Atticus Finch. He entered my life when I was nineteen and found a place hidden in my heart. It’s now our ten year anniversary and I have decided to go public. I admit, I haven’t always been monogamous but he has always been the man I have returned to when the world has just seemed too complicated and unfathomable. His steady sense and quiet moral compass melt my heart every time I read To Kill a Mockingbird.
The novel highlights so much about human nature and in particular about fear derived from ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding. Set in Alabama during the Depression, the narrative is told to the reader by Atticus’ daughter, Scout. She is a scrappy tomboy and perceives her father to be a bit of a let down. He doesn’t go shooting like most men do and all he does is come home from his job as a lawyer and sit, reading in his chair.
Slowly, through the course of the novel, Scout learns that her father is heroic in his own way and is trying to pass on to his children a moral code that is distinct from the racist bigotry that is endemic within the small Alabama town, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
When Atticus agrees to represent an innocent black man accused of raping a local white girl, the town turns against him and Scout is angry with him for this but in his gentle way he explains why he took the case; “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Scout expresses surprise that someone whom she had judged to be weird turns out to be somebody who helped her and her brother in time of need, the exchange between her and Atticus is a reminder to us all for when we make a snap judgement, ‘“Atticus, he was real nice.” “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”’
I love this novel, not only for the plot and the evocation of small town southern states against the backdrop of the depression and racial tension, but also for the man; Atticus Finch. A quiet hero and a good man.
“Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something”.
Good advice. I raise my glass to another ten years of not killing Mockingbirds and loving Atticus.