Rethinking Atticus Finch: A Paragon of Virtue or Just Another Politician?

Michael Bavalsky

Abstract


Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is almost universally assigned reading for high school students in the United States. Its protagonist, Atticus Finch, is widely hailed as a paragon of virtue because he represents an African-American man falsely accused of rape. However, this paper will argue that the character of Atticus Finch should be re-evaluated, especially since, throughout the novel, he is known to espouse racist and sexist beliefs. Atticus Finch purports to be a man of the law, but there are several episodes that call into question his commitment to justice. These include Atticus’ attempt to make excuses for the leader of a lynch mob, as well as his intentional deception of law enforcement in agreeing to cover up an act of homicide and not to have the murderer arrested. This paper will argue that, on balance, Atticus Finch merely purports to be a champion of the oppressed, but, in truth, is actually complicit in perpetuating the inequality and injustice that he claims to condemn.


Keywords


racism; justice

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