because of the many layers of the main characters, but the movie was done superbly! I own it as well as the book. What I love about it is not just the issue of racism, but the way the author makes her characters deal with it.
The book To Kill a Mockingbird is not just about racism, however. It is about family, right vs. wrong, honor, dignity, bigotry, hatred, and love. It is about how a little girl views the world around her, a little girl who is an inquisitive, feisty tomboy. Fortunately, she has a wonderful father who is patient enough to explain things to her on a level she can understand. Many parents don’t take time to just sit and answer a small child’s questions like Atticus Finch does with Scout. I always wished my own father had been like that; perhaps that is why I love Scout so much. She found her sense of security in her father. I found my sense of insecurity in mine.
I love how Harper Lee wrote the novel. She used two voices. She opens the book in the voice of Jean Louise Finch, the adult. She is looking back on her childhood as she narrates:
“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” (1)
However, when she begins to describe the day she and her brother meet Dill, the little girl Scout’s voice describes the event:
“Early one morning as we were beginning our day’s play in the back yard, Jem and I heard something next door in Miss Rachel Haverford’s collard patch. We went to the wire fence to see if there was a puppy–Miss Rachel’s rat terrier was expecting–instead we found someone sitting looking at us. Sitting down, he wasn’t much higher than the collards. We stared at him until he spoke:
‘Hey yourself,’ said Jem pleasantly.” (2)
So begins Jem and Scout’s new friendship with the next door neighbor, Dill, who only comes to visit his aunt in the summers. Though Harper Lee went back and forth between the main character’s adult and child voices, it was never confusing for me to follow. Her style has an easy flow. The manner in which her characters speak are in her own Southern voice since she is from Monroeville, Alabama. It is true to form. I know this
first-hand. I remember the summers when I was a child in the South. Every day seemed to last forever, because there was a great deal of play that needed to happen, and the adults seemed just fine with us kids out from underfoot as much as possible. We stayed outside, because there was no air conditioning in the houses, so it didn’t matter where we were: it was HOT. We went wading in the creek, swimming at the local pool, played ball and tag, and read books. Summer was a slow, easy time. Rainy days didn’t cool things off much, but they made mud puddles for us to jump in. Harper Lee conveys this image vividly when she says,
“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired
old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather
the streets turned to a red slop; grass grew
on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square.” (3)
This is probably one of the most quoted sections of the novel, but it speaks to me, because I see my street in Georgia in my mind when I read it.
I believe To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest works of fiction that has been written. Harper Lee showed her gift of writing with vivid word images, description, and character-building in this book. It doesn’t matter to me that she didn’t write another novel. She felt her work was done when she finished it. In my opinion, it definitely did not need a sequel.
On Mockingbird Mondays I will be attempting to write interesting character sketches (meaning how the characters effected me personally), provide some biographical information about Harper Lee, and touch on some of the issues raised in the novel. I am looking forward to this project, and I hope you will be, too.
Welcome to Mockingbird Mondays!! Y’all come back now, ya hear?
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!
1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, First Perennial Classic edition publilshed 2002, page 3.
2. ibid., page 7
3. ibid., page 5
Daily Prompt: Fictional Intruder
Go down the rabbit hole with Alice; play quidditch with Harry Potter; float down the river with Huck Finn …… If you could choose three fictional events or adventures to experience yourself, what would they be?
This is the first time I have done a daily prompt. Since I read so much fiction, though, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity. I have so many favorite characters in fiction, it is hard to choose. However, here are three of my favorites.
I would want to be Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I love the three friends she made, the munchkins she met, and the fact that she was able to kill the wicked witch. I recently read the book for the first time after seeing the movie about a million times since I was five years old. The book was crazy different, but I still liked it. However, I remember the first time I saw the movie in color. Our neighbor across the street got a new color television that year and invited me over to see The Wizard of Oz in color! I was really excited, but that was the first year I ever felt so scared of the wicked witch. The green color of her gave me nightmares for days. Come to think of it, my kids have never liked her either. 😉
My second favorite character in fiction is Tom Sawyer. I loved reading that book. I didn’t get through all of Huckleberry Finn, though. I just didn’t like the way that book was written compared to Tom Sawyer for some reason. Anyway, Tom Sawyer is quite a character. He is very mischievious and resourceful. The way he gets the other kids to finish whitewashing the fence is clever. I wouldn’t want my kids to weasel their way out of punishments like him, but you have to admit he’s pretty smart! What I loved about him the most was the way he changed and grew in the book. That’s what hooks me into remembering fictional characters.
My third favorite character would be Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. I love the way she is so encouraging to Wilbur. She helps him see reality in a kind way. She loves him and helps him grow up. I saw the newer animated version with Julia Roberts for the first time this year from about the middle of the movie one day when I was channel surfing. Now I’d like to see it from the beginning. She has such a lovely voice which reminds me so much of the original movie version.
And that’s all for today folks! Have a lovely day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂