Friday, October 23, 2009

Was Atticus Finch such a hero?

I'm catching up with New Yorkers (Paul hoards, then passes them to me in a pile, where they sit, taking up space on my dresser, until I make a desperate plunge through them.)

One article that caught my eye--especially in light of our recent trip to Louisiana, and the earlier post "Someone's in trouble..."--was a piece by Malcolm Gladwell called "The Courthouse Ring."

In it Gladwell uses the work of legal scholar Steven Lubet to bring Atticus Finch, the beloved and seemingly just character from Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird," down a peg on the schema of literary figures deserving of reverence.

Finch didn't represent a new, non-racist shift in the south, says Gladwell (and the scholars he's quoting). He represents "Old-style Southern liberalism--gradual and paternalistic...." Whoa. Talk about a shift in perspective.

It's an interesting piece. And probably quite right. I, like many, I suspect, had just never thought of it like that before.

What cracked me up, being rather baby-name oriented these days, is the recent trend toward Atticuses at the playground...We're still struggling with a name, but Atticus isn't on the list.

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