Since the release of Harper Lee’s “sequel” Go Set A Watchman, many are disillusioned to learn that Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill A Mockingbird, turned out to be a typical bigot in the Deep South. However, when one examines this revelation more closely, one can appreciate the intrigue and complexity of Atticus Finch’s character.
Namely, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus was so principled in the pursuit of justice that he set aside his own racism in order to defend an African-American man wrongly accused of a heinous crime.
It should be noted that at no time did Atticus speak of the need for racial equality, but rather the danger to a civil society of making wrong assum-ptions and false accusations.
Although he failed to convince the all-white jury that the case against Tom Robinson was patently absurd, Atticus nevertheless risked danger to himself and his family in the pursuit of defending an innocent man. Although he wrongly believed that African-Americans were not his equal, he did not shirk his responsibility and moral obligation to defend a wrongly accused African-American. That is not something a typical bigot would do. For that, readers should not simply dis-miss Atticus as just another typical bigot.
UVic Alumnus, class of 1990