The Corner

Law & the Courts

‘Atticus Finch Was on the Wrong Side’

I wrote today about how a beloved figure from American literature doesn’t measure up anymore:

It’s time for To Kill a Mockingbird to give up its treasured place in American culture.

The 1960 novel by Harper Lee was published to instant acclaim, has sold more than 30 million copies, and is ubiquitous in high-school curricula. The 1962 movie version, starring Gregory Peck, is a classic in itself and won three Academy Awards. A play based on the novel is about to open on Broadway.

This is quite the résumé for a book that, prior to the publication of a sequel in 2015 that was really the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, was Harper Lee’s only work. But nothing is forever, even for a book commonly called “timeless.” Lee’s novel is deeply out of sympathy with a moment when on college campuses, and in the culture more broadly, due process isn’t what it used to be, when it is often thought to be a hateful act to insist that allegations of sexual misconduct be proven.

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