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Atticus Finch: The Perfectly, Imperfect Human...

I've read To Kill a Mockingbird more times than I can remember. I've seen the movie more times than I can count.

I haven't read Go Set a Watchman, yet---but, I will next week when I pick my copy up.

So, this post isn't a review for Go Set a Watchman, it's merely an observation and a superficial character analysis of a currently much talked about figure---I'll most likely update this post or draft another one after reading GSAW. But, I kinda have to get this out of my system before I read it.


From what I understand, TKAM is really just a nugget of the original manuscript, GSAW---that in TKAM we were presented with Scout's childhood in full view, instead of in flashback sequences interspersed with Jean Louise's adult life and the relationship with her aging father--- as the ORIGINAL manuscript intended.

So, what we were presented with 50 years ago, was really only HALF of the story. We got half of Scout/Jean Louise. Annnnnd, we got half of Atticus.

The current critic reviews that have been blasted all over social media claim that GSAW depicts Atticus as a Jim Crow-supporting racist. Again, I've not read the, I'm not going to say that Atticus isn't a Jim Crow-supporting racist.

What I'm going to say is that it is very possible that the Atticus from TKAM was also a Jim Crow-supporting racist. BUT, because the focus of that story was about securing justice for the wrongfully accused, it's possible we weren't presented with the true picture of Atticus Finch. Again, TKAM was only HALF of the story.

Though Atticus Finch is an idealized fictional character, what he represents is a human. A very flawed human. Like every other flawed human on this planet.

Racism is ugly---and it was very clearly presented in TKAM, from most everyone except Atticus. Thing is, TKAM was from Scout's point of view, so what Atticus was thinking was actually kept from us as readers. We saw the story from the eyes of a child who loved her father dearly---and who would have been blind to any and all of his faults until she grew enough to recognize them for what they were.

So, we didn't see Atticus the racist in TKAM. We saw Atticus the hero. We saw Atticus the champion of justice who turned racial prejudice on its head when a man of color was very obviously being railroaded because he was conveniently black in a time where it was still okay to define guilt by shades of skin tone.

We didn't see racial prejudice from Atticus because Scout didn't see racial prejudice.

And, it isn't until she grows up that she is perhaps now aware that her father was indeed, racially prejudiced all along. (Again, I'm assuming this is how it is meant to be presented in GSAW from reviews I've read).

Do I agree with the critic claims that Atticus is racist---not having read the book, I don't know. Probably. Whether it is a product of the times, or just because he's supposed to represent the average, flawed man, I don't know.

Do I agree with racism? discriminaton? prejudice? Absolutely not.
Do I think we will ever be free of them? Absolutely not.

It isn't possible to rid the world of racism/discrimination/prejudice. It's hardwired into our DNA to latch on to differences, to fear differences. There is NO WAY to change the mindset of a species that continues to exist because they protect themselves from differences as a defense mechanism.

That being said, it IS possible to adjust how we interact with one another. And, I think this---more than anything else---is what TKAM captured so beautifully...especially now that the other half of the story is out there.

Racism/Prejudice/Discrimination/Bigotry will always exist. But, the bigoted beliefs we all hold, shouldn't dictate our actions toward other people. Well, okay, maybe that isn't the best way to put it----- what I mean is, it's possible to treat someone fairly, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, regardless of whether or not you even like them. It's possible to defend them in court for something they didn't do, and work for their freedom in the face of how you were raised, even if you would never invite them into your house because you don't agree/like who/what they are.

It's possible to dislike a sect of the population, or in fact, an entire race of people and still have the moral principles that will allow you to defend/protect them if something is wrong.

Maybe this is the biggest problem that critics are having with GSAW---their idolized perfect human was flawed afterall---- and maybe they were just shocked to see that it is possible to have prejudices  AND the ability to treat people fairly regardless of those prejudices.

Am I defending Atticus Finch the racist? No.
Am I defending Atticus Finch the human? Yes.

Because that's what this all boils down to. We're all perfectly, imperfect humans. It's the biggest excuse and the most touted fact out there for why we do whatever it is that we do----- "I'm only human. I've made mistakes... Don't judge me, I'm only human."

We will never fully be free of prejudices---whether it's concerning race/religion/sexual orientation/sex/disability---everything in our lives is clouded with the experiences that have shaped us, by the problems we've endured, by the blame we assign to something as arbitrary as skin color, as someone's creed, as the person someone chooses to love.

So, yes. I'm sure Atticus Finch is a bigot---to varying degrees we all are. And, yes. Atticus Finch is meant to represent a flawed human----as we all are.

Will my views on Atticus change after I read GSAW? I don't know. Possibly. Probably. But, maybe not.

He's still Atticus Finch. And, whether I agree with the other half of his character or not, whether I'm shocked by the other side of his character or not, whether I'm appalled by the other half of his character or doesn't change the fact that he is what he is supposed to be----perfectly, imperfect.


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