The Enduring Legacy of Atticus Finch

Interesting take on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps the finest American novel ever produced (certainly one of the five):

Written by a woman, Harper Lee, but more, written by a woman who dared to see herself as her region’s Jane Austen. Told by a six-year-old girl. With a hero who’s not, in any traditional sense, manly. With a message of kindness and empathy generally associated with female values.

And one more female value, once common in the heroes of Western movies, but less and less common by the time Harper Lee wrote her novel — a willingness to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Readers often forget, but this is the foundation of the character of Atticus Finch: He takes on the legal defense of an African-American, knowing he can’t prevail in court.

“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,” he tells his children. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Or you could just read Tom Brokaw’s meandering tribute essay, in which, the famed journalist just can’t quite pull his thoughts together into something cogent.  But it’s obvious how touched he was by the book and how important he feels the book still remains fifty years after its first publication.

And on those accounts Mr. Brokaw and I see eye to eye.

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