Cumberland Law Review 47.1 (Winter 2016)
4 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2017 Last revised: 8 Mar 2017
Date Written: January 19, 2017
The controversial publication of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, in 2015, allows us to see Atticus Finch from a new angle. He is revealed to be a "gentleman bigot," not unlike many white southern men of the mid-twentieth century. As interesting a revelation is the shock with which his daughter, Jean Louise ("Scout"), receives this news. Why didn't you tell me this is how it was? she asks him. Her disillusionment, which perhaps mirrors Lee's own, finds parallels in the lives of other white southerners, like the writers Willie Morris and Elizabeth Spencer, who only in retrospect realized the depth of the racist society in which they were raised. For Morris and Spencer, and for countless others, the necessary response was self-exile. The publication of Go Set a Watchman comes as an unexpected gift, an admonishment: a reminder to white readers that even today, we are often blind to the racism that is right before our eyes.
Keywords: Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman, Law and Literature, Law and Society, Civil Rights
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