Understanding the “Watchman” Atticus

WSJ Letters, July 30, 2015

“Go Set a Watchman” does not present a different Atticus Finch from the one we all admired in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (“Don’t Mourn Atticus Finch,” by Peggy Noonan, Declarations, July 25). The devotion of “Mockingbird” Atticus is to the law, not to equality of the races. His passionate argument to the jury that “All men are equal before the law” includes an unspoken “even negroes.” He makes no complaint about submitting his black client’s fate to a jury of six white men in a segregated courtroom. His patronizing nobility is mere noblesse oblige.

“Watchman” Atticus is the same man, 20 years older, seen by a young woman rather than a little girl, facing a mortal threat from the Supreme Court and the NAACP to his well-ordered world. He is no more evil than the slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He must be judged as a man in his time and place.

Brian R. Merrick

West Barnstable, Mass.

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