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Blog Post # 8 – Is it okay to quote Atticus?

I’m relieved that we have a day off school today — not just because it’s important for everyone to be safe, and it means no one was subjected to me wearing footie pajamas — but also because it gives me some time to think about this week’s guest prompt from Makilya B.

My answer — cautiously — is yes. That answer has less to do with the character of Atticus Finch, and more to do with the reasons we read this novel in the first place.

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird, a lot of people hold Atticus in high regard: he’s an incredibly famous literary character, and for good reason. He gets a significant share  of the great lines of wisdom in the novel. He defends the wrongly-accused Tom Robinson, even protecting him at the risk of his own skin and family. Atticus is supposed to be the good guy, and he is.


In several of our class discussions and blog posts, we started to inch towards an uncomfortable question about this book. Does it go far enough? Does it change the unjust system it describes, or does it give some of us permission to say “well, we tried” and go on living our lives? Sadly, I think those answers are “no” and “yes.” If readers aren’t careful, Mockingbird becomes just a sad story we read when we were young adults. If we aren’t willing to wrestle with the tough questions of the book — why does this case go to trial? Why is the story of Atticus defending Tom more important than the story of Tom being accused falsely? How does power work in this novel and in our lives? — then we haven’t taken the book far enough.

If we are willing to deal with those questions, though, and if we are willing to accept that Atticus (like most of us) is complex, with serious flaws alongside his good points, we may be taking the book far enough. Quoting Atticus in that case means bringing up these uncertainties and questions, and taking another look at them. That will always be okay.

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