Why Atticus Finch Becoming a Racist Is Actually the Greatest Thing To Happen to American Literature in a Decade

The world is a heartbreaking place...

Why Atticus Finch Becoming a Racist Is Actually the Greatest Thing To Happen to American Literature in a Decade

I'm sure many of you have heard that in Harper Lee's new novel being released tomorrow that Atticus Finch, hero of the book we were all forced to read, To Kill A Mockingbird, where he brilliantly defended a black man, is now going to be portrayed as a biggoted racist and segregationist. At first I was shocked and dimsayed and thought poorly of Harper Lee for wanting to release this. Then I realized, this is not only the perfect way of keeping conversations about race on the literary table, but also brilliantly showing a complex character who is very human.

Racism and its place in the literary world is not in the realm of this site, so I'll move on to how Atticus Finch actually being a racist (or becoming more of a racist as he aged) revals a complex portrait about all of us. I can have flawed views and still do good. I can have good views and still choose to act in flawed ways. The world isn't as cookie cutter as good vs. evil and it's this belief that it is so easy to understand that makes us dissapointed in life when it comes to dating, romance, relationships and sex.

We can use Atticus Finch as a metaphor for the dissapointment we've all experienced when it comes to people we have fallen in love with or family members who we've trusted, but have hurt us or done horrible things to others which we disagree with. To now hate Atticus Finch doesns't do justice to the incredible things he achieved in To Kill A Mockingbird. To continue to love Atticus Finch in the same way doesn't serve the man he has become in the new novel (at least according to all the information Harper Lee has confirmed about it.)

People are extremely complex and they're motivated by much more nuanced things than a desire to do good and punish evil. More importantly, an adult needs to be capable of handling the moral complexities he or she will face in the real world. You need to be able to handle that Atticus Finch is a racist. You need to not dismiss him for it. You need to try to understand him. You don't need to like him, but you need to accept him for what he is and not what you would like him to be. Of course, he's just a character, but it's so often that the characters we read about influence us to create judgements of real people that we meet. The problem is that characters are so often made to be perfect according to our own values. Atticus Finch being a racist and a hero are two very contradictory things that challenge us as readers. Perhaps, it will help us try to understand real people with such contradictions.

To conclude, I think everyone who read To Kill A Mockingbird should read Go Set A Watchman with this in mind: What makes the character of Atticus Finch is not White, Southerner, Educated...these mean nothing in terms of how we connect to him. What matter is what does the character want, what does the character need, and what stands in the characters way. I think if we looked at each other especially in our relationships based on what we want, need, and our obstacles we would understand one another better and understanding would bring more peace although it may not actually get us to like one another any better.

You need to give up your Disney interpretation of a knight in shining armor. The world is a heartbreaking place...


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What Girls Said 1

  • Hang on, Harper Lee is bringing out a second book? ! What? Why now? How random!

    I look forward to reading it - I really enjoy seeing other sides to characters, in any situation or setting. Seeing a side to someone previously unknown - seeing how the world has changed Atticus.

    But good doing bad is something I'm very interested in. Do the merits of a bad ma n count? Interesting stuff. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

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What Guys Said 4

  • Why is it that "conversations about race" solely involve black people saying they are victims and can't succeed because of white people? Let's look at some trends in "conversation about race."

    Hell. How many people know who Omar Thorton is? A black guy who in 2010, murdered 8 white coworkers in a workplace shooting. He only murdered whites.
    No one gives a damn.

    In 2015, a white guy murdered eight blacks in a church shooting.
    s.yimg.com/.../2yffwf.jpg
    Take the confederate flag down from state capitals! Sand Stone Mountain! White terrorism!

    A hispanic guy named Georgia Zimmerman kills a black guy named Trayvon... RACISM! WHITES ARE EVIL! RIOTS! JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON!

    The Wichita Massacre. Two black guys go on a crime spree and murder five whites.
    No one gives a shit.

    Some rich sports owner is recorded in a private conversation making "racist" comments about the black guys his private whore also sleeps with.
    RACISM! FRONT PAGE NEWS!

    Blacks go on rampages targeting whites and shouting "It's beat whitey night!" At the De Moines and Wisconsin State fairs.
    No one gives a damn.

    Keep saying how we "need to have a conversation about race." You might not like what white people learn.

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    • This feels like borderline spam. Did I say we need to have a conversation about race in this take? All I said is that the world is complicated and sometimes our heroes and racist/ not perfect...

    • "Then I realized, this is not only the perfect way of keeping conversations about race on the literary table..."

    • oh true... I didn't really dwell on it, though. Fair enough.

  • You, like many others, unfortunately do not know the real story and why this book was published...

    You see this book was Harper less original draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. However the publishers thought that it would be better to change it up a little. Now Harper led, in the end, completely agreed with them and though the book was much better after the edits were completed and the story almost completely rewritten.
    When Harper lee became the huge success that she is today many people wanted to publish her original book. However she said time and time again that she had done what she wanted to do and that she DID NOT want the book to be published.
    However, now that Harper Lee is old and has no real sense of what is going on she can no longer control the greed of the publishers and her family that want to greatly extend their wealth. So what did they do, they published the book even though it's own writer never meant or wanted it to be published.

    Kind of sucks when you think about it. That greed and wantingness for wealth is what launched the second book despite the witches of its author...

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    • That's not what I've been reading. In any case, the book is what it is. If it takes place sequential after To Kill A Mockingbird, it's effectively a sequel and can be taken as such. That is a very interesting story, which I do not doubt to be true, however, I still think the Take can stand since it's being viewed as a sequel...

    • Just as long as you know that you are benefiting and helping out the ruthlessly greedy of our society.

  • Is this an actual sequel or is this like a different universe where he's just a racist?

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    • That was my first question, but yes it's the same timeline, same story. Apparently, he cared more about the law than anything else, but still hated black people all the while.

    • Well no, it isn't a sequel. This was the original book. However Harper Lee ended up rewriting the story line at the request of the editors. In essence it is a completely different book.

  • Sweet picture !

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