Go Set a Watchman: Atticus Finch

One should not mistake the liberals’ strong opposition to lynching nor a liberal lawyer’s insistence on due process for black defendants accused of crimes against whites, as evidence of opposition to Jim Crow. Indeed, the Supreme Court in the decade of Mockingbird twice ruled to save the Scottsboro Boys from legally compromised trials in Alabama, but upheld an all-white primary system in Texas that deprived black voters of any political voice. Even if some liberals questioned some forms of segregation and disenfranchisement, and even if some demonstrated humanity in their personal interactions with black citizens (usually with paternalistic overtones), all stopped short of full repudiation of caste by rejecting “social” equality, which would include, among other things, breaking with the taboo on interracial sex and marriage.

..  The problem is not, as these critics seem to think, that Mockingbird readers saw Atticus as a hero because they mistakenly thought he was a true racial egalitarian. The problem is that the readers saw Atticus as a radical egalitarian because, for other reasons, he was a hero, and it alleviates cognitive dissonance to believe our heroes are unsullied and uncompromised.