Friday, April 18, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

After spending a fair period of time in 19th century Europe, I've decided to cross the Atlantic and travel forward in time a century to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I know that I've made some fairly critical comments about 20th century literature in the past, but I'm really enjoying this book. I'm about a hundred or so pages through "To Kill a Mockingbird" so far and I'm really enjoying what I am reading. In particular, the narrative of the story through the eyes of a six year old girl is a particularly interesting approach, considering that innocence and ignorance are two major themes the author is trying to convey.

It's also worth recognising the comparative youth of America as a nation and the framing narratives around which American identity derives its existence. It is perhaps for this reason that the whole "coming of age" paradigm seems to be so prominent in the history of American literature. Youth, innocence and the corruption thereof seem to be fairly standard metaphors for the development of the collective American conscience. It is interesting in this respect that there seems to be a dearth of these paradigms in European literature, which seems to focus upon much broader metanarratives. Perhaps the whole "coming of age" genre is idiosyncratically American partly due to the strong emphasis on individualism in American culture.

I must admit that I haven't read a great deal of Australian literature yet, but I suspect that the abovementioned paradigm would also exist, albeit with somewhat of a colonial twist. From the little that I know, the Australian environment seems to be a prominent feature of our literature. Again, the harshness of the Australian environment is a profoundly apt metaphor for our history, especially with respect to our indigenous brothers and sisters. The wounds of history are still quite deep at present, so I suspect that perhaps the best Australian work may be some decades away, hopefully when the legacy of our past can be looked upon in proper perspective.

1 comment:

Ebe said...

A friendly word of advice, be careful of what Australian literature you read. There are some gems, and then there are some of the biggest pieces of rubbish you will ever find. Try David Malouf....I love him!! Stay away from Peter Goldsworthy....Yuck!

You should branch out a little and read some South African, Native American or Middle Eastern writing, but the biggest bet for you would be Native Australian writing I can recommend some if you like?!