Nothing I could ever say about Monroeville could possibly set the scene better than Harper Lee's introduction to Maycomb. Of course, there striking differences between the modern day place and the Depression Era town Lee depicts in the novel. The streets are paved and there are no mules and carts to be seen. And yet it still seemed to me to be something of 'a tired old town', though I can scarcely imagine that it ever could have been hotter than it was during my visit. Southerners will often tell you that it wasn't as hot 'back then'. I've always thought that it was the introduction of air conditioning that made everyone feel the heat more. Perhaps Lee was enjoying a spot of air conditioning herself when she wrote those lines and thinking back to the time before they had it.
But it certainly felt hot to me when I stepped out of my air conditioned rental car onto North Alabama Avenue in front of the courthouse. This place is well and truly off the beaten path. Fortunately for me, it only involved an hourlong detour on the six hour drive from the Atlanta airport to my grandmother's house in Mississippi. It's a place I have wanted to come for sometime, I regret that I wasn't able to get there before Harper Lee passed away. I know, I know. It's not as if I would have been able to meet her, but it would have been nice to know she was still there. After all, Monroeville is still a small town and I would have truly felt that I was in the presence of greatness.
Few books have stuck with me like To Kill A Mockingbird and I know I'm not alone. Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel always ranks high reader polls. In my mind, the novel and the film are inseparable. This is perhaps due to the way it was taught at school - our teacher showed us the movie as soon as we finished reading the book. Those were always the best days at school and I would look forward to English class all day, when the teacher would turn off the lights and pull out the old TV on a book cart. School almost felt cozy then and even though I was sure many of my classmates had never seen anything in black and white, they were all completely captivated by it.
As many times as I read it or watch the classic movie, the story grabs hold of me like I'm hearing it for the first time. Reading it as a young girl, I was always in awe of Scout, her plucky courage and outspokeness. But now when I read it, I am simply in awe of Harper Lee. For it seems to me that not a single word is out of place. How did she do it? Since the contraversial publication of Go Set a Watchman, Lee's first attempt at a novel, we can now see a part of the process that led to her masterpiece and although I personally disagree with the publishers' decision to release it, it did help to see just how much work Lee had to put it in.