"Michy" wrote:Their situation was far more serious than that, but Stockett doesn't bring it out in a serious way. Instead, she "dumbs it down" and makes it entertaining, which it most definitely wasn't.
Too right. The 'funny' moments were bought at the expense of character and plot, and they should have been bought at the expense of the book's credibility, too.
Michy wrote:Although, to be fair, perhaps she wasn't trying to write another TKAM, perhaps that is just the label that infatuated readers have given her work.
I'm not too sure what she was trying to do. From the author's note at the end, I think she takes her own book pretty seriously, but I doubt she expected it to be the bestseller it has been.
Michy wrote:But I think what has set TKAM apart and forever established it in the echelons of Great Classics is the time at which it was written. So much in life comes down to timing. TKAM threw a spotlight on the plight of blacks in the American South while it was still happening. Even if Stockett had wanted to write a book with the same impact of TKAM she never could because she is, quite simply, 50 years too late.
Right again. Granted, Mockingbird is very firmly set in the 1930s, but when it was published segregation had yet to be dismantled, and tensions were running higher than ever. You could argue that Stockett, setting her book in a period of de jure segregation, intended commentary on de facto segregation where it survives (eg segregated proms), but I can't find any.
Michy wrote:I would argue, though, that the primary message of TKAM is larger than just the plight of blacks. The story of Tom Robinson is book-ended by the story of Boo Radley who was equally disadvantaged but in a completely different way. I think another thing that has set TKAM apart from other great coming-of-age novels and made it so distinctive is that it can be boiled down to a single message that is articulated loudly and unmistakably; it is wrong to harm or otherwise take advantage of those in society who are weak and disadvantaged and who have done no harm to others. It is a sin to kill a mockingbird.
Yes, and she draws parallels with anti-semitism too.
Michy wrote:It's kind of amazing the number of awards and prizes Harper Lee has won for this one book, which is the only one she has ever published. She has even won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and at least one honorary degree. Personally, I think the book is good but it's not that good! Again, it all comes down to timing; she just wrote the right book at the right time, similarly to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin a century or so earlier.
I'm sure Lee would have written more if her first book hadn't attracted so much attention. That level of interest must be hard to deal with. Plus, it seems to have soured her friendship with Truman Capote, portrayed as Dill in the book.
princess wrote:I don't think the book glossed over the apprehension the maids had about their identity being discovered - Minny lived in fear of her husband finding out. And (if I remember correctly) there were plenty of mentions of the kind of attacks black people were subjected to - the maid's grandson who was blinded being one.
It doesn't gloss over the fear, but then everyone's identities are discovered and...no violence occurs, which suggests the fear was unfounded. From the writing point of view it's yet another plotline which fizzles, from the historical point of view, it's a serious distortion of the truth. Stockett does include episodes of violence, but never allows her central characters to be affected - even though, given the storyline of the book, I found it beyond belief that they (or more likely their men) would not have suffered reprisals. If a young man gets blinded for using the wrong bathroom, what's likely to happen to the maid who served the president of the Junior League a poop pie? I can think of several answers to that question, and 'finally find the courage to leave her abusive husband and be given a job for life by the family who adore her' isn't one of them. Stockett contrasts a fantasy plotline with a realistic historical background, which I found very jarring.