July 10, 2015

Atticus, Life, Complicated


We remember Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's 1960 classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird," as that novel's moral conscience: kind, wise, honorable, an avatar of integrity who used his gifts as a lawyer to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town filled with prejudice and hatred in the 1930s. As indelibly played by Gregory Peck in the 1962 movie, he was the perfect man -- the ideal father and a principled idealist, an enlightened, almost saintly believer in justice and fairness. In real life, people named their children after Atticus. People went to law school and became lawyers because of Atticus.

Shockingly, in Ms. Lee's long-awaited novel, "Go Set a Watchman" (due out Tuesday), Atticus is a racist who once attended a Klan meeting [emphasis added]

It would be more complicated still if the Atticus in either book were an actual person, or even the same one. Or if they're even in the same universe. Because I'm pretty sure publishing a novel written first, but set much later, fifty years after the first, I mean, second, has altered the space-time continuum in ways we can't even begin to understand.

Review: Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman give Atticus Finch a Dark Side [nyt]
a couple of days later update: insightful NYT reviewer finds Atticus complicated

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