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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

On Atticus


I just finished reading Go Set a Watchman, the long anticipated prequel to/ sequel to/ undoing of (depending on which review you read)  To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reading Watchman was a bit like (WARNING: biggest spoilers of the post in this sentence!) finding out that Father Christmas doesn't exist, or like the moment in Toy Story 3 when you realise Lotso-Huggin' bear does not live up to his name...

The big shocker of Watchman- and unless for the past six months you've not been reading the newspapers with your eyes open or have been living under a rock that is wedged beneath another rock it won't be a big spoiler- is that Atticus isn't everything he was cracked up to be in Mockingbird. His character is flawed in a way that sets ablaze everything Scout's gaze- and ours too- saw him to be.

Atticus of Mockingbird is wise and gentle. He is often misunderstood by his children, but when they do understand, they glimpse a wisdom that is warm and loving and powerful. He makes himself weak so that his children might understand what it is to be truly strong. He is courageous, though it is costly. He does not defend himself, and yet he is absolutely no nonsense in his defence of the weak. He is determined that his children learn this too.

Atticus of Mockingbird is willing to have people think the worst of him, so long as he does what his right, and so long as his children learn the value of courage.  He doesn't let the views of society shape the way he brings up his kids- Scout's failure to "be a lady" doesn't concern him half as much as the patience and courage in her character does.

Atticus of Mockingbird is integrity personified: how he is in the street is how he is at home and right to the bitter end he wants to uphold justice; and yet he is also instinctively merciful. He disciplines his children without always explaining why, yet is often proved wise- and in all things is empathetic, gracious, compassionate.

The narrative of Watchman unravels much of this:  from the moment I first heard about his "downfall" (or whatever you call it when it's a prequel/ sequel mash-up) I felt slightly like I'd been punched in the stomach. No, Harper, no! You can't do this to us! First they took Santa, then Lotso, now this!?

Interestingly, there is a line in Watchman when Uncle Jack says to Scout, "you confused your father with God." And to be honest, in many ways- in case you didn't notice, Scout wasn't the only one!

Atticus of Mockingbird is, in many ways, like God. And in many ways, what made me love Atticus, was all the ways he reminded me of Him, in all his compassion and wisdom and unexpected power.

So as I get over Watchman (and I do have so much more to say, but I will be chundering spoilers everywhuuuure if I take that path!), it is a comfort that the Father, Friend and Defender of the weak that Atticus (meekly) reflected will not change.

He is not a creation and is not subject to the whims of writers or editors. (2 Peter 1:16)
He will not lead to ultimate disappointment. (Romans 5:5)
He cannot lie. (Titus 1:2)
His discipline will always produce a harvest of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
His mercies will be consistently new. (Lamentations 3:23)
His love will always be steadfast. (Psalm 63:3)
He will never change. (Malachi 3:6)

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