To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird appears in season three in movie form. In The Cost of Living, Juliet shows up at Jack’s cell on Hydra Island and says that she is putting in a videotape of To Kill a Mockingbird. Instead, it turns out to be a home video of Juliet holding up cue cards imploring Jack to kill Ben on the surgery table.

This is another in a long line of my favorite books that appeared in Lost, but the connection between the book and the show is tenuous. Still, they both share the important theme of prejudice which I will delve into below.

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For those of you that did not read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, the book consists of two simple, yet beautifully crafted stories that share similar themes, folded into one narrative told from the point of view of six-year old Scout Finch.

Much of the early part of the book is dominated by three young kids – siblings Jem and Scout and friend Dill – that are fascinated by their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley. Nobody in the neighborhood seems to know anything about Boo. The kids spy on his house daily, hoping that he will come out, but he never does. Boo is aware of the kids though and leaves them presents under his tree.

The middle part of the novel follows Jem and Scout’s dad, attorney Atticus Finch. Atticus takes on the unenviable task of defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape in the Depression-era South. Atticus doesn’t come off as an abolitionist or civil rights leader by any means, but he is a man that believes in justice. He defends Tom to the best of his ability, unlike many other white attorneys in the area, who generally give half-assed efforts to defend black defendants.

Despite being constantly harassed by townsfolk for defending a black man, Atticus does a tremendous job representing Tom and exposes the accuser’s story for what it is: a drunk white racist father named Bob Ewell who was upset that his daughter made sexual advances towards a black man. The rape never happened, but this being the South, Tom was found guilty anyway. He was later murdered at the prison.

Jem and Scout sneak in to the trial and are extremely proud of their father even though their belief in the justice system is shaken, particularly after Tom’s death. For his part, Bob was humiliated in the trial. The community realized full well that he was lying and he is furious with Atticus for making him look like a lair.

In the closing scene, Scout and Jem are walking down the street when Bob Ewell decides to take his anger out on them. After a brief struggle, the kids are saved by a figure that came seemingly out of nowhere: Boo Radley. Boo kills Bob in the scuffle and the sheriff, unsympathetic to Ewell, writes that he fell on his own knife in his official investigation.

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The overriding theme in the book is prejudice. For me, that is the reason that the Lost creators put the movie at this point in the show. With that said, my counterpart over on Coyote Mercury did a fantastic job breaking down themes that I did not think of. I encourage you to hop over there if you are interested and make up your own mind about the parallels that he draws between the book and the show.

I will stick with the prejudice theme. In the book, the kids are scared of Boo for no reason and the jury makes up their mind without any justification. Both situations come about because of prejudice, whether it be because of blatant racism or simply being scared of the unknown.

The To Kill a Mockingbird reference reminds us that we should clear our mind about the Others. Juliet showed this video fairly early in season three, when we did not know much about Other society. We assume that they are bad…but that’s not really any different than Scout, Jem, and Dill assuming that Boo is a freak because he never leaves the house.

Does this mean that the Others are good? Of course not, but if this show taught us anything it is that practically nothing can be called purely good or purely evil. I think we are supposed to make up our own mind on the Others, but consider that practically everything we knew about the Others was mistaken up to this point.

Ethan tried to kill Charlie, but we never find out exactly what happened in the scuffle and it turns out Charlie was supposed to die anyway. We think Ethan tried to kill Claire, but it turns out that they just wanted to study her pregnancy, Alex’s proclamations notwithstanding. We also think that they want to kill Jack, Kate, and Sawyer, but as a group they have no intention of doing so (Danny Pickett tried to kill them individually, but that was later). And even if you decide all those acts are still bad, we were completely mistaken in their motivations for doing any of those actions.

Maybe the Others are still bad as a whole – that’s still up for debate even after the show ended. At the same time, maybe we can still call Boo Radley a freak, but we won’t do it without hesitating after he saved Jem and Scout.

The basic takeaway lesson in both the book and Lost is that there is a LOT of gray area between two extremes. At this point in season three, when we first meet the Others, it is more important than ever to remember that simple idea.

For more of my book reviews, return to the Literature of Lost series.

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