No Hands Clapping – by Jonah Goldberg – The Remnant – The Dispatch

The historical context question of To Kill a Mockingbird, specifically the issues of the "white savior" narrative, and of black characters lacking agency makes me think of the first time I realized how the The Merchant of Venice ended.

It's not a play I recall reading or studying, but in the early 2000s a friend suggested we go see the movie version with Al Pacino playing Shylock. Not sure how true it was to the source material, but this is where I learned that TMoV is a handy compilation of European anti-semitic ideas, from the countless times Shylock refers to "my tribe", to the metaphor of the "pound of flesh", to Shylock's jarring - to modern ears - conversion to Christianity at the end of the trial. (Funnily enough, the "Do we not bleed?" speech I had first heard in a Mel Brooks movie as a kid shortly after we got cable in my house.)

My friend and I were sitting having a drink after watching this movie, trying to make sense of it in it's historical context. He suggested I imagine what the equivalents of censors at the Globe Theatre might of said: "Did you know there's a Jew in this play?"

We have effectively washed TMoV of it's historical value by extracting the great speech and ignoring what offends our modern sensibilities. To Kill a Mockingbird, or Huck Finn for that matter, are similarly artifacts of lost times and places, aside from their literary value. Those worlds don't exist anymore except in art and artifacts. It's a disease of the notion of "progress" that we would judge them as though they were published last week.

Read more here:
No Hands Clapping - by Jonah Goldberg - The Remnant - The Dispatch

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