Sunday, February 21, 2016

Miss Lee and Miss Jean Louise

A book written before I was born, To Kill a Mockingbird continues to sing to our human spirit. Harper Lee's passing this week provides a chance to reflect on a few of the ways her story affected me.

The big themes of racism, honesty, justice, and integrity resonate through the novel. What I remember most from the first time I read it, way back in school, though, is Scout.

A girl told that story to us. We saw the world through her eyes. She wore overalls and skinned her knees and played in the dirt. Scout dressed up as a ham is still one of my all-time favorite comic moments. She asked questions, the questions we all wanted to ask. Scout was not pretty or passive. She wasn't waiting for someone else to start her life. She felt her powerlessness as a child, but she did not accept it. Scout challenged the world in which she found herself, as much as she loved that world.

Scout gave us Boo Radley. Without her, we wouldn't know him. She gave us Atticus Finch. We love him because Scout loved him.

Scout's adventurous, curious, gutsy spirit catalyzed the events that helped us explore those big themes. She taught me girls could do all that.

The line from the novel that rings in my mind today is this one:

"Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing."

Thank you, Miss Lee, for standing Miss Jean Louise before us all.

Elizabeth Fountain is the author of An Alien's Guide to World Domination and You, Jane. Her stories try to capture the curiosity and guts of people like Scout. You can find out more about her work here.