My complicated relationship with Atticus Finch

First, let me say this: I doubt I will read Go Set A Watchman. I have loved the Finch family for my whole life and I don’t want to muck it up now with a rough draft, avarice, and reality. That being said, if Calpurnia and Mrs. Robinson want to meet up to kick Atticus in his newly updated racist rear end, I am in.

I grew up in a racist white milieu on my father’s side. He was not racist himself–at all. My grandparents were. When my father was young he was puzzled by the cultural inequities carefully meted out to African-Americans in his hometown outside Houston. My father had his share of human weakness, but prejudice wasn’t one of them.

And up until a couple days ago, I thought Atticus shared this equanimity. To find that he might have evolved into a racist old coot is a shock indeed. So much so that I am opting to not to read about this new guy. I know enough about foolish old white men afraid of an evolving culture. Now that I am an adult I have already reconciled the “real Atticus” to my childhood need for heroes.

The real Atticus wasn’t always a great listener.

The real Atticus had no road map for incest survivors.

Over the years of my adulthood I have puzzled over the characters and symbols of TKAM. Tom Robinson had to be both ultimately blameless and crippled? Mayella had to be a lying incest survivor? Even great works of fiction can be flawed by our desire for good guys, bad guys, and easy resolutions. We love to have our moral compass clearly delineated. But most men, like Atticus Finch, have moral failures as well as triumphs.

Meanwhile we all know the real truth–Calpurnia is the real hero. Always has been.

Advertisements