Your Opinion About Atticus Finch Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad

Look. Look, I have not been an English major for a whole year and a half/ I have not taken any kind of literature class since May of 2014. I have nothing but emotions and a love of literature and I have read To Kill A Mockingbird six times and frankly I think that makes me qualified to be right about everything, always.

Your opinion about Atticus Finch is wrong.

Let me make this clear: I do not care what Harper Lee thinks. I do not care what Harper Lee’s intention was in releasing Go Set A Watchman, if she indeed did have an intention, and was not, as some have suggested, pressured into it or unaware of the decisions she was making. I do not care what Harper Lee believes about Atticus as a character, or her father as a person, or the South, or racism, or anything. The author is dead. The text is not in Heaven. My opinion about Atticus Finch is right.

Here are opinions people have been having about the new Harper Lee book, where Atticus is racist:

  • Atticus Finch was a white Southerner living in the Jim Crow rural South. His character needs to be seen as part of that environment. Trying to force our 21st-century values on him is a ridiculous way to read the text.
  • This makes Atticus more realistic and interesting.
  • This isn’t out-of-character at all! Atticus is a lawyer, he defends people regardless of their race, he can be super super racist and defend a black man.
  • I’m glad that we get to see the real Atticus now, not the false version seen through young Scout’s eyes.

These opinions are bad and they should feel bad about themselves:

  • Anti-racism is not a modern value or a new idea.
  • I wanna repeat that bullet point because Jesus Christ. The idea that racism is bad is not new. It was around when Harper Lee wrote the damn book back in 1960. It was around before that, for God’s sake, when the Supreme Court decided that it was a bad thing to let schools discriminate on the basis of race. It was around before that, when Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells and Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison and Langston Hughes were writing. It was around before that, when people protested the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the poor treatment of immigrants, and goddamn slavery. It was around in 1492 when the first Taino wrapped her head around the idea that this asshole with a gun was shooting her family and forcing her into slavery because he didn’t like the color of her skin.
  • Anti-racism has been a value that literally everyone except dominant races have held since forever.
  • Also, if you are writing about the rural South in the 1930s, racism is not an interesting character flaw.
  • It is right up there with “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.
  • Holding an anti-racist position is an interesting character trait. Holding a racist one is not. It’s not! Racism is incredibly common! When everyone is a terrible person, goodness is interesting!
  • Goodness is actually interesting literally all the time, but we’re not getting into that right now.
  • This is unbelievably out of character. Atticus emphatically behaves unusually with regards to Tom Robinson – he refuses to say the n-word, he defends him properly and with energy and real work when no other citizen of the town would, he says, emphatically, that it is not okay to hate anybody.
  • Yes, this is liberal individualistic half-assed anti-racism. This doesn’t really address the systematic inequality that means Calpurnia is their servant, or that Tom Robinson was in the position he was in the first place. But it is still out of character for him to have attended goddamn Klan meetings.
  • (Side note: Klan meetings??????)
  • Racist!Atticus is not the real Atticus. He is not the actual Atticus that has been kept hidden from us all these years. He is a fictional character. His TKAM self is just as real and honest and valid and true as his racist self.
  • Your opinion is bad and you should feel bad.

Final thoughts:


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