Atticus Finch was never a hero: “This book taught white people how to talk about race, and it did so badly”

Salon talks to Katie Rose Guest Pryal about the skeptical scholarship on the hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird”

But some readers of the book never took Atticus as a hero for racial justice. One of them was Katie Rose Guest Pryal, who wrote a 2010 essay, “Walking in Another’s Skin: Failure of Empathy in to Kill a Mockingbird,” that took a dissenting view.

“Empathy — how it is discussed and deployed by both the characters in ‘Mockingbird’ and by the author, Lee — is a useful lens to view the depictions of racial injustice in ‘Mockingbird,’ because empathy is the moral fulcrum on which the narrative turns.”

(It’s contained in a book of new “Mockingbird” essays edited by Michael J. Meyer.) But the book, she argues, fails at its goal of generating empathy across racial lines.