Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird’ flies to Broadway with a powerful message

Kathryn Vlaanderen, News Editor

Throughout everyone’s education, they come across Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in one way or another. This might be through the Gregory Peck film or reading the words from Harper Lee’s novel. However, this weekend I had the opportunity to re-visit Scout’s home of Maycomb, AL through Aaron Sorkin’s beautiful adaptation of an American classic. 

Sorkin’s adaptation is reliable overall to the source material, but it takes creative liberties to make the material seem relevant to a modern audience. First of all, the play pays more attention to its African American characters: Calpurnia and Tom Robinson. In the play, Calpurnia isn’t just a cook for a white, Caucasian family. Instead, her character is shown as a motherly figure to Scout, Jem and Dill. The relationship between Calpurnia and Atticus had also developed to be a platonic sibling relationship, similar to that of the story’s youngest characters: Jem and Scout.  

Tom Robinson is another character that had been further developed for Sorkin’s adaptation. Sorkin makes Robinson’s trial the central and most important event of the entire production.  

In the play, Robinson is still the humble, innocent African American man who had been charged and accused of the sexual harassment of Mayella Ewell, but Sorkin developed the man to have empathy for the woman and society that had wronged him. This is considered the climax of the book and exposes a reality that today’s audience has experience with: An important and powerful part of society, like a U.S courtroom can still be negatively affected by unfairness. 

The play also provides commentary on the morality of some of the novel’s Caucasian characters like Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell. The production outlines the different point of views between men like Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell. The play places an emphasis on Ewell’s involvement in the mob as a way to “Give a man a break from his conscience.”  

As for the novel’s hero, Atticus Finch, the play seems to portray him as more than just the hero lawyer and father that the audience grew up with.   

The play’s portrayal of Atticus still shares the same strong morals, empathy for any person despite the color of their skin and trusting nature that everyone grew up with. The play’s portrayal of Atticus Finch is humanized with the everyday faults, emotions and worries like an average man.  

An interesting aspect of the play is the fact that the play is told as if Atticus is the main protagonist, not the children who are on the sidelines, telling the story from a far.  In Sorkin’s play, Atticus’ views on Maycomb seems to change alongside the views of his children.  

Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of the American classic started on Broadway during in 2018.   Despite its small run; it has seen a lot of nationwide changes in the four years that it has been in production. During the year 2020, the play had to close its doors like plenty of other productions on Broadway. Then while the play was beginning to open its doors to the public, the play was met with outcries of protests during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Protests.  

During the performance, I couldn’t help but think about the BLM protests and the shared themes that come between the novel and play. After the play and as I was coming home from Sioux City, I mulled over two lines from both the book and novel.  

The first quote comes from the book, when Atticus Finch tells Jem and Scout, that they could shoot at all of the birds that they want, but to remember that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. This is because like Tom Robinson, the BLM protest had its own share of mockingbirds in the form of innocent individuals like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin and others whose names came to light during the protests.  

While driving home from the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha, one quote from the movie struck a cord of relevancy with me. During the last minutes of the trial, Atticus said, “We need to heal this wound, or it will never stop bleeding.”   

In my opinion, this quote is still relevant, because problems like racial injustice or injustices of any kind is something that America has to deal with.  

I overall enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” because of its relevancy to the injustices today. Even though many might consider the book to be too controversial by today’s standards, I believe that even though the word choice and context of the book, I believe that the themes and symbolism remains relevant today. The world is filled with numerous people like Ewell and Atticus, but in the end, it depends on the decisions a person is willing to act on.  

So, wildcats, I ask that you “all rise” and remember that “it’s a sin To Kill a Mockingbird.”