Do lawyers take another hit in 'Go Set a Watchman' portrayal of Atticus Finch?
Screenshot from the film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) with Gregory Peck and Brock Peters. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Surveys of the most disliked and distrusted professionals are often led by lawyers.
Yet at the same time, one of the most loved characters of all time is attorney Atticus Finch. The American Film Institute ranked him No. 1 in a list of all-time movie heroes.
That’s why so many fans of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which the fictional Finch defends Tom Robinson because it’s the right thing to do, are distressed to learn the Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s newly published novel -- “Go Set a Watchman” -- is, well, something of a racist.
As one New York Times op-ed piece put it:
How is it possible that the fair-minded Atticus Finch of “To Kill a Mockingbird” could also be the embittered racist depicted in the newly published “Go Set a Watchman”?
Readers and fans of the book have reacted widely, from pledges not to read the new book to those who see more truth in the new depiction.
The less saintly Atticus character has caused consternation partly because so many people have been inspired to practice law (or social work or teaching) by his portrayal in the book, set in fictional Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s.
If you feel that way, don’t despair. Ultimately, the character of Atticus Finch could be redeemed through added nuance, The New York Times reports.
After the initial shock, some writers and literary critics see added value in a more complex, and flawed, version of Atticus. If “Mockingbird” sugarcoats racial divisions by depicting a white man as the model for justice in an unjust world, then “Watchman” may be like bitter medicine that more accurately reflects the times.
Not convinced? Read the first chapter for yourself here.