To Kill a Mockingbird and the small town South

Original image source: unsplash

Original image source: unsplash

Welcome back for another post from the Monday Inspirations series. Today’s post is by Diana. You can check out previous posts here.

tokillamockingbirdI’ve always been a bit of a bookworm. Even when I was very small, I liked to read and to be read to. Books were in abundant supply in my house, as my older siblings, mother, and father enjoyed reading and talking about reading in their free-time.

I’ve also always liked museums and historical places, especially when they’re related to books. There’s something thrilling about being in a space where history has happened, about seeing a place or an object that has Significance.

We drove by the old courthouse where Tom Robinson’s trial is annually reenacted from time to time when I was a kid. My mother grew up in the area, in an even smaller town nearby. The last time I drove by that courthouse, I was leaving town after my grandmother’s funeral in 2012.

Monroeville, AL is about the same size as the town I grew up in, but somehow it has always seemed even smaller, even sleepier. Still, the town held a peculiar fascination for me. It was home not just to my mother’s family, but to Harper Lee and Truman Capote as well.

I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) at least half a dozen times over the past few years, and probably half a dozen more in the years before that. In it are the germs of many things I’d eventually go on to study—Southern Gothicism, young adult literature, racial and class politics in the South, and mental illness.

I’ve gone from wishing that Atticus Finch was my father to hoping for a father-figure like that for my own child. I’ve seen the injustices that still exist in the small town South. And I understand Scout, understand her in ways that are particular to the Southern sleepy towns in which we grew up.

I remember stories that would mimic those told of Boo Radley, tales of town characters. I remember the way that adults were hesitant to speak about such things in front of children. I remember the whispers, and I remember both of my grandmothers telling me family history that my parents would probably rather I not have been told.

I remember climbing trees, and I remember hanging out with my next door neighbors and knowing everyone in town by name–and everyone knowing me, as my father was a banker and my mother a teacher. And I remember racism, the way the town still seemed divided years after the Civil Rights Movement. I remember injustices, and I remember kindnesses. I remember the small town South.


Diana is a native Mississippian, a nerd, a bookworm, a feminist, a mother, a teacher, a worrier, and a social media junkie. She is the administrator of the blog Part Time Monster, and you can follow her on Twitter @parttimemonster or find her on Facebook at She lives in New Orleans with her son, her husband, and one very energetic terrier.

By the way, make sure you check out my guest post about Dola over at Part Time Monster later today.

17 thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird and the small town South

  1. Diana, this is such a lovely story. My own knowledge of the south is more or less limited to “To kill a mocking bird” and “the help”.
    I still remember studying “To Kill a Mockingbird” in school, it was in 8th grade and I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, we watched the movie, but I by far preferred the book (but many people in my class were lazy readers and preferred the film), after that I read it again myself and my mom read it to my sister and myself (but that was in German).
    Thank you for sharing your story! And Ula, thank you for hosting Diana today!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much!

      I really wanted to like The Help, but I just didn’t. It seemed so disingenuous, especially the dialect. Oh, the dialect. But I’ve loved To Kill a Mockingbird from the first moment I read it, though. It’s so very honest.

      The South is a really confusing place—it’s eclectic and sometimes backward, but it’s also beautiful. There are a lot of really great writers from the area.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This post has motivated me to reread “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I’ve only read it once and it has been nearly 2 decades. I most certainly want to reread it before “Go Set a Watchman” is released!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you enjoy the re-read! It’s still one of my favorites, 20-ish years after I first read it. I’m not sure about Go Set a Watchman. I was really excited, but the accusations about the book’s publication give me pause.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not sure I’ll read Go Set a Watchman either. Something there just doesn’t add up.

        Your right about the issues of the South & her inherent beauty. I started coming to Hattiesburg in the summer of 2001. Moved there full-time in 2004. I never thought this is where I would be but now that I’m here – even with all her trials & tribulations – I find I love it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. To Kill A Mockingbird has always been my favorite book. I reread it at least once a year. There is so much wisdom in it and I love that it comes through the innocent and unsentimental voice of Scout. I saw the movie when it came out.. I was 8 when I saw it. It really stuck with me until I read it on my own in about 5th or 6th grade then in school. Since high school, I’ve read it every year.

    Liked by 2 people

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  6. Thank you so much for your post. I’m Australian and while we studied the book at school, It’s hard to get the same understanding of the cultural setting. That said, it’s a book which I’ve carried with me through life and I live my life, or at least attempt to, by trying to see through other people’s skin or walk in their shoes. I’m looking forward to reading her next book and quite intruiged at why she suddenly broke her silsnce after all these years xx Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

    • Rowena, I think most of us didn’t have much of an experience of the cultural setting. I was a kid living in Chicago when I first read to Kill a Mockingbird, and I thought the realities the book described were a long gone history.
      After reading several reviews online, I am quite intrigued by Harper Lee’s new book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Even though I have piles of unread or semi-read books around the house, that book is a must buy and read immediately…especially after she has broken her silence after so long.
        Also, I am interested to see what insights she is going to give us this time after all the wisdom which was contained in the first book xx Ro

        Liked by 2 people

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