With the release of Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, I decided to go back and re-read To Kill a Mockingbird before diving in. It’s been a long time since I first read it. This afternoon I came across a wonderful passage in chapter nine, which is the first mention of Atticus’s case defending Tom Robinson. Scout asks Atticus if he believes he can win the case.
“Atticus, are we going to win it?”
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.
“You sound like Cousin Ike Finch,” I said. Cousin Ike Finch was Maycomb County’s sole surviving Confederate veterans. He wore a General Hood type beard of which he was inordinately vain. At least once a year Atticus, Jem and I called on him, and I would have to kiss him. It was horrible. Jem and I would listen respectfully to Atticus and Cousin Ike rehash the war. “Tell you, Atticus,” Cousin Ike would say, “the Missouri Compromise was what licked us, but if I had to go through it again I’d walk every step of the way there an’ every step back jist like I did before an’ furthermore we’d whip ’em this time…now in 1864, when Stonewall Jackson came around by–I beg your pardon, young folks. Ol’ Blue Light was in heaven then, God rest his saintly brow…”
“Come here, Scout,” said Atticus. I crawled into his lap and tucked my head under his chin. He put his arms around me and rocked me gently. “Its different this time,” he said. “This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.”
It’s a wonderful response that seems fitting to share in light of the very emotional and vitriolic debates throughout Southern communities concerning how to interpret Confederate iconography and the Civil War.