Certain authors or works of literature can become so associated with a particular geographical region that they almost seem to represent them. John Steinbeck, author of boos like Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath, is a hero of Salinas, California (there’s even a John Steinbeck museum in that town). The French town is Toulouse could not be prouder of Victor Hugo, and his quintessential French novels, The Hunchbank of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. And while most people have never heard of Prince Edward Island, Canada, if they have it’s almost certainly because of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Great authors and great novels can put places on the map.
One region that has its share of beloved authors and novels is the American South. Some might claim that the South is purely Faulkner country. A Nobel Prize winner and creator of such classics as The Sound and the Fury, he’s got to be close to, if not at the top of any list of great Southern authors. Tennesse Williams, the brain behind A Streetcar Named Desire, would also make an appearance on such a list. And though she only wrote one book in her career, no list of great Southern authors could possibly be complete without Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Though Lee has proven to be a figure as enigmatic as her own Boo Radley, it’s almost impossible to overstate the effect To Kill a Mockingbird has had on American readers and writers. The book was almost an instant classic and remains as a staple of any high-school English curriculum worth its salt. There are a number of reasons why the book is universally praised. Its themes: integrity in the face of corruption, equality in the face of discrimination and hope in the face of despair are about as uplifting as one could hope to find. The writing is, of course, beyond reproach, and though the story may not have the typical “happy ending” the idea that good people will continue to fight the good fight against all odds is a hard one to find fault with.
These reasons are all legitimate, and do contribute to the novels “instant classic” status, but there’s really only one reason that readers continue to love To Kill a Mockingbird and that is Jean Louise (Scout) Finch. Scout is the mouthpiece behind some of the best To Kill Mockingbird quotes (such as “tellin’ the truth’s not cynical, is it?”), she’s the story’s narrator and she’s really the heart and soul of this incredibly soulful story, a story that really could only be told from the perspective of a child.
Shakespeare seemed to want to make sure his work would be associated with particular regions of Europe: Verona, Denmark, and, of course, Scotland. Even though Macbeth is the only one of the Bard’s tragic plays to be set in Scotland, the play and its titular character are almost synonymous in the minds of many fans. With memorable characters like Lady Macbeth and the three witches (speakers of memorable Macbeth quotes like “Double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble”), and a dramatic tale of murder and treachery, its maybe not the best representation of present-day Scotland, but it remains a key aspect of Scottish identity (luckily for Scots, otherwise they might just be stuck with the kilt).