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Life lessons from Atticus Finch

…amidst talk of Finch getting recast as racist we remember the model dad

By Simran Bhalla  July 13th, 2015

Before you read Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, revisit its model dad, Atticus Finch – who wasn’t racist when we last met him


Finch is a deeply modern parent; a single dad who balances childcare and work with even passion and attention. He respects his children by not infantilising them (he even lets them call him by his first name) and never lying to them.


It’s not just the black man falsely accused of raping a white woman that he defends and empathises with, but also the parochial townsfolk who oppose everything he stands for.


It’s popular to retroactively declare literary icons feminists, but Finch is the genuine article. Scout, his daughter with a boy’s nickname, is encouraged to play and dress as she pleases, even if it defies gender norms. “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks,” is Finch’s belief. 


Finch is opposed by most of his town, and yet, no matter how this strains his life, he holds on to his beliefs, saying, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”


Finch realises that, despite having the facts on his side, his case is a long shot. And yet he soldiers on, telling his children they must as well: “Courage is knowing 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.”

Go Set A Watchman (Penguin Random House) is out on July 14

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