Monday, June 20, 2016

Father Atticus

Most people read through the lens of their background, culture, experience, and prior knowledge.  The nature of the lens determines the extent to which they relate to what they are reading.  This applies to both fiction and nonfiction writing.  But I have found that in fiction, my particular lens influences my opinions of the characters.

Take, for example, To Kill a Mockingbird.  When I first read the book, there were many elements of the story that I could relate to, especially the character of Scout.  I had the same haircut, I lived in a small town, and I ran wild in the streets with my siblings and our friends.  We played games and enacted dramas, just like Jem, Scout, and Dill.  We even had our own version of Boo Radley.

But for all the similarities, there was one great difference - one that always puzzled me.  For the life of me, I could not understand why Atticus Finch did not go to the school play.  In the book, he says he is "all in" after spending a week out of town.  To me that was no excuse.  My father was a traveling salesman and was gone every week.  Yet he was always available for any school event.

When I read that, I saw Atticus Finch through different eyes.  He was still an upright man and a decent lawyer but he was not a good father because he did not attend the school play.  I realized at the end of the story that it was necessary for Atticus to be absent.  His parenting style was central to setting up the climax.  If Atticus had gone to pageant, what would have brought Boo out of the shadows?  I know Atticus needed to stay home from the play - but it still annoyed me.  And that is because of the lens through which I see "father."

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