To Kill Atticus Finch by Harper Lee


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Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Getty images.

Forget To Kill a Mockingbird and its morality slogans. If you’ve never read the book and you are just discovering its existence now, don’t fall for Atticus Finch. Don’t be swayed by his good deeds or any of his teachings. Don’t memorize his quotes. It’s a trap. Atticus will break your heart.

Atticus Finch as we’ve always known him is dead, killed by the very hands that created him. In Go Set the Watchman, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee reveals that Finch, after all was no role model, just a terribly flawed human being – a racist. The virtuous Atticus Finch, the defender of the oppressed and supporter of civil rights has been tarnished into a villain.

We’ve put this man on a pedestal for years. We’ve taught our children about him (it doesn’t even matter that I don’t have a kid right now. When you rant, it’s a collective thing.), some of us have learnt about him in our Literature class.

Oh, Harper Lee, what have you done to us? Atticus Finch wasn’t just a fictional character to be squeezed in between your sequels of Fifty Shades of Grey. Atticus was a character to wear proudly, to quote in social gatherings just to appear smarter than you are.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been referenced in pop culture so many times than I can count because of what Atticus stood for.

He was the benchmark of society’s moral codes, the man whose teachings, you could constantly borrow from.

He is the man every lawyer tried to live up to, and sometimes came short because of the high standards he set.

Women like Jennifer Love Hewitt have named their children after this man.

Jake Gyllenhaal must be burying his head in the sand now for naming his German shepherd Atticus Finch.

Which begs the question, how do we take it all back?

As both a writer and audience I am impressed and mad at Harper Lee. Impressed that she could fool a whole generation, she let us leave this lie, watching us from her point of scrutiny, saying to herself, “Look at them, they don’t know what’s coming.”

Sad, that she has shredded our hero into pieces. She has stripped us of half a century of moral teachings. And most importantly, she has killed our belief in Atticus Finch.

The complex of a writer, that’s what I call it, and Lee is one hell of a complex writer to shock us all like this.

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About sensoria300

I harness words, I thrive on them. I tell stories. I am dreamer, sometimes a poet but mostly I am a Game of Thrones fanatic. Lady Olenna, Lyanna Mormont and Arya Stark are my spirit animals.

Posted on July 15, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. “As both a writer and audience I am impressed and mad at Harper Lee… Sad, that she has shredded our hero into pieces. She has stripped us of half a century of moral teachings. And most importantly, she has killed our belief in Atticus Finch.”

    I share your disappointment and anger over Go Set a Watchman. However, if we see it for what it probably really is–an early draft and NOT a sequel–then the real Atticus is who he was in To Kill a Mockingbird (Max at Litigation and Trial makes this point: http://www.litigationandtrial.com/2015/07/articles/attorney/go-set-a-watchman-atticus-finch/).

    I don’t blame Harper Lee for releasing Watchman. I blame her lawyer, Tonja Carter, who has likely done this against Lee’s wishes (I discuss this in depth on my blog).

    • I have read your piece “On Killing Our Heroes: Atticus Finch and Harper Lee.” I didn’t know that Lee didn’t approve the release of Watchman, which makes it even sadder that HarperCollins and her lawyer would do this to her. To learn that it’s even an earlier draft only means that Lee was still trying to conceptualize Atticus, how she wanted to portray him to society. Thank God, she settled on Atticus, the man who defended Tom Robinson. But I think whether we choose to read Watchman or not, the contents therein will impact us all. Society might never look at Atticus the same way again.

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