The lawyer at the center of the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been correctly identified by scholars as a misogynist and rape enabler, evidenced by his drive to discredit a young woman who claims she was sexually assaulted.
In the 1960 Harper Lee novel, a middle-aged male named Atticus Finch is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a physically robust and presumably libidinous man who stands accused of raping an economically disadvantaged young woman named Mayella Ewell.
While many residents in the small Southern town want to take a stand against the culture of rape by circumventing the patriarchal judicial system and punishing the penis-wielder outright, the woman-hating Atticus has the audacity to point his finger at the victim and accuse her of fabricating a story.
“It’s simply appalling that for more than 50 years, young women have been forced by teachers to read this drivel,” said Brenda Maxwell, an Oberlin professor Southern Gothic legal fiction of the mid-20th century. “The message to girls is clear: if you ever accuse a man of rape, in no time at all his rich buddy will don a pair of glasses and start sniffing around your private life, calling your father a drunk and telling the whole town that you’re a maladjusted, lonely slut.”
The few remaining defenders of Lee’s Pulitzer-winning work have feebly posited that the novel, while rotten at its core, is simply a relic of the predominant mindset of the 1930s, when the story takes place, a time when men thought they could go around doubting women. But critics respond that there is nothing redeeming about it, pointing out that at the end of the story Atticus and other men agree to cover up the murder of the victim’s father, Bob Ewell, after he tries to defend his daughter’s reputation.
Middle schools around the country are now scrapping the book in favor of “Deliverance,” an inspirational 1970 novel about four big-city chauvinists who get assaulted and raped by a couple of hillbillies who, like them, are entitled males whose only concern in life is finding a suitable orifice. Most of characters end up either psychotic or dead, offering a valuable lesson to today’s students.
Last year, child welfare advocates also condemned “To Kill a Mockingbird” due to the final chapter, when Atticus allows his six-year-old daughter Scout to escort home the reclusive Boo Radley, a character whom today we can easily identify as a dangerous pedophile.