Atticus Finch and Southern Liberalism
While reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, in most readers’ eyes Atticus Finch is a good man and a hero for defending Tom Robinson, an african american who is accused of beating and taking advantage of Mayella Ewell, a nineteen year old white female. After class discussion and after reading “The Courthouse Ring” by Malcolm Gladwell, readers learn that Atticus Finch was based off of James (Big Jim) Folsom, a governor of Alabama in the 1950s. Like Big Jim, Atticus treated african americans as qual to whites, he shook their hands, he didn’t ignore them, and he stood up for what he believed in.
Even with these heroic actions, Atticus was not a civil-rights activist. Gladwell states “He’s [Atticus] Jim Folsom, looking for racial salvation through hearts and minds. “. Later in the article, Gladwell makes an argument by saying “Here is where the criticism of Finch begins, because the hearts-and-minds approach is about accommodation, not reform. ” In the same paragraph Gladwell talks about how in the book, Atticus’s children bring up the subject of the Ku Klux Klan. Atticus tells them that the Klan was nothing more than a political organization looking for someone to scare.
Sam Levy stood his ground on his porch making them so ashamed of themselves that they went away. Sounding upset, Gladwell says “Someone in Finch’s historical position would surely have been aware of the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta, Georgia, in 1915. ” and that “He wants to believe In the fantasy of Sam Levy, down the street, giving the Klan a good scolding. ” Also in the same paragraph, Gladwell mentions how Atticus spends the night In front of the Jail protecting Tom rom a lynch mob led by Walter Cunningham.
In the book, Scout brings Walter Cunningham to his senses, or In other words humanizes him and makes him realize what he’s doing, and they leave. When Atticus tries to explain what happened at the jail to Scout, he tells her that Cunningham Is “basically a good man” and Ilke everybody else he has blind spots. With that, Gladwell comes back with the words from legal scholar Monroe Freedman, “It Just happens that Cunningham’s blind spot (along with the rest us of? ) Is a homicidal hatred of black people. ” Gladwell also tates, ‘What he [Atticus] will not do Is look at the problem of racism outside the Immediate context of Mr.
Cunningham, Mr. Levy, and the Island community of Maycomb, Alabama. ” In response to Malcolm Gladwell’s argument I think Atticus almost had to fight racism through the heart-and-mind because he’s a single parent of two, and his children Idolize him. If something were to happen to Atticus, the children would be devastated. Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout because he wanted to get back at Atticus for humlllatlng him In front of the town, so If Atticus was a clvll- ights activist, people who opposed him wouldn’t be afraid to go after his kids, and Atticus would never risk his children getting hurt.
With the KKK situation, Gladwell has to see reason that Atticus Is talking to a SIX and ten year old trying not to scare them. Atticus was most likely aware of what the KKK was capable of, he Just trying to explain to his children that there Isn’t anything to be afraid of and the Klan Isn’t around anymore. I don’t think that Atticus “wanted” to believe that Sam Levy was giving the Klan a scolding, I think he was Just slmpllfylng a story for Scout and Jem.
I tnlnK Gladwell Is Delng a II ttle too narsn on Attlcus Hncn, again ne Is a single Tatner trying to raise his kids right. Atticus is right everyone has blind spots, no it’s not right to be racist, but everyone has different Judgements and opinions about everyone. Mr. Cunningham is an uneducated, white, low-class farmer living in the 1930s so it isn’t very shocking that he is the one leaving the mob. It shows Cunningham is a good man when he steps down and makes the mob leave, he realizes that what he was about to do was inhuman, and wrong.