16 Jul

Atticus Finch: Hero or Bigot?


Today I’m taking part in the International Authors’ Day Blog Hop sponsored by Debdatta over at http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in. As a participant, I am giving away one free ebook copy of my novel, Voodoo Butterfly. You can find out more info about this event and how to win other great bookish prizes below. Debdatta has asked all participants to discuss our favorite book or author on our blog, so here I go…

go-set-a-watchman-and-to-kill-a-mockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of those books that I’ve reread since childhood and wondered how did I “get it” as a child. All the characters in that novel point out how we, as humans, judge others by their outer appearance rather than their inner qualities. Boo Radley: social outcast. Mayella Ewell: white trash. Tom Robinson: black man. In the real world of knee-jerk judgments, Atticus becomes Scout’s compass in navigating the cast of characters in her small town. In fact, he even becomes our compass in understanding a world that is messy and unfair. He tries to right the wrongs in a climate of racial prejudice. These are some big concepts for kids to intellectually juggle.

But aren’t children the best suited to recognize the absence of justice? The concept of fairness reaches deep down inside of you, especially as a child when you have such little power in this world. I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in middle school, a time in life which is the magnifying glass of inequality. It’s a time when you’re measured by the type of clothes you wear, the kind of shoes your family can afford. Everything is superficial. Bullying runs rampant. You are either a Somebody or a Nobody.

Atticus Finch has become my favorite character in all of fiction (so much so that if I had a second boy, Atticus was my top name choice). Besides being a champion for justice, I admire how he raises his two young kids as a single father. He teaches Scout to read at such a young age, skipping the children’s books and going straight for the newspaper. In To Kill a Mockingbird, we get to see Scout grow from the tender ages of six to nine. Over the course of the novel, Atticus talks to both of his kids about hard truths in a way that acknowledges their intelligence yet preserves their innocence.

My son is seven, smack dab in that magical age where the world still shines. He doesn’t judge people based on their outward appearance. He makes judgments based on if they are “mean” or “nice.” But he is growing and we have conversations about the gray areas.

“Sometimes kids have a difficult life at home,” I try to explain when he is being bullied on the playground. Sometimes people are just born bad. I may think that but I don’t tell him that yet, because I want to preserve his innocence for as long as I can. Before life shows him that lesson.

Atticus represents justice in an unjust world. Until now…

author dayTwo days ago I received my copy of Go Set a Watchman. I can’t open it. The news networks have been reporting about how Harper Lee portrays Atticus as a racist in this novel. I literally cannot believe that. How can she do that?!

Why would Harper do this? Why would Atticus do that? As an artist, I am guessing that Harper Lee is trying to say that life is not always fair. Things are not always easily understood. Maybe something really terrible happens to Atticus to make his character change so completely. In life that happens sometimes. Even the best of us can give in to the darkness within. That’s scary, but it can also be the truth.

About Camille Faye

Camille FayeCamille Faye lives in Missouri, loves on her family, and writes during the baby’s naptime. The Northwest Houston RWA named her novel, Voodoo Butterfly, a 2013 Lone Star Contest finalist. Camille’s stories are inspired by her experiences growing up in a haunted house and her travels to 27 countries and counting! Read an excerpt of Voodoo Butterfly at www.camillefaye.com.

About Voodoo Butterfly

Voodoo Butterfly MEDIUMWhen twenty-five-year-old Sophie Nouveau inherits her grandmother’s voodoo shop, she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family’s history of Mind Changers who have the power to change evil people good. To complicate matters, someone doesn’t want Sophie in New Orleans and sends a series of death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life.

Tipped off by her grandmother’s ghost, Sophie realizes her mind changing spell has been missing one magic ingredient: true love. If Sophie cannot experience transformative love, she cannot make her spell work, and she will be powerless to fight back when confronted by the one who wants her dead.


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  • I have also felt in a turmoil over Atticus Finch, but realistically in that era, pretty much the norm. I lived in Louisiana in the 60s for a year and the general mentality would boggle the mind today, I was a foreign child observing and learning in an ALL white school. Treated very nicely as my grandparents were known in the area, but I cannot imagine the climate of today’s mentality as there is so much against Mexicans. I am originally from Mexico.
    There are sad waves of prejudice in history in probably all societies. Perhaps you should read it and see it in the light that in spite his prejudice and society he was able to do the right thing in the Mockingbird storyline! Great Post , I really enjoyed it.
    Hopping about, happy International authors’ HOP.

    • Thanks for giving your perspective, Catalina. I’ve visited Louisiana a few times to research my book and it’s a completely different culture than any other American city. I will definitely be reading it…it’s on my book club’s “to read” list.

  • I think you should read it too. Maybe it is not as bad as the media is making it out to be and is just more realistic to the times?

    • I’m definitely interested in why the switch happens, so I’ll read it. Right now I’m reading Judy Blume’s book and then Paper Towns. So it will be next on my list.

  • My favorite book this year has been The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. Voodoo Butterfly looks really interesting. Happy hopping!

  • Jane Austen

  • Several people have chosen this as their favorite book, and I still have yet to read it. Hopefully very soon! Thanks for joining in on the celebration. It’s always good to meet so many other readers and writers. Nancy’s Blog

    • I love the movie with Gregory Peck, too, though the ending is not the same as in the book. You should definitely give it a try, Nancy. Thanks for hopping by :)

  • Camille–I hope this is not too late.

    Don’t open the book. You’ll be disappointed.

    Or, open the book and read it. You will realize how important revising is… how crucial second and third drafts are, because this is (clearly) a first draft.

    I will say that Harper Lee knows her character Scout quite well, because Scout as an adult matched Scout as a child with total precision.

    So you choose. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • I’m in the middle of the novel right now and I’m actually okay with it so far. You are so right about the importance of revising. So many beginning authors want to self-publish before they have run their work through a critique group and/or professional editor. Can be the kiss of death for your writing career. Thanks for the comment, Sioux!

So, what do you think?