the night




gilded in gold


its magic






the sky.


Rebooting Atticus

There are some characters in literature possessing the uncanny ability to drive lasting social change. The most notable in American literature is perhaps none other than Atticus Finch. He is among those rare literary characters to have inspired many to enact social change, whether it was through activism, the pursuit of legal careers, or by simply allowing the readership to engage in a mindset allowing advances in social concerns to take hold.

The author, cast as Atticus Finch, in To Kill A Mockingbird.
The author, cast as Atticus Finch, in a stage production of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Whether or not a character such as Finch has his flaws is not being questioned. It can be argued that this character, bred of a pedigree tracing its roots deep in the antebellum South, allowed his own prejudices to beset his representation of Tom Robinson. However, Finch was the right character appearing at the exact moment needed to inspire a shift in mood because he could connect with white Americans on a level they understood.

The question to literature now is this: does a contemporary literary character exist with the potential to drive social change for the next fifty years, or longer? What is for certain is that, in America today, the time has come to shed the patriarchal voices of the past for those set to foster the seeds of progress planted over the past five decades. Slow to grow, these seeds have only begun to sprout, and seek a tender of their garden to ensure they do not fallow. The answer may be that there is not any one such character. Instead we may look to the multitude of voices flowering through the American literary scene to take the helm from the endpoint of Finch’s devotees.

There is a risk to putting forth a character that challenges societal comforts. Even the most liberal thinkers can fall into that comfort zone, oblivious to the protections afforded them through privilege of either race or class. The challenge then, to writers, is to take that risk and chance reputation for the opportunity to birth a character ready to move this nation into a deeper dialogue. The canon waits for those writers ready to recognize the power flowing through the pen, a power that is indeterminable until unleashed. Powerful as it may be, it is the risk that makes such an act not only a true mark of artistic merit, but a leap of faith by the writer not to abandon those words that have given rise to their story.

In 1960 that risk was taken. The rewards were immeasurable.