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Atticus Finch Is A Racist In "To Kill A Mockingbird" Sequel

The beloved lawyer from To Kill A Mockingbird is depicted as a cantankerous old bigot in Harper Lee's new novel, Go Set a Watchman.

Posted on July 10, 2015, at 8:20 p.m. ET

You probably remember Atticus Finch as the goodly lawyer from To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most recognized and beloved books in all of American literature.

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

Actors Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in the film To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee's Pulitzer-winning 1960 novel focuses on 6-year-old Scout Finch, Atticus' daughter, and tells the story of a trial for Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Atticus is Robinson's attorney and is portrayed as a moral and decent man who believes in justice.

Atticus' moral rectitude was further cemented by Gregory Peck's iconic 1962 performance in the film adaptation of the book.

But in Lee's soon-to-be-released follow-up, Atticus is portrayed as a sick old man who spouts racist vitriol and once attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting.

Universal History Archive / Getty Images

Peck as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lee set To Kill a Mockingbird in 1930s Maycomb, a fictional small Alabama town. Go Set a Watchman, on the other hand, takes place 20 years later and describes a visit that Scout — who has dropped her nickname and now goes by Jean Louise — makes back home.

Jean Louise is now 26 years old and has been living in New York City. Atticus is 72. Jem, her brother, has died from a heart attack.

During the visit, Jean Louise is shocked to hear her father say things like "do you want your children going to a school that's been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?"

An advance Wall Street Journal review of the book also quotes Atticus as saying that blacks have "made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways." And a New York Times review mentions that Atticus once attended a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to multiple reviews, Jean Louise struggles to reconcile her childhood view of her father as a paragon of virtue with the character she encounters during the visit.

Go Set a Watchman will be released July 14, but was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rob Carr / AP

Harper Lee as seen in 2007.

Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman first and sent it to her publishers in 1957, according to the Times. An editor sent the manuscript back asking for a greater emphasis on Scout's childhood. Lee then rewrote the story and produced what became To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published in 1960.

While reviewers have offered some praise of Go Set a Watchman, many fans are not thrilled to see Atticus portrayed as a racist.

Can't believe Harper Lee turns Atticus Finch into a racist. Wanna go read #GoSetAWatchmen but my joyful teen memories will have been a lie.

what the fuck is harper lee doing making atticus finch a racist 20 years later

The fact that Atticus Finch is trending does not mean good things for Go Set a Watchman. :(

Even if it is well-written, I have no interest in reading about a racist Atticus Finch, who was the moral compass of the original novel.

Atticus Finch, one of my all-time favorite characters in literature, a racist? Not really looking forward to 'Watchman' anymore...

The first chapter of Go Set a Watchman is available now online.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.