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July 14, 2015


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

The portrait of the "two-dimensional hero," Atticus Finch was, in any case, based on a careless reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, as Monroe Freedman makes clear in his essay, "Atticus Finch—Right and Wrong," 45 Alabama Law Review 473 (1994), available here:

See too this post by Stephen Gillers at the Legal Ethics Forum:

Anders Walker

Well said Al, it's interesting to contemplate the editor's role in all this. Looking forward to picking up a copy.

Ron Turner

Hear hear

Alfred L. Brophy

Thanks for the kind words, Anders and Ron -- and Anders I've been thinking a lot about your book on moderates in this context. I'm guessing Atticus wouldn't even qualify for inclusion on your list of moderates, though.

Patrick -- Monroe's article (and a host of others, including Steve Lubet's that I linked to in the last post and by my friend Katie Rose Guest Pryal) called into question Atticus' hero status. And I think there might have been more he could have done to help Tom's case. However, the central tendency of TKAM was criticism of a legalized lynching -- similar to the actual lynchings in Tuscaloosa in 1933 and to the very-nearly successful legal lynchings in Scottsboro also in the early 1930s -- and the elevation of Atticus for the courage for standing up to that, even if unsuccessfully. Where in TKAM Atticus was on the right side of history, as the lines of battle in the civil rights movement changed, he ended up on the other side. This might have been predicted, though perhaps not to the same degree that we saw in GSAW.

And to take this one step further, one wonders how someone like Jean Louise might react to the black power movement of the 1960s/early 1970s, which took the claims of the Civil Rights movement one step further.

Mary Ellen Maatman

I'm looking forward to reading it for precisely the reasons you've articulated.

Miriam Cherry

I appreciate your view, but to me it took away from the story, sadly. It was just a bummer of a read. I think Lee is fairly explicit that she is engaging in iconoclastic behavior. The most interesting part of the book might have been what in the world the author was thinking.


"those of us interested in our nation's long struggle with racial equality are going to be turning to this to understand the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s"

Does this really give us any new or groundbreaking information about the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s? There are probably 100,000+ people living today who grew up in the south during that time period, both black and white, as well as pivotal civil rights leaders from that time period still alive, and many first-person non-fiction accounts and ethnographic research. Does this book add much on that dimension?

Alfred L. Brophy


Among the things Watchman does is provide an account of the division within the white community over civil rights (and Brown in particular) written at the time (not clouded by memories or re-writing of history that is so common for oral histories). It has also brought attention to the breadth of support for groups like the White Citizens Council.

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