Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hibbs on To Kill a Mockingbird

Thomas Hibbs has a good commentary on the Legacy Series two-disk set of the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. One of my favorite books, this story is a must-read and -see for all:

The film's central lesson, to which the title points, concerns a bedrock principle of natural and human law: the defense of the innocent. When Jem takes an interest in guns, Atticus gives Jem the advice his father gave him. He can shoot inanimate objects but, if he must shoot birds, he must remember that it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird, which causes no harm and only provides pleasure by its singing. That law should be about the protection of the innocent is obvious. Yet in application even a principle as fundamental as this can be, as Aquinas puts it, eroded from the human heart, because of “depraved customs and corrupt habits,” in this case by blinding

The makers of Mockingbird achieved remarkable success with their fundamental task: showing children awaken to the complexity of adult virtue and vice. If the film is itself suffused with wistful nostalgia for childhood, then the extras, which constitute a sort of extended testimony to Gregory Peck's career and character, are likely to induce nostalgia of a different sort, for the passing of old Hollywood, which for all its corruption was also a world that welcomed and at its best fostered the grace, charm, and wit of actors like Gregory Peck.

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