The Fallibility of Atticus Finch

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I finished Go Set a Watchman on the first day I cut grass, and, on the first day, it’s more than just riding around and around the yard. It’s getting the battery charged, and a flat fixed, and trips to the Ace Hardware and the Family Dollar.

Preoccupied is better than being distracted. I thought about Harper Lee’s “other” novel while vaguely following the outline of the previous lap. Several bumps across fire-ant mounds made me realize that another trip to the Ace Hardware is in order.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I don’t know why the release of Go Set a Watchman waited decades after it was written and shortly before the death of its author. Nelle Harper Lee, who was undoubtedly much like Jean Louise Finch, was born (April 28, 1926) and died (February 19, 2016) in Monroeville, Alabama, which is likely to be quite similar to the Maycomb of her two novels.

Near the end of her life, I don’t know whether Lee was bequeathing one last gift to her readers, or she was exploited as a ploy to raise more money for her to leave behind, or the truth lies somewhere between.

As a reader, I don’t care. I’m merely thankful. It doesn’t bother me that I waited too long to get around to Go Set a Watchman. The author passed away after a long, enigmatic life. It didn’t matter what I thought.

Some were outraged at the desecration of Atticus Finch, the inspirational hero of To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought this latter-day appraisal of Atticus, later in chronology but written earlier, merely revealed his imperfection.

The history of the South is awful enough in its merits, but it is more complex than most outsiders realize or want to know. As an insider, I found this first last tale of Harper Lee fascinating. I have a bit of extra kinship owing to the fact that my second novel, The Intangibles, attempts to plow the same field, though occurring at a later stage and in another Southern state. Some of the comments that most pleased me about The Intangibles were from readers who said it helped them understand the region better.

I don’t believe Go Set a Watchman defaces the gallant name of Atticus Finch. He loses divinity but gains humanity. If anything about his reputation was unfair, it was its perfection. At the end of Lee’s last novel and testament, Atticus is still admirable in the way of most good men. Ultimately, he only guides Scout along by setting her free from the limitations of having a father double as a god.

Uncle Jack (Monte Dutton sketch)
Uncle Jack (Monte Dutton sketch)

This is no two-character yarn, mind you. Jean Louise is digesting the loss of brother Jem and the love of Atticus’s law partner, Henry Clinton. She is home from New York and finds it difficult to deal with her aunt, Alexandra. As she becomes troubled at what she perceives as the bigotry of her father, she turns to Uncle Jack, Atticus’s eccentric brother, to fill the wisdom vacuum.

He performs admirably.

Maycomb is Every Town then, and it ought to be appreciated in Every Town now. Undoubtedly, it is more interesting for those who lived through the rising tide of change that began in the fifties, rose to stormy tumult in the sixties, and has roiled the currents of society ever since. Its story ought to be instructive to the young, but I fear it won’t. Nelle Harper Lee is gone, and two lovely novels are her lonely legacy.

Acknowledging my lack of youth, I loved every page of Go Set a Watchman.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

              My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is available for advance order now: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458228862&sr=1-1&keywords=Monte+Dutton+Forgive+Us+Our+Trespasses

Forgive Us Our Trespasses will be available for download on March 29. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. If you haven’t read it, I’d appreciate you considering it. It’s a freewheeling fable on the absurdity of life.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

My nonfiction, much of which involves sports, is on display here: http://montedutton.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+.

 

 

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