In Defense of Atticus

IMG_4815I started this week with the goal to finally get some career-focused reading done as well as some items checked off the old to-do list. Then this happened and clearly my priorities shifted. This is the first book I’ve bought on its release date since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Here are my first thoughts about it, originally posted on Goodreads.

Contains Spoilers.

This was a difficult read. Not much happened externally. The characters weren’t charming and lovable. 

Scout discovers that Atticus is part of a local Citizen’s Council trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate schools. The revelation that her father, whom she’d always looked up to for his kindness and decency to all people, is a “nigger hater” stirs up tremendous internal turmoil.

I was very uncomfortable as I read the book until I realized that I had always idolized Atticus just like Scout did. When I read TKAM he was an incorruptible icon of justice, patient and kind. I always expected him to have more modern sensibilities, but truly he is a child of his time. It wasn’t uncommon for people to have a paternalistic view towards African Americans in the 1950s. I would say that he still stands for justice, but he has a different opinion on how to preserve the common good. An opinion which had absolutely nothing to do with hatred. We can agree to disagree.

I loved seeing his patience as Scout “tried to tear him to pieces, to wreck him, to obliterate him.” He absolutely loves her, and that is true. He showed agape love for her the way that God loves us even as we rail and fight against him.

I liked Scout’s defense of black people:
“I know it’s got to be slow, Atticus, I know that full well. But I know it’s got to be….A real good snub, Atticus, makes you feel like you’re too nasty to associate with people. How they’re as good as they are now is a mystery to me, after a hundred years of systematic denial that they’re human. I wonder what kind of miracle we could work with a week’s decency.” p. 252

I have gone through a situation where I have idolized someone and suffered (but not to the extent that Scout did) when they made a mistake like any human would. That part rang true.

I thought the book expressed some important truths, but it wasn’t a beautiful read. I’m not sure I will read it again.

Did you read it? Thoughts?


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