To Kill a Mockingbird

Behind me is a literature professor from New Hampshire. He’s a slender man. Polite. He has a big vocabulary. It takes two minutes to discover that “unparalleled” is his favorite word.

Monroeville, Alabama—the sun is setting. One hundred and nine people wait outside the courthouse to see “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

You can hear crickets downtown.

In line, I meet a millworker from Milton, a mechanic from Montgomery, a Birmingham neurosurgeon, a football coach, a peanut farmer.

Behind me is a literature professor from New Hampshire. He’s a slender man. Polite. He has a big vocabulary. It takes two minutes to discover that “unparalleled” is his favorite word.

He’s driven a long way to see this play. He is a well-known author—I know this because he tells me.

Three times.

“We’re excited about the show,” says the professor. “We hear it’s unparalleled.”

He’s right. This is the quintessential hometown play, in the world’s most famous hometown—second only to Mayberry.

This production has all my favorite stuff. Clapboard porches, antique automobiles, linen suits, ladies in cotton dresses.

The professor sits a few seats from me. He tells me he’s memorized parts of the famous novel. He demonstrates this. He’s pleased with himself.

“What brings you here tonight?” he asks.

“My cousin, Robert,” I say. “He plays the farmer.”

The play starts. It’s fast paced. The second act is a clencher, taking place inside the old courtroom. It’s a majestic building with heart-pine floors made from trees which were once cut from a forest up the road.

The cast’s delivery is heartfelt. Close your eyes. You can hear sniffles from the audience. Most of those are mine.

Afterward, the professor remarks, “I can NOT articulate how this UNPARALLELED story and its cupidity absolutely ingressed me.”


Well, my vocabulary might be small, but I’m inclined to agree with him. This play is some kind of special. The soft accents, the down-home morals, the women wearing nylons thick enough to stop bullets.

This classic story is about community—one so small you need a magnifying glass to see it. It’s about small-town living. The good, the bad, and the disgusting. About life.

“You’re wrong,” says the professor. “It isn’t about those things. THIS story is THEE unparalleled political message of our time. You missed the whole point.”

I’ll bet this fella is fun at barbecues.

We shake hands. He tells me to buy his new book—he says I’d get a lot out of it.

And who am I to disagree with him? He’s smarter than I am. While he was working on a P.H.D. in postmodern Russian lit, I was practicing spitting for distance into SOLO cups.

Anyway, before I leave the courthouse, I hug a few friendly necks.

Steven: he played a magnificent villain.

Connie: the finest human being, writer, musician, and actress, this side of the Escambia.

Madelyn: she plays Scout, and is as cute as a sackful of puppies.

Director, Stephen Billy: he deserves a Tony Award and a very cold beer.

Look, I’m no literature buff, I have no letters behind my name, I don’t know many twenty-dollar words. But I’m a member of the South Alabamian family, and these actors put on one heart-stopper of a show.

It was a damn fine play. No.

It was unparalleled.


  1. GeeGee Chandler - May 22, 2017 5:43 pm

    I’ve teared up many times over your blogs. This is the first one that I have laughed out loud. Gazoontite! Now there is a $20.00 word. Keep the words coming. They are all $20.00 words when assembled the way you assemble them.

    • Shay Clark - February 1, 2018 3:17 am

      They are unpaaralleld….lol and I love them all

  2. Roxanne - May 22, 2017 5:52 pm

    My favorite classic–I read it every year. Your take on it was correct–if he thinks it’s about politics, then he must be a Yankee. Bless his heart.

    • Rebecca - July 16, 2017 5:13 pm

      …bless his heart.

  3. Linda Lyberg - May 22, 2017 5:53 pm

    This one made me smile!

  4. LeAnne Storey - May 22, 2017 6:09 pm

    Madelynn, aka Scout, is my niece and your description was spot on. I enjoyed the play so much and the atmosphere that night was just wonderful. A bit of real home town awesomeness!

  5. Thom Walker - May 22, 2017 6:11 pm

    I enjoy your posts just about every day. This was not one of them. I can get used to too much “aw shucks, I’m just a country boy.” But the poking at educated Yankee folks. imho, just cements the dumb by choice and proud of it southerner image. Most of the time you paint images that all desire to identify with. I hope this example is an aberration. Keep writing for us all.

    • Kathryn - May 22, 2017 7:44 pm

      I hope that each time Thom does enjoy the posts that he comments to say so. It would be sad to think that he would only comment when a post doesn’t speak to him. Personally, I didn’t get the same message out of the post that Thom must have. It just goes to show how different people can be.

      • Sandi - May 23, 2017 7:30 am

        Kathryn, I echo your comment!

        • Lin - January 31, 2018 6:13 pm

          I’ll bet Thom is a hoot at barbecues, too. ?

      • Sharon - July 16, 2017 11:37 am

        Maybe because we are southern folks.

      • Deb Phillips - January 31, 2018 3:11 pm

        Most likely a Yankee…tee hee! ?

    • Rebecca - July 16, 2017 5:25 pm

      I am from Birmingham. Every time a person tells me they are “just a country boy,” I know the situation is the opposite. The first person who did this to me had a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering, an M.B.A. and a law degree. I have a neighbor who tells me he is just a country boy, yet he holds a Doctoral Degree in Veterinary Medicine. I visited Monreoeville once for a wedding and parties. Several men I met, when I asked what type of work they did, said they were foresters. I thought it was akin to a park ranger. The bride explained to me later what a forester is and I was thoroughly embarrassed.

  6. Jane - May 22, 2017 6:13 pm

    I can just see Miss Nelle Harper Lee grinning from ear to ear as I read this…
    Well said, sir!

  7. Jennifer Crowe - May 22, 2017 6:33 pm

    Bless that poor pitiful professor’s heart! I laughed so hard I snorted ?. We all have been in the presence of someone who wants the world to know how much smarter they are than everyone else. Take your big fat twenty dollar words back to yankeeville and stay there!!!
    Thanks for another great read that was certainly UNPARALLELED.

  8. Linda Allen - May 22, 2017 6:35 pm

    Loved your wonderful story! Don’t know if you read these comments, but if you do…please don’t pay any attention to “Thom”! I think he missed the point of your story. We all know smarty pants that are so full of themselves, I sure enjoyed your gentle poking fun at the Professor! And telling another heartfelt story of life in a small southern city. Which I personally have never experienced, I suspect I have missed out…

  9. Meme - May 22, 2017 7:05 pm

    Love this! I always enjoy your articles and insight! I think you are ‘unparalleled’ in a good way! 🙂

  10. Martha - May 22, 2017 7:39 pm

    I love this. Having seen the play in that venue. I agree wholeheartedly…with YOU!
    Thanks for expressing it so well!

  11. Kathy Rondon - May 22, 2017 8:13 pm

    I’m from Tuscaloosa, have lived all over the world, and have read and seen To Kill a Mockingbird more times than I can count. I’m pretty sure Harper Lee would say that the lit professor from New Hampshire missed the whole point of the story. (Oh, and not that it really matters, but there’s that English Lit degree I have from the University of Alabama.) I’m with, you Sean. The story is about community–the good, the bad, and the ugly of it and how we all have to make peace with demons (our own and those who live among us).

  12. Emily C. Bailey - May 22, 2017 9:04 pm

    Nevertheless, I just read GO SET A WATCHMAN.

    Worked with a lady a few years ago, and every other word was Nevertheless.

    Love your comments.

  13. Phil Benton - May 22, 2017 9:18 pm

    Makes my day. I know I am hooked when I create a new file in my email program just to save Sean’s work. I delete so many emails that I have to watch carefully or my eyes will trick me into thinking Sean is someone trying to sell me something identified from Google’s myriad of information they have gathered on me as I sneak peek at various supposedly informative sites. I know his works may come out in a book one day but I can’t wait that long.
    At any rate I can go back now , when the news gets boring and sense something really good , thanks again Sean for making my day

  14. Rebecca - May 22, 2017 10:58 pm

    I guess it’s possible that ole Thom got a degree in Russian Lit as well. I enjoy your posts, being a born and raised Black Belt/Perry County girl but living in Mobile. It is good to be reminded of where we come from. Thank you Sean.

  15. Ken Givens - May 22, 2017 11:48 pm

    Dang! You nailed it again and it didn’t even take any twenty dollar words! Don’t ever stop what you have going. Your talent is awesome. My wife and I are great fans.

    • Jack Gandolfo, New Orleans - January 31, 2018 6:23 pm

      Nevertheless, I think Sean’s talent is UNPARALLELED.

  16. Sharon - May 23, 2017 1:49 am

    Why do people have to make everything about themselves? Just enjoy the writings.

  17. Kathleen - May 23, 2017 4:22 am

    One unparreled story.❤️

  18. Pat - May 23, 2017 11:33 am

    I don’t always look at the comments but this is one story I couldn’t wait to check comments…made my day!

  19. Suzanne Newsom - May 23, 2017 2:04 pm

    Your words can make me tear up, but today they made me laugh out loud. Wow!

  20. Allen Berry - May 23, 2017 10:34 pm

    I may be an Alabama PhD (as in English, not Pizza Hut Dude) and don’t have any New England sensibilities, but I know the story, and I’d say you have sufficiently apprehended the point of the story.

    That feller from New Hampshire can’t help it. He’s a Yankee and didn’t have the advantages you and I did.

  21. Michael Bishop - May 25, 2017 1:54 pm

    Except that I’m not a PhD (of either the academic or Pizza Hut variety, I ditto Allen Berry’s astute comments. Keep ’em coming, Sean.

  22. LindaD - July 16, 2017 1:53 pm

    One of the beauties of TKAM is that different people come away with different things from it — the sign of a true classic. It appeals in some way to almost everyone who reads it, even if we don’t always agree on exactly what it is that makes it so great. But we know that it is, regardless of the letters behind our names. I drove a long way several years ago to see the Monroeville production, and boy, was it worth the trip. Sean’s impression of the experience was so similar to mine, it made me smile. Well done.

  23. Deanna J - July 16, 2017 2:03 pm

    Love it!

  24. Phillip (Jem) Alford - July 16, 2017 3:28 pm

    Sweet review. I’ve enjoyed the play myself.

  25. Clint Thompson - July 16, 2017 9:37 pm

    I am another English Major from UA. I’ve read everything from Shakespeare to Faulkner to Harper Lee and the list goes on. Of them all, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is my all-time favorite. Harper Lee wrote one story. In it she captured everything about human nature all the others attempted to portray in numerous works. To declare otherwise would “be a sin…”

  26. Annette Bailey - July 17, 2017 1:54 am

    Sir….you’re words needn’t be $20. I’ll take down home talking any day of the week. I can remember watching Gregory Peck play the part of Atticus Finch when I was only 12 yrs. old. Jim and Scout played games much like my siblings and me. The movie made such a difference in my life that I watch it every chance I get and even added it to my movie collection. I like the classics and relate them to movies of today. I’ll take the classics. There’s more heart to them and not many $20 words!

  27. Brenda Gruenewald - July 17, 2017 3:51 am

    I’d rather read your writing any day than Mr. Professor’s book.

  28. Travis Abbott - July 20, 2017 5:52 am

    I grew up in Monroeville and I really loved it. I really enjoyed your story.

  29. Diane B Cook - January 31, 2018 4:56 pm

    We were at that play ….we could’ve met you! So close, yet so far…

  30. Frannie Keller - January 31, 2018 6:19 pm

    God Bless! Loved it!


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