15 November 2009

On Atticus, Jesus, and Frodo

While house cleaning at my website, I found this old article I wrote for The Reminder Newspaper. Dating back to December 2005, I thought it was reviewish and analyzing enough to be of interest here. Enjoy!

On Atticus, Jesus, and Frodo

By Kristin Battestella

Last month a BBC poll from Britain’s top librarians presented an intriguing debate. According to the statistics, audiences favorite books are the following:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

The Bible

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

To Kill a Mockingbird. The Bible, The Lord of The Rings. Although my Father disagrees with The Bible being second, I find these results fascinating. Besides, I’ve read all three and he hasn’t.

Racial injustice in the south; the most published religious book ever, and an evil wizard destroying Middle-Earth with powerful jewelry. At first glance, the three titles presented have nothing in common, but I implore you to look deeper. Many universal themes and elements unite these three masterpieces.

Despite its fantastical elements (Maybe people ignore it because it’s deemed fantasy), The Lord of the Rings has many human threads that have continued to make the hefty book popular. I just read it for the first time this year. It’s not only good versus evil, The Lord of the Rings offers hope, friendship, and strength in all shapes and sizes for audiences both young and old. The ring represents the penne ultimate evil power yet it is bound by its so small gold confines. Frodo is also small-a hobbit caught in a big man’s world-yet his strength cannot be measured by his small stature. Tolkien’s massive work tells readers that big or small and good or evil, anyone who rises to the challenge will determine his own fate.

Lord of the Rings almost has a David and Goliath feel, which of course leads to Number Two on the list-The Bible. I don’t think I need to go into much detail here. Everyone has at least some vague idea of both the Old and New Testaments and what they teach. God helps the faithful, valiant, loyal, and true. Jesus gives hope to the meek where there is none. Like The Lord of the Rings, many sections of The Bible are very dark and dense-full of wrath and doom. In the end of course, evil falls and justice and peace prevail.

Although similar to its pollmates in its moral tones, To Kill a Mockingbird was also voted the Number One Unhappy Ending in a separate BBC poll. Even if it is sacrilegious to place another book above The Bible, I can see how To Kill a Mockingbird reached Number One. For decades social change has been on the rise, and for the Boomer generation To Kill a Mockingbird must have been a whirlwind. An unapologetic exposure of racial injustice thrust right into the segregated mid century American society. Books that give birth to radical social change only come along once in a blue moon.

Even the American Film Institute named Gregory’s Peck’s Oscar winning 1962 film portrayal of Atticus Finch as their Number One Great American Hero. Harper Lee’s tale of white lawyer Atticus Finch defending an innocent black Tom Robinson in 1930s Alabama continues to open our eyes to a world we’d like to think we aren’t part of, but of course, not enough change has come.

I don’t understand how today’s youth can use the N word-affixed with an ‘a’ on the end instead of an ‘er’. My instant thought is always, “Have they not read To Kill a Mockingbird?” My honey-by some error in his high school required reading-has never read the Harper Lee classic. I tried to explain it, but what makes it over the top is the ending. Now, you can’t give away the ending, can you?

For three books that seem so different on the surface, The Lord of the Rings, The Bible, and To Kill a Mockingbird all present both the characteristics of how we should be and also how not to be. Gollum succumbs to the ring, but Boromir redeems himself. All can be redeemed by obeying God in their own way, and Atticus gives us hope that he made the word one step closer to a better place for his children.

To Kill A Mockingbird is the only book I had to read for school that I actually liked-now that’s saying something. If I had to pick three books to take if I was stranded island…but more likely if I had to recommend three books every person should read once in his lifetime, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bible, and The Lord of the Rings are tough to beat. Impossible, Frodo!

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