Atticus Finch is ‘Inspiration and a Warning,’ Writes David Reynolds

Distinguished Professor David S. Reynolds (English) published an essay this week exploring the meaning of the iconic character Atticus Finch, as portrayed in the recently released novel by Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman.
Reynolds’s essay — “Atticus Finch, Representative American,” which appeared on the Huffington Post — questions whether the new book has destroyed the reputation of a “beloved icon of civil rights.”
In Watchman, Finch is shown to be racist, a sharp contrast to how he was characterized in Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
However, Finch shares many similarities with other early champions of civil rights, such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Walt Whitman, who also held contradictory stances on race, Reynolds argues.
“Such inconsistencies, however disturbing, do not justify a wholesale rejection of our iconic Americans,” Reynolds wrote. “Atticus, like these figures, is now valuable as both an inspiration and a warning … Even America's most admirable people were products of their respective cultures. We can learn from their repugnant moments, just as the older Atticus can serve as an example not to follow.”

Submitted on: JUL 23, 2015

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