Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved and well-known book characters in all of American literature.
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-winning 1960 novel is told by 6-year-old Scout Finch, Atticus’ daughter, about Tom Robinson’s trial, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Atticus is Robinson’s attorney and he is portrayed as a just man in the first book.
However, in Lee’s soon-to-be-released follow-up book, Go Set A Watchman, Atticus is portrayed as a sick old man who is racist and even once attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting.
Go Set a Watchman takes place 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird and it describes a visit that Scout makes back home.
Scout, or Jean Louise, is now 26 years old and has been living in New York City. Her brother, Jem, has died from a heart attack, and Atticus is 72 years old.
In the follow-up book, Atticus asks questions like “do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”And like Jean Louise, I will struggle to reconcile my view of Atticus as a paragon of virtue with the character in this new book. I am anxious to find out why Lee has drastically altered his character because it was the foundation of the first book. In a time and age where race is constantly questioned and redefined, I am hoping to arrive at a resolution by the end of the new book. Otherwise, I might sadly declare that Lee should have left us with To Kill A Mockingbird and nothing else.