Okay, so I’ve heard all sorts of stuff about Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s “first novel” that didn’t wow publishers at the time but the next book, To Kill a Mockingbird, came out in 1960 and has been considered one of the great American novels of the 20th century.
The deluge of reactions to Watchman seem to be “Atticus Finch is a Racist” which appears to be the exact opposite of the man we meet in Mockingbird. It’s shocking. It’s almost libel.
There’s enough about the book and how it may be exploiting Lee, and that it was never meant to be published once it was shelved, to make me not want to read it. The stuff about Atticus being a member of the KKK is also hard to swallow. I’m probably going to decide that Watchman is in the same class as Highlander 2 and The Phantom Menace: a sequel that doesn’t really exist in a sane an rational world.
I maintain, however, that America needs Atticus Finch from Mockingbird. We need that good man who reacts to his own sense of justice. At every turn, he takes the higher road (as my memory of Mockingbird tells me). Several years ago the American Film Institute ran a special about the greatest heroes and villains of the movies. Best Villain: Darth Vader. Best Hero: Atticus Finch.
I have not heard anyone attempt to reconcile the Atticus of Mockingbird to the Atticus of Watchman, but one theory my sciolism can manage is this: Mockingbird recounted the story from a child’s POV and the natural hero-worship of a parent. Watchman apparently deals with Jean Louise’s disillusionment about her father. Thus, Atticus from Mockingbird is not the real Atticus Finch Lee was writing about all along.
Even if this were true, which I doubt, I still say we need Atticus Finch as described in Mockingbird, even if he is pushed more into mythological bounds by rose-colored youth. We need the man’s advice and wisdom and temperament.
As we enter yet another election cycle where war-monger Lindsey Graham is looking like the closest thing to a reasonable human being the Republicans can get, imagine an election where civility reigned. Imagine people who stood up for good things and explained without vitriol what they want to bring to the table.
Instead we have attention-seeking assholes like Donald Trump trying to buy publicity through our election cycle.
I’ll take Atticus Finch any day.