In 2015, Harper Lee released only her second novel, Go Set A Watchman, a follow up to her classic To Kill A Mockingbird. The novel, written in the 1950’s, was most likely not ever intended to be published, but there it is, and the critical response has been scathing.
There’s a sense of great disappointment as “Watchman” shows the beloved moral character of Atticus Finch in a different light, as well as feeling like an early draft that doesn’t have the same merit as Lee’s first published novel. There’s even a concern that this negativity could find it’s way back to “Mockingbird.” It’s now that we need to remind ourselves how important a work of literature it is and look at some reasons why it still needs to be taught today.
1- Discrimination is Destructive
To Kill a Mockingbird shows the devastation of discrimination from a child’s point of view. Scout witnesses discrimination based on race and economics. The novel, published during the Civil Rights movement, highlights the travesties of an earlier period in Alabama, however these themes continue to be relevant today and still need discussion and deeper understanding.
2- Young Women are Strong
The novel is told from the point of view of a young girl and, in many ways, this in itself is an important reason to keep teaching the novel. Scout proves to go through various life lessons, but ultimately proves to be a strong, moral protagonist. Teaching novels with strong female protagonists is a great reason to keep a novel in our classrooms.
3- Students Respond Well to a Challenge
The novel isn’t of the Young Adult variety that are popular amongst young readers today. The novel was written for adults when it was published. This means it comes with thought-provoking ideas and challenging vocabulary. While some would argue this makes it more difficult for lower level readers, it can be a way to push expectations and challenge students. We don’t want to get in the habit of not teaching books due to their sophistication. We just need to continue to find ways to engage and push our students to succeed.
What are some reasons you still teach To Kill A Mockingbird?