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Sam Bauman: ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ portrays America in 1930s

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal
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The recent news that there was a prequel to the classic novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird” that portrayed Atticus Finch as a racial-biased man shocked many readers of “Mockingbird.” It shocked me because I realized that I had seen the movie but not read the book by Harper Lee. So I went to the Carson Library and found a copy of “Mockingbird.” The novel won a 1960 Pulitzer Prize. Not a thick book, I read it in a day, enjoying the Americana as I turned pages. Harper Lee is a gifted writer as well as a keen observer of life in the 1930s in Alabama.

I was struck by how the scene of small-town Maycomb, Alabama, reflected a culture so far removed from today, yet obviously a basis for much of today’s social ills.

The major characters are Atticus Finch, the lawyer-father of Jean Louise (Scout Finch) and her older brother Jem. A third boy is Dill, a sometimes visitor with the Finches.

Over a three-year span, the children enjoy small-town life, the mystery of a reclusive neighbor and the scorn of the town when Atticus undertakes the defense of a black man on rape charges.

This is a portrait of a country where there are two lands separated by the color of their skins.

Calpurnia is the Finch cook and moral compass of the household along with the almost reclusive Atticus. She is the force under which Scout lives.

The scenes are vivid recreations of 1930s America with race always a subtitle. Confrontations are rare but Atticus guards his accused client with skill and a clear sense of failure in a trial before an all-white jury despite evidence that client is innocent.

This is a coming of age novel, with Scout learning how injustice to one is injustice to all, just as slaying a mockingbird of many voices is a loss to all of us.

The novel is a delight mixed with sadness. And many seniors will recognize much of their youth in the small town setting. The novel is told from Scout’s point of view in the language of the time and place. There are mysteries of childhood and the awakening of moral values throughout. There is a feel of authenticity throughout.

So why read an almost antiquated novel these days? Perhaps it is to remind us of the distance we have traveled since then. That racism still exists as it did in Scout and Atticus’ time. And perhaps to stir up memories of an innocent childhood.

The 1962 film was a major success with a fine screenplay by Horton Foote and starred Gregory Peck as Atticus and Mary Balham as Scout. It was an Academy Award winner

I suspect the film is available still. The copy of the book I read is from the Carson library and will be there this week. Read it and ponder how far we have come and how far we have to go. Harper Lee tells us a lot about ourselves and our country.

My hearing sage Part One

I’ve reported lately on my battle for better hearing. I’ve received help from two local audiologists, Nanci Campbell who tested my hearing when the Reno VA was too busy to do so, and Dr. Mark Weeks.

I was wearing 8-year-old hearing aids from the VA, years past their lifetime. The VA, after requests, came up with a new set of hearing aids, modern wireless ones able to perform many functions the old ones never could. The new Oticon aids are quite different from the old olive-sized ones; they fit a small bulb into the ear canal with controls and a mic tucked away of the ear. Cost the VA $6,000 for the pair.

The VA moved up my install date and did it in a day there. I had about 15 minutes of instructions and a quick demonstration of how to wear them. They worked in a limited fashion, but I suffered from pain in the left ear for an ill-fitting bulb.

I made four trips to the VA in an attempt to reduce the left ear pain, which was a 9 on a scale of 1-10 when I removed it. I drove four times to Reno and I waited for help from a technician. Four times the tech took the hearing aid and did something. But the pain persisted and I was unable to enjoy the many advances in the hearing technology that the aids promised. I was hurting so I decided to skip the VA and work with Dr. Mark Weeks here in town. He did marvels.

Now, there’s a happy ending that I will share with you next week.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal. Check out his blog at http://saml-news.blogspot.com.