Last week, in an uncomfortable but enlightening coincidence, America was confronted with the two faces of its most ambiguous fictional hero, Atticus Finch, the principled racist who bestrides Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and Go Set a Watchman (2015). On Tuesday, Finch took to the public square in both his avatars. There was Atticus, the moral exemplar of Mockingbird, who appeared in President Obama’s farewell speech to the nation. And there was Atticus, the courteous Southern chauvinist of Watchman, in the form of Senator Jeff Sessions, who was being vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the post of U.S. Attorney General.
Addressing a profoundly divided nation in his final presidential plea, Obama urged black and white America “to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction—Atticus Finch—who said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ ” Read More