Saturday, July 11, 2015
Harper Lee's New Book Turns Atticus Finch Into A Racist
Until this year, Harper Lee had authored just one book, To Kill A Mockingbird, a bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel based on racism in the small Alabama town where she grew up. Her book was later adapted for film and featured Gregory Peck in one of his most memorable roles as the lead character playing Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer charged with defending a black defendant in a highly-publicized trial. Finch's character was based on Lee's real-life father, Amasa Coleman Lee, an Alabama attorney who represented black defendants. Finch's daughter in the book, Scout, is based on Lee's childhood life.
Peck, a vocal proponent of civil rights throughout much of his career, received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Atticus Finch. It was the favorite performance of his career. "I put everything I had into it – all my feelings and everything I'd learned in 46 years of living, about family life and fathers and children," Peck said of the role. "And my feelings about racial justice and inequality and opportunity." Now deceased, Peck is rolling over in his grave. Lee decided Atticus Finch wasn't a great supporter of civil rights for blacks after all. In a newly-released book fifty-five years later, Finch has become a racist who attends KKK meetings and is fighting against the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Finch sees blacks as "too backward" to "share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship." There couldn't possibly be a white man in the South who is not a racist, right? Isn't that what they want us to believe?
If you are to believe the tale, Lee actually wrote the sequel, Go Set A Watchman, before she wrote Too Kill A Mocking Bird and it's just been sitting around gathering dust for decades. Some question the mental fitness of the 89-year old Lee to even be making decisions regarding the book she supposedly authored many decades ago. She lives in an assisted living home after she suffered a stroke in 2007 that left her nearly blind and deaf. Two years ago, she had to sue the son-in-law of her former literary agent, who she accused of "duping" her into assigning the copyright for To Kill A Mocking Bird in 2007 after she suffered her stroke.
Oddly, Lee never real did much of anything the rest of her life besides collect all kinds of awards and honors for her Pulitzer Prize-winning book. She spent a great deal of time following around a childhood best friend and neighbor, the flamboyantly gay Truman Capote, a highly-accomplished writer in his own right, until the two got into a big feud supposedly because of Capote's jealousy over her success and no longer spoke to one another. Many believe Capote, who died in 1984, was the actual the author of To Kill A Mockingbird and perhaps this second novel that's been sitting around gathering dust for decades. Her book publisher, HarperCollins, admits it has had no direct conversations with Lee regarding her second novel, dealing instead with her lawyer and agent. Lee has never addressed publicly the charge Capote authored her best-selling novel. Lee, who never married or had children, has referred to Capote as a "psychopath."