Scout: The Girl And The Dog

Nelle Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee's two books

Nelle Harper Lee died today. Better known as just Harper Lee, she was author of one of my favorite novels, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and also the novel I liked much less, GO SET A WATCHMAN. In fact, I agree with the critics who argue that Harper Lee possibly did not intend for it to be published, at least not as it was.

In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the character of Dill was based on author Truman Capote, Harper Lee’s close friend and author of IN COLD BLOOD.   The character of Scout was based on Harper Lee.   The character of Atticus Finch, Scout’s widowed father, the attorney who defended a black man in a controversial case, is one of my most-loved characters of all time, but only in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The Finch character in  GO SET A WATCHMAN doesn’t appear on my list of favorites.

When we adopted our puppy from the Humane Society in December, I named her Scout. That’s how much I loved the book character, the young girl with moxie, courage, curiosity and loyalty…and very little understanding of how the real world worked.   Which was pretty much a spot-on description of our puppy…then and now.

Charles Schultz, creator of PEANUTS, wrote that “Happiness is a warm puppy.” I would add that real happiness is a warm, potty-trained puppy, and we’re almost to that happiness goal. American radio and television writer Andy Rooney said, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person,” and I can say with confidence that our puppy Scout is definitely going to be a nice person. Funny, too, plus very affectionate.

In appreciation to Harper Lee and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I sincerely thank her for the character Scout.  In the book, she says that Atticus “…told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”     This is good advice in general, but also especially for writers.

Today, February 20, is LOVE YOUR PET DAY.   Dog or cat, bird or iguana, whatever your pet, this is a good day to show extra affection, share a few special treats, or make a contribution to your local animal shelter.    February 22 is WALKING THE DOG DAY.  Our Scout is still at the puppy stage, walking us, tugging the leash toward every sound, exploring everything in her path, and carrying sticks like trophies.  But sometimes, if we pause and try to see and hear the world as she does, it really is quite amazing.

So here I will close with another line by Harper Lee in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD:    “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

Our daughter Molly posing with Scout for the camera.

Our daughter Molly poses with Scout for the camera.

 

Our granddaughter Grace is a warm and helpful training partner for Scout.

Our granddaughter Grace is a warm and helpful training partner for Scout

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61 Comments

Filed under Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in February, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

61 responses to “Scout: The Girl And The Dog

  1. juliabarrett

    To Kill A Mockingbird changed my life, and that of one of my sisters. It is my all-time favorite book. I remember our father reading it to us when we were barely able to understand the words. (His favorite book as well.) I too think it’s likely that Harper Lee, had she been of sound mind, would not have allowed Go Set A Watchman to be published. Thus I refuse to read it.
    I’m glad your puppy is a love! She looks like a wonderful dog. Puppies are the best- even Jake wants his own puppy. He’s partial to French bulldog puppies. I shall love him today!

    • I did start to read GO SET A WATCHMAN, Julia, but then I stopped. There is no Scout, only adult Jean Louise, and I didn’t even especially care for her as she side-stepped issues. I believe that WATCHMAN was a first novel, a practice. MOCKINGBIRD was the real, true thing.
      Scout found the tail and hindquarter of a squirrel today, and we had quite a time trading a treat to get it away from her. I wish she’d want something cute like her own puppy, but right now I think she wants a squirrel. 😉

  2. It’s a shame Harper Lee didn’t get round to editing Go Set A Watchman ready for publishing. It’s quite likely that she’d have rounded off, and warmed up her characters to match those of Mockingbird unless of course the characters had changed their natures because of some event after Mockingbird which ,if so, hasn’t been explained properly. I’m quite sure the publishers went ahead with it without getting a release from Harper Lee, at least a Harper Lee who knew what she was doing.
    Scout with Molly looks quite alert though curious about what’s going on. She’s very pretty.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Actually, she wrote WATCHMAN years before she wrote MOCKINGBIRD, David, which makes me believe–or want to believe–that it was her warm-up, practice novel that she put aside, and then she wrote MOCKINGBIRD.
      The beloved, inspiring Atticus in WATCHMEN is a very different, dark, bigoted man from MOCKINGBIRD, at least in my opinion, but the agent and publishers brought it out and published it, and Harper Lee wasn’t aware enough to fight it.
      Massive Hugs to you, David! ❤

  3. I agree with David. I cannot believe that Harper Lee agreed to Watchman being published in that form. I was disappointed in the book but your Scout is adorable. I hope you have many many happy Yeats of Puppy Love

  4. I think so many people have been inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird. My younger daughter posted this Harper Lee quotation yesterday: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

    In the NY Times article, it mentioned other book projects that Lee had started, but never finished, including a true-crime type of book, in the fashion of In Cold Blood, for which she did much of the work. She also mentioned wanting to write several novels that would cover small town Southern life. It’s a shame she never did these things, but what a masterpiece she left with To Kill a Mockingbird. (One of the few books to actually have a great movie version, too. I will forever picture Atticus as Gregory Peck.)

    Your Scout looks a sweet dog. My sister had a cat she named Jem for Scout’s brother.

    • Years ago, I read an interview with Truman Capote, and he mentioned that he had tried to talk his buddy, Harper Lee, into trying to write a true-crime book, but then he decided she cared more about crimes of the heart and soul than the body. Thank you daughter for me for the quote; I’d not read that one, but it’s excellent!
      My dog Scout; your sister’s cat Jem; a friend’s hamster Boo Radley; and several years ago Atticus was one of the popular baby names for both males and females. So many characters’ names from the book. So many of us love this book, Merril. 🙂

  5. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird or watched the movie, but it’s a favorite of mine.
    Oh, Scout looks like such a sweetheart…that face! I’m with you, Marylin, a warm, potty-trained puppy is the best!

    • Absolutely, Jill. Those spots on the carpet dull some of the puppy cuteness, but Scout’s doing much better now. Plus, she’s already a much-loved member of our family, so it’s a done deal! 😉

  6. What a beautiful tribute to Harper Lee Marylin. How wonderful you named your puppy after Scout. I imagine many of us have named our pets after beloved movie or book characters.
    I’m sure you are enjoying Scout as much as we enjoy our lab Jordan. She is a member of our family. I love the picture of your daughter.
    Blessings, Joanne

    • Oh, Joanne, just between us, were there times when your Jordan gave you a mischievous look and then peed on the floor, or is it just our puppy Scout who plays that charming game with us? ;(
      But you’re right; she is a member of our family already, and we love her!

      • Of course she peed on the floor! But she was eager to please and the chewing and peeing ended fairly quickly. I have had dogs that needed more time for training so you have my sympathy!

      • I think you’re right, Joanne. And actually, she’s doing better every day, so we’re hopeful! 🙂
        And I’m guessing that you’re cuddling Penelope as much as possible. It won’t be long before she’s pulling on Jordan’s ears and trying to play.

  7. Who doesn’t love a puppy – so irresistible! I am happy to hear you are making strides in training Scout. Your line is priceless: “I can say with confidence that our puppy Scout is definitely going to be a nice person.”

    About To Kill a Mockingbird: Though I have taught the book in my classes and knew that Scout was modeled on the author, I had no idea of the connection between Truman Capote and Dill. I always feel smarter when I read your posts, Marylin! You photos too warm the cockles of my heart.

    • Aw, thank you, Marian. I studied IN COLD BLOOD in a non-fiction writing class, as a superb example of nonfiction written in fiction story form. I was dating a guy who had lived only a few miles from the Clutter family farm (where the family was killed in cold blood). Then when I learned little boy character Dill was actually Truman Capote–and Harper Lee’s good friend–it made me hungry to learn more.
      In graduate school I was on a Trivial Pursuit team for a Right To Read Fundraiser, and I was the only one who could answer all the questions that came from both authors’ lives…and I felt like a rock star! 😉

  8. Diana Stevan

    Scout’s a beauty, Marylin. I haven’t read Harper Lee’s second book because I didn’t want to mess with my first impression of Atticus Finch. I read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was a teen and was so taken with the story and how courageous Atticus Finch was, standing up for what was right in a climate of hate and racism.

    Enjoy your puppy. And love the quote from the novel. So apt.

    • That was my feeling, too, Diana. I started WATCHMAN but stopped because it was ruining my feelings for Atticus. If you cross Atticus Finch (from MOCKINGBIRD) and Henry David Thoreau, you have my perfect man…with many of the qualities I love most in my husband Jim!
      As for our puppy Scout, she is a handful, but we love her. 🙂

  9. Gregory Peck playing Atticus will stay forever in my memory . I was a young girl in Germany and it wasn’t until much later that I was able to read the book in English.
    Have fun with your puppy , he has a good home.

    • Gerlinde, I think Gregory Peck’s finest role was playing Atticus Finch, and he convinced entire generations of young women that good, decent men who did what had to be done–and with integrity and courage and kindness–were actually also very sexy, desirable men. Peck was perfectly cast as Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which is why, when I began reading GO SET A WATCHMAN, I put away the book before it ruined Atticus for me.

  10. Great post Marylin and a wonderful tribute to Harper Lee. Did you happen to read “I am Scout” by Charles Shields? Shields went into the relationship between Harper Lee and Capote. Enjoy your pup today! Our Daisy had to have minor surgery Thursday so she is being nurtured and loved to the extreme today. Have a fabulous week!

    • Don’t tell our puppy Scout, but she is being “fixed” in two weeks, Robyn. And bless her heart, she doesn’t even realize she’s “broken.” 😉 She’s happy-go-lucky, without even a hint of what’s to come.
      You have a fabulous week, too, Robyn. I keep thinking about your photography and narrative poem about the person sitting alone in a church pew. You have an amazing gift.

  11. Oh your Scout is gorgeous! This is one of my favourite books of all time too and I very recently re-read it. I haven’t read the new one yet – I’m not sure I want to, because I adore the first so much.

    • Just between us, Andrea, my advice is to re-read and enjoy MOCKINGBIRD again, and don’t blur it by reading WATCHMAN. I don’t think you’d adore either Atticus or adult Scout in WATCHMAN.
      But I’m glad you think our puppy Scout is gorgeous, which is what we think, too. Humane Society pups often have this special charm. 🙂

  12. Scout is the perfect name for your puppy! I think it is great to name a pet after a well loved character. One friend has a cat called Daisy Buchanan another has a cat named Scarlet O’Hara. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman and probably won’t. RIP Harper Lee, one of the greats.

    • Aw, Daisy and Scarlet? I love it, Darlene. I had a student who named her iguana Gatsby, and her parrot F.Scott Fitzgerald! This is so much fun. I’m not sure I’d want a cat to be fickle and self-absorbed like Daisy Buchanan, but I really do hope our puppy Scout will have the strong and good qualities of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. 🙂

      • Actually Daisy is fickle and self absorbed as Scarlet was headstrong and determined! Funny how they tend to match their names!! An iguana named Gatsby is great! Another friend had a black cat named Chopin. He was very introverted and clever.

  13. To Kill A Mockingbird has been on our GCSE syllabus for years. Consequently, I have read it countless times. It’s a wonderful book and one that stays long in the memory. I have no inclination to read the other one – it seemed a lot of sensational hype, taking advantage of Harper Lee in her dwindling years. Had she wanted to publish, surely she would have done years ago. Like you, I think she wrote it as a practise.
    Sad to say, Mockingbird has, this year, been removed from the curriculum to make way for something more ‘British.’

    • I’m sorry MOCKINGBIRD has been removed from your curriculum, Jenny, but I’m glad it was replaced by something British and not GO SET A WATCHMAN. I read an article last night that suggests Harper Lee’s agent or business manager did this more for profit, and since Harper Lee was in nursing care, she likely didn’t realize what was happening.

  14. I have informed my little Jack that I love him. Tomorrow he will have a walk. 🙂 He says thank you for letting his Mum know of these two important days. Scout looks adorable and supremely hugable. I also decided not to read Go Set a Watchman.

  15. Nancy Gibbs

    What cuties…Molly and Scout.

  16. Molly

    I think it’s very interesting that when we got Carson it was just before Johnny Carson did his last show. Then when you got Scout, it was shortly before Harper Lee passed. These dogs keep memories of people alive!

    Scout has definitely “matured” since the last time we saw her, but she is still a fun puppy to play with!! I am so glad she is taking good care of you and Dad!

    • And Carson had a literary connection in addition to Johnny Carson and Fort Carson, the Army base where we bought her: Carson McCullers. 🙂
      But Scout is just for Harper Lee, which is enough.
      And now to watch Grace bonding with Scout–this is so much fun, Molly–just another addition to our wonderful family! Love You Lots, Mookie! ❤

  17. Yesterday at a writer’s conference, a member mentioned Boo and began to cry because she loved the character so much. What power authors have! To move people not just for the moment but for a lifetime! I’d like to write successful, big lit…but I will accept those random lines that move people to any fraction of an Aha Moment! Your Scout is so cute!!!!

    • Thanks, Claudia. We think she’s darling, and like your Biscuit, Scout is a part of our family.
      The power to move people for a moment…and for a lifetime. You’re so right, Claudia, and Harper Lee’s book did that for so many of us.

  18. Great quote.:)
    There did seem to be much controversy surrounding that second book.

  19. Marylin … I bought “To Set a Watchman” when it first came out, but I haven’t read it. Once I heard how Atticus’ character was changed, I lost interest. I agree that this was probably the book Harper Lee first wrote and her publicist advised her to tell the story from Scout’s point of view. A wise decision.
    “To Kill a Mockingbird” – the book and the moview – were so powerful, creating a character (Atticus) that many of us want to emulate.
    His advice to Scout is still so true today: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
    Your little Scout is a real cutie. He already displays the curiousity and adventure of his namesake. 😉

    • And the book Scout innocently got into so many scrapes and problems, just like our puppy Scout, too, Judy. Maybe that’s part of the reason I named our puppy Scout. 😉
      If you ever do decide to read WATCHMAN, I’d be interested in knowing if you end up appreciating it.
      I won’t tell you the things that bothered me even very early on with Atticus, the aunt and Jean Louise (adult Scout) but a friend who read WATCHMAN for her book group said she liked it a lot once she just pretended it was not based on MOCKINGBIRD but was a new story on characters she’d never met.

  20. Jim

    You did good, sweetie. You picked a great puppy and her name does fit her quite well. My impression of our Scout so far is a spunky little person who is smart and agile, always wanting us to engage her with games or training. Her favorite word so far is “cuddle” whereupon she showers us with affection. I love your pictures of Scout with Molly and Grace–great buddies already! I might add that I watched Gannon bonding with Scout the other day as he was working with her on the difference between an affectionate nibble and an ‘OUCH’ bite. Good job, Ganno–important lesson!

  21. We were spoiled by Maggie and her immediate “perfectness” in everything. But she was more than a year old when we adopted her, honey, and you and Maggie worked so well together from the very beginning.
    By the time puppy Scout is a year old, I’m guessing she will be a wonderful, predictable companion, too, and still quirky and funny and cute. The rest of our family truly loved Maggie for more than a dozen years, and now they’ve opened their hearts and lives to Scout, too. Ah the joys of the dogs (and one cat, Munchkin) that are members of our family!

  22. Nancy Parker Brummett

    I agree with your assessment of Go Set a Watchman, Marylin. The writing style is different enough to make me suspicious about the authenticity. Love seeing Scout and your girls. What a great dog…with a lot of potential!

  23. I got that feeling about the writing style, too, Nancy. And Harper Lee was already in nursing care when this all happened, so I just set the book aside.
    Scout’s “potential” is blossoming, just in time for her surgery to “get fixed” in early March, and the poor puppy doesn’t even known “she’s broken.” 😉
    It might slow down her progress…

  24. It’s such a shame that Go Set a Watchman was ever published. I won’t be reading it. I knew about To Kill a Mockingbird as a film, watching it when quite young, and then reading it years later. An incredible story. Your Scout is so adorable, and yay for potty training! A big relief that! Such lovely photos of your beautiful daughter and granddaughter. I love Harper Lee’s quotes. And I think every day in our house is Love Your Pet Day the way they’re treated, ha! Lovely post dear Marylin. I hope you and Scout have a wonderful week ahead 🙂 xo

    • Thank you, Sherri. Scout is on her 5th day of no accidents, and we’re all applauding, giving her hugs and treats. Bless her heart, she gets “fixed” next week, and she doesn’t even know she’s broken. 😉
      I did start reading WATCHMAN but just couldn’t continue. Scout was replaced by adult Jean Marie Finch, Atticus was an irritating, self-centered bigot, and Jem was gone. I couldn’t keep reading, so I went back to to treasuring TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and ignoring WATCHMAN.

  25. Marylin, thank you for sharing how you can to name Scout. I always love your personal stories and family photos. Today, my favorite is Scout and Molly. Such an adorable pair. 🙂 And it looks like I missed love your pet day on the 20th and walk the dog day yesterday. Oh my, where does the time go? If you have an answer, let me know. Hugs.

  26. I love Scout and your pictures…your ‘girls’ smiling happy faces and the adorable Scout. Your love for Harper Lee and Atticus. All the heart cares about is how we love and the love in your family flows from your words. ❤

    • Scout, the character, kept me thinking and on my toes, Jane. Scout, the puppy, is always two steps ahead of me and finding new things to get into. 😉 This also keeps us thinking and stumbling around on our toes, so both Scouts are good for us.

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