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During my freshman year of high school, I read To Kill a Mockingbird as part of my language arts class. I enjoyed the novel immensely and was greatly intrigued when a new novel, Go Set a Watchman, was released in the summer of 2015, my senior year. I heard nothing but negative reviews about the new book, so I felt compelled to read the novel for myself and form my own opinion. The novel’s complexity fascinated me and made me look back at To Kill a Mockingbird just for comparison. My findings were interesting enough to me that I decided I wanted them to be the basis for an academic paper. Recently, in one of my final high school papers, I crafted an essay that examined in great detail how Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman--who is often criticized by reviewers and the general public for being so unlike the original Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird--actually exhibits the same characteristics, especially those concerning racial equality, as the original Atticus Finch. Simply put: I examined the extent that Atticus Finch has been a racist from the very start--admittedly not a popular opinion. While I understand how reading the novels with this new mindset impacts the effect of the stories, I am in no way discouraging the reading (or rereading) of either novel. In fact, I personally found much enjoyment in reading both novels, not just To Kill a Mockingbird, and I believe many others will feel the same way.
While I understand the hesitancy of some to read a novel whose moral compass has unsettling racist views, I do not believe this fact ruins either novel. In fact, I find Atticus Finch to still be a literary hero in both novels despite his racial beliefs. I believe important life lessons can still be learned from Atticus, despite his views on race.


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Atticus Finch is a hero in several regards. He’s a hero to his kids, he’s a hero to the town of Maycomb, and he’s a hero in the courtroom. Atticus is a hero to his kids simply because he’s a just father who watches out for his children and, for the most part, teaches them the difference from right and wrong. In this regard, he’s a good moral figure because he is a present and active father.
Next, Atticus is a hero to the town of Maycomb as well. Even before the Tom Robinson trial, Atticus had been a respected and appreciated lawyer for Maycomb County, as well as well-liked by most, if not all, of the Maycomb’s residents. Despite his conservative views, he still stands up for courage and honesty. This is also seen in Go Set a Watchman, when Atticus agrees to defend Calpurnia’s grandson in a hit-and-run case. His bravery and devotion to his children and his hometown are certainly admirable traits for readers to notice.
Lastly, Atticus is a hero in the courtroom. In my essay, one of my central discoveries is that Atticus has a deep devotion to the law and fair judicial proceedings, but not necessarily to African-Americans as a group. Atticus just happened to be defending an African-American man and his respect for his profession caused him to put aside any biases that he had. I believe that to be another admirable trait: the ability to put aside biases for your core beliefs and for justice.
So while proving Atticus to be a racist in the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman does cause a person to view the novels in a different light, I do believe that both novels are still worthy of being read for the plot each contains as well as the morals sprinkled through the pages.
I find Atticus to be a literary hero in many senses, whether it be as a father, a citizen, or an attorney. I just don’t view him as a hero in the regard that most do: as a civil rights activist.