Justice Formation from Generation to Generation: Atticus Finch and the Stories Lawyers Tell Their Children

Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 14, p. 207, 2008

42 Pages Posted: 24 May 2010  

Mary Ellen Maatman

Widener University Delaware Law School

Date Written: May 26, 2008

Abstract

This article entwines the story of To Kill a Mockingbird with the supremacist stories told and used by segregationist lawyers in the Deep South. Juxtaposing these stories reveals how stories about race and justice have been deliberately used to “affect [the] hearts and minds” of children “in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” The shaping of a generation’s hearts and minds, through stories told to socialize and educate its children, produces in those children a vision of what a just world looks like. When that generation reaches adulthood, the stories its parents tell their children will replicate the vision anew. This process of intergenerational justice formation through storytelling affects the justice system itself, because each generation’s lawyers and judges have the power to inscribe their vision of justice into the law. Thus, storytelling’s power over justice formation poses dangers to justice: if, as in the case of race and justice storytelling, the dominant story is one that promotes a vision of justice that is in fact unjust, the law will fall prey to that vision. In that situation, restoring justice to the system depends upon the telling of counterstories that will promote a truer vision of justice.

Keywords: To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, justice, civil rights, lawyers, segregation, storytelling

JEL Classification: K00, K4

Suggested Citation

Maatman, Mary Ellen, Justice Formation from Generation to Generation: Atticus Finch and the Stories Lawyers Tell Their Children (May 26, 2008). Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 14, p. 207, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1615087

Mary Ellen Maatman (Contact Author)

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States
302-477-2198 (Phone)
302-477-2255 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.widener.edu

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