2 years ago
nicolejb
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Realizing Childhood Heroes aren’t Perfect
To Kill a Mockingbird. The story that pretty much everyone has read (because of required reading) in school. Atticus Finch, one of the protagonists of the book fought for a good cause. He was guiding voice to Scout, the moral, wise stoic man, and the token civil-rights activist of the book....But with the release of Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchmen, we discover that he is actually a racist.

In the new book, his character believes that African Americans are mentally childlike and unable to lead themselves or society. A whole new dark side to this character.

Our childhood hero has pretty much been destroyed: this book shows what that side is like. NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan compared the change to "turning Ahab into a whale-lover.” Essentially your favorite character turns evil. (in a bad way, not the antihero way)
But what it gives us is a new perspective on the idea of racism.

Washington Post writer Alyssa Rosenberg had some good thoughts on the matter:
"Go Set a Watchman" is part of the process of divesting ourselves of the idea that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, "we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs." If racism can belong to Atticus Finch — and if it became his property through the same processes that made him a hero — it can belong to anyone.
The lesson here: Good people can believe bad things, and people can do good things for bad reasons. Racism can lurk in people that are seemly acting against it.
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I think so too... @shannonl5, I just remembered reading this in school, and being super excited about this. I’m actually excited to read the new book despite its criticism
Atticus Finch can still be considered a hero. him believing that black people are "inferior" to white people doesn't negate his action as the hero who wanted to set right the legal system in Alabama. he was racist, but that was the view of the time, he was raised that way. however, he still somewhat believed in equality even with his racist point of view, and I think that is the point. people can think what they like, but they can still be heroes. he still fought for that man's equality, and he still taught his son and daughter lessons they will never forget, such as the need to stop discrimination.
Great point, @meliflousmelodi I think he truly did teach his children valuable lessons. And I’m definitely not trying to infer that what Atticus Finch did was not heroic. I think he is heroic. In many ways. But I also think that it’s important to recognize that our heroes are also human and can have bad sides to them. Just like you said, his racist thoughts never manifested into action (at least in the first book, I haven’t read the new one). But we can also acknowledge and understand that he did have his imperfections.
welp. @nicolejb through this new book, it kinda goes to show that no matter what thoughts one has, anyone can be a hero in different ways. and they can definitely still teach to kill a mockingbird in school alongside go set a watchmen, because it'll teach students that heroes aren't one-dimensional and all good, and that one person can be many things, not just a villain, a hero, or that bullied kid. I think it's great that you made this post here. haha. gives me something to think about. and other people too, for that matter.
I really appreciate that @meliflousmelodi :) I think it's definitely something we should think and talk more about. I really do hope they start teaching this new book in schools!