Et Tu, Atticus!: The Hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the Cold War

Author: Akiyoshi Suzuki, Nagasaki University, Japan
Published: August 25, 2021

Citation: Suzuki, A. (2021). Et Tu, Atticus!: The Hero of To Kill a Mockingbird and the Cold War. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 8(1).


Against the background of the Cold War, this article rethinks the novel (1960) and film (1962) To Kill a Mockingbird, more specifically Atticus Finch’s characterization as the courageous, unblemished defender of an unjustly accused black man in the American South. Because of Atticus’s unrelenting efforts to exonerate Tom Robinson, he has been proclaimed the 20th century’s greatest American movie hero. At a closer look, however, it turns out that, while Atticus fights hard for Tom, he nevertheless, and as a matter of course, abandons the investigation into the stabbing death of Bob Ewell, a poor white man and Tom’s accuser. The New Yorker magazine noted this conflict in the movie. So, it begs the question: from what social attitudes does this broad-spectrum admiration for Atticus emerge? This article proposes an answer: it originates in identity-centrism, an attitude that underlies United States ideology during the Cold War era and results, specifically, in a total disregard for the poor. In other words, To Kill a Mockingbird is not a closed-ended novel of good versus evil, but an open-ended work that raises a troubling question about diversity.

Keywords: poverty, Cold War, justice, To Kill a Mockingbird