Atticus Finch A Racist
Brace yourself if you're a To Kill a Mockingbird fan. One of the first major reviews of Harper Lee's highly-anticipated follow-up novel, Go Set a Watchman, reveals that in it, beloved Mockingbird hero and moral crusader against racism and inequality Atticus Finch is a racist! New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, writes about Watchman, which will be out today, July 14, "Shockingly, in Ms. Lee's long-awaited novel . . . Atticus is a racist who once attended a [Ku Klux] Klan meeting, who says things like 'the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.' Or asks his daughter: 'Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?'" Watchman, which is set in the 1950s as an adult Scout returns home to Alabama and is disillusioned by the racism in her hometown and family, was actually an early version of Mockingbird. Lee's editor asked her to rework Watchman to focus on its flashbacks to Scout's childhood and make them into a coming-of-age story, which is what became Mockingbird, set 20 years earlier in the 1930s.
It was written before Lee's only published novel, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960). The title comes from the Bible's Isaiah 21:6: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth." It alludes to Scout's view of her father, Atticus Finch as the moral compass ("watchman") of Maycomb. According to the publisher, Scout "is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood." Go Set a Watchman includes many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird.
So, what's your reaction to this 'shocker'? If you're a Mockingbird fan, does this make you NOT want to read Watchman, and what do you think of 88-year-old Lee, after decades of publishing nothing else, agreeing to the release of Watchman, knowing how it would change the image of Atticus?