Home » Books in General » Harper Lee’s Father, Inspiration for Atticus Finch, Changed His Views on Segregation

Harper Lee’s Father, Inspiration for Atticus Finch, Changed His Views on Segregation

13 July 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

The revelation that Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman” depicts Atticus Finch as a segregationist has prompted dismay among many awaiting the book’s release, and an uncomfortable reassessment of one of the most beloved heroes of American literature.

The book, to be released Tuesday, also could reshape the legacy of Harper Lee’s father,Amasa Coleman Lee, who was the model for Atticus Finch—the cerebral lawyer who faces down a lynch mob and defends a black man wrongly accused of rape in her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Ms. Lee’s father was indeed a segregationist, according to people who knew him and according to Charles J. Shields, author of the biography “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.” But while his daughter was at work on “Mockingbird,” Mr. Lee had a change of heart that moved him to advocate for integration. Mr. Shields said Mr. Lee’s late-in-life shift could explain the transformation of Atticus through the author’s drafts from a bigot in “Watchman” to a civil-rights hero in “Mockingbird,” and why in interviews after “Mockingbird” she spoke glowingly of her father. “She may have been very proud of him,” Mr. Shields said.

. . . .

“Mockingbird” fans lit up social media over the weekend with a spectrum of emotions. “No, not Atticus!” Brandon Gates, a television reporter in Augusta, Ga., wrote on Twitter. Don Frederico, a lawyer and past president of the Boston Bar Association, tweeted “I want to remember Atticus as lawyer-hero,” and said he had tentatively decided not to read “Watchman.” Others said they were even more eager to read it.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Books in General

14 Comments to “Harper Lee’s Father, Inspiration for Atticus Finch, Changed His Views on Segregation”

  1. It appears that the release of this book was nothing but a plan to make millions. It worked.

  2. People seem to be forgetting that this novel is Lee’s TRUNK novel, the one BEFORE TKAM.

    As such, and knowing it never got any editing AFTER Mockingbird, of course it is more primitive.

    If Ms. Lee had followed up Mockingbird with this novel, properly edited, it would be a much better book than it could possibly be given its history.

    But people will make all their comments based on Mockingbird – and it can’t possibly compete.

    • Kind of like Georges Bizet and his first opera, Carmen. It was all downhill for Bizet after Carmen.

      Name another Bizet opera, if you can.

  3. All of this is not about the story or how well/poorly it’s written/edited. It’s all about the ‘hype’. The publisher is hoping and preying (that is the right word for it as the rest of their book offerings are hardly being noticed.) that this becomes the sale of the century.

    Next week we’ll see some big art gallery offering up the child’s finger paintings of some ‘great artist’ …

    • “Throw it against the wall. See if it sticks.”

      There was never any doubt it was only about money.
      All the handwringing does now is feed the hype.

  4. Only on the Internet could people get so upset about the social and political positions of a fiction character and a dead guy.

    Who cares what the guy was like at this point. He wasn’t MY father….

  5. Hmmm, well, living in a small southern town that hasn’t changed in racial prejudice since the ’50s, I think “Watchman” is probably a more accurate portrait of a fictional character based on her father (and possibly Lee’s way of saying what she meant about the town as well as her father/family from the first, before editors re-wrote it.)

    The publishers don’t care, just want to make out like fat rats. And of course, whoever/whatever benefits via Lee’s estate.

  6. Now Lee’s attorney has hinted that there may be a third novel that is a bridge between “Mockingbird” and “Watchman.”

  7. I’m disgusted by this entire spectacle.

  8. May everyone make a lot of money off this, and may millions of consumers find their own personal satisfaction, even the ones who find it in complaining.

    God Bless Capitalism, for it’s a win, win, win.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.