DUST AND MOCKINGBIRD
DUKE LAW JOURNAL
Copyright (c) 1999 Duke Law Journal
Duke Law Journal
49 Duke L.J. 601
LENGTH: 52149 words
ARTICLE: LIBERATING LAWYERS: DIVERGENT PARALLELS IN INTRUDER IN THE DUST AND TO
KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
+ Professor of Law, Florida State University. I am grateful to Paulo Annino,
Sandy D'Alemberte, Stephanie Gamble, Adam Hirsch, Tahirih Lee, Josh Morse, and
Mark Seidenfeld for their comments and encouragement. Jeremy E. Cohen provided
invaluable research assistance. I am particularly indebted to Thomas Shaffer,
the pioneer student of Atticus's ethics, who not only commented in detail on my
manuscript, but also shared with me his notes and an unpublished manuscript on
Gavin. The Florida State University College of Law supported my work with a
summer research grant. In writing a paper on two bildungsromans, I have been
constantly reminded of my mentors and my proteges, those who have taught me,
and those whom I have taught. I am most thankful for those times when the
distinction has disappeared, when we have ceased to be teacher and student, and
become simply friends. That happens in only one of the novels I consider; that,
ultimately, is why I consider it the better.
... Atticus Finch, criminal defense counsel
... By his own fiat, Lucius became Lucas,
"not denying, declining the name itself, because he used three quarters of it;
but simply taking the name and changing, altering it, making it no longer the
white man's but his own, by himself composed, himself selfprogenitive and
nominate, by himself ancestored, as... old Carothers himself was...."
... The local newspaper editor, who had put aside his own racism to support
Atticus against the lynch mob,
fulminates in an editorial:
"It was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. ...
Professor Atkinson hopes William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust will replace
Harper Lee's To
Kill a Mockingbird as our favorite story of lawyerly virtue. In both stories, a white male lawyer
and his protege try to free a black man falsely accused of a capital crime. But
below these superficial similarities, Professor Atkinson finds fundamental
Kill a Mockingbird, with its father-knows-best attorney, Atticus Finch, celebrates lawyerly
paternalism; Intruder in the Dust, through its aristocratic black hero, Lucas
Beauchamp, and his lay allies, challenges the rule of lawyers, if not law
itself. The first urges us to serve others in a way that confirms our
superiority in a system we have made in our own image; the second engages us in
a dialogue with those who may be able to help us make our common world better
than we alone could ever have imagined.
Beyond this comparison, Professor Atkinson invites us to wonder why we prefer
the more comforting tale to the more challenging. In his view, the fault lies
largely with contemporary legal education. Even as that education recommends
our using the law to liberate others, it fails to free us from our own
prejudices and preconceptions. Current calls for more skills training and
doctrinal scholarship both reflect and exacerbate this failure. Although
Professor Atkinson doubts that literature can lead us to eternal, transcendent
values, he believes that it can open us to new possibilities of personal virtue
and social justice. Like the Socratic dialogues, Intruder in the Dust makes us
examine our lives in dialogue with others. That, Professor Atkinson concludes,
is both its principal lesson for us lawyers and its best claim for elevation in
We know that all men are not created equal in the sense that some people would
have us believe - some people are smarter than others, some people have more
opportunity because they are born with it, some men make more money than
others, some ladies bake better cakes than others - some people are born gifted
beyond the normal scope of most men.
But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal - there
is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the
stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any
college president. That institution, gentleman, is a court.
Atticus Finch, criminal defense counsel
"Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared, too."
Tom Robinson, rape defendant
"I'm a nigger," Lucas said.
"But I'm a man too. I'm more than just a man."
Lucas Beauchamp, murder defendant
"You're just my uncle.'
"I'm worse than that,' his uncle said.
"I'm just a man.'
Gavin Stevens, criminal defense counsel
[EDITOR'S NOTE: PART 1 OF 2. THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN SPLIT INTO MULTIPLE PARTS
ON LEXIS TO ACCOMMODATE ITS LARGE SIZE].
William Faulkner in Intruder in the Dust and Harper Lee in To
Kill a Mockingbird have given us strikingly parallel accounts of lawyers as liberators in the
most literal and compelling sense. Faulkner's Gavin Stevens and Lee's Atticus
Finch work against great odds to release innocent black clients from
incarceration, where they stand falsely accused of capital crimes, crimes
attributed to them largely because of their color. Both of the would-be
liberators are presented as progressive southerners, but southerners in good
n5 Both are aided by children, through whose awakening eyes we see much of the
Yet, the stories also differ markedly. Most saliently, Faulkner's defendant
lives to be freed from jail; Lee's dies fleeing from prison. In a sense, Gavin
Stevens succeeds, and Atticus Finch fails - more precisely, the former's client
saves himself; the latter's gets himself killed. Faulkner's is a story of how a
black man coolly uses a white lawyer and his nephew, often very much against
their wishes, to deliver himself from the law's very human limitations; Lee's
is a story of how a white lawyer and his daughter, despite their most sincere
and strenuous efforts, ultimately fail to save a black man who runs,
panic-stricken, before the law's promised deliverance.
As the stories differ, so have their receptions. From the novels' first
appearances, critics have hailed Atticus and castigated Gavin.
[*605] Hollywood immortalized Atticus in an Academy Award-winning portrayal by
n8 The movie version of Intruder,
n9 though directed by Clarence Brown,
n10 is mostly forgotten. Its favorable reviews were principally in Europe, and
principally for the role of Lucas.
n11 Legal scholarship and bar journal articles have been full of glowing allusions
to Atticus, and the current professionalism movement has canonized him as
something of a patron saint.
n12 Gavin, by contrast, has gotten the equivalent of an occasional see also or but
In legal scholarship, however, a reassessment, if not quite a reversal of
fortunes, is afoot. Scholars on the Left, especially those influenced by
feminist jurisprudence and critical race theory, are pointing with growing
insistence to Atticus's shortcomings, particularly his paternalism toward
blacks and women.
n13 From a
[*606] somewhat different direction, scholars of the law and literature movement are
discovering unexpected virtues in Gavin, or at least looking for silver linings
in what critics once dismissed as clouds on his character.
n14 In the loquaciousness their predecessors found irritating, scholars now note
Gavin's subtle uses of narrative to educate his nephew and protege, Chick
n15 Even in Gavin's more politically incorrect monologues, scholars are finding
the foils for his nephew's maturer vision of race and gender; an earlier
generation of critics detected only the crudely fictionalized conservatism of
n16 In scholarly exchanges, Atticus's stock is trading at something of a discount;
Gavin's fortunes are on the rise.
These adjustments are, I think, long overdue. Moreover, as I shall try to show
in this Article, they are at once more closely and more complexly related than
has yet been appreciated. The current revisionism is not merely a matter of
exaggerating the faults of Atticus, a southern liberal, and minimizing the
faults of the more conservative Gavin. On a crudely bipolar political spectrum,
Atticus and Gavin are not particularly far apart, and their differences seem
greatest in matters of economics, which has attracted the least attention, and
smallest in matters of race and gender, which has attracted the most.
What distinguishes Atticus and Gavin is less what they think than how they act
- in particular, how they interact with their black clients and with other
social outsiders. Put somewhat differently, critical focus has shifted from the
characters of Atticus and Gavin to the stories of which they are but part. From
this perspective, what
[*607] distinguishes one story from another is less the lawyer in the story than the
place of the lawyer, and indeed, of law itself, in the story.
In Mockingbird, Atticus the lawyer takes center stage, preaching the gospel of
equality before the law. He is the prophet of New Deal-ish progressivism, and
his incrementalist, technically oriented professionalism is the new priesthood.
His practice has shown him that equality before the law is
"a living, working reality."
n18 Hope here lies in the prospect that, supported by women and children,
right-thinking laymen will follow Atticus's lead in recognizing the legal
equality of blacks, who in their turn will have the patience to await the law's
processes. Blacks in Atticus's world pose no threat to elite whites; the benign
songbird of the book's title conveys the character of the best of them, those
like Atticus's client, Tom Robinson.
n19 Gavin's own client places him in the background, because Gavin's lawyerly
mindset obscures to him the novel's central fact: Lucas Beauchamp is not just
innocent, but virtuous. Moreover, Lucas's virtue is from a moral order very
different from that of high school civics or Sunday School Christianity. Lucas
is self-consciously not just a man; he is a mensch, if not an
<um U>bermensch. He is not merely the legal equal of his white oppressors; he is the
moral superior of his lawyerly liberator. His very presence is an unassimilable
intrusion into the world of their inherited prejudices.
[*608] Gavin is slow to see this, not despite his legal training and practical
wisdom, but precisely because of them. His lawyerly professionalism, the skills
and habits formed in years of law practice, are not only not the solution; they
are as much a part of the problem as the more obvious racism of his redneck
compatriots. The outsiders in the novel - blacks, women, the elderly, children
- teach him what he cannot see because his vision is narrowed and lowered by
"busyness." The outsiders themselves have not so much answers as other ways of approaching
problems. Gavin's hope - and the hope for the future of their shared moral
world - lies in continued, mutually respectful conversation and openness to
radically new possibilities of social order.
If this is so, then the greater appeal of To
Kill a Mockingbird may tell us something less than wholly laudable about ourselves, those to whom
n20 It suggests, in the shadow of Nietzsche,
n21 that we who would be liberators prefer Lee's liberal-democratic vision at
least in part because, in insisting that our job is to lift others up, we
implicitly place ourselves always above them. Before we liberate them, they
need us; afterward, they should be thankful to us. Abstractly and formally, we
are never more than equal to them; practically and historically, they are
always beholden to us.
n22 We have it both ways, at their expense, all the time.
Faulkner's feudal-aristocratic vision radically reverses this arrangement, very
much at our expense. By identifying ourselves with Atticus in Mockingbird, we
hope to save Tom Robinson, or at least to reap glory and honor in the trying.
n23 But if we dare identify with
[*609] Gavin in Intruder, we risk despair of being Lucas Beauchamp and resentment at
having to be his instrument, the means by which he transcends not just the
redneck rabble, but also us. And yet there is here, too, a positive message,
and a very ancient, even religious one, one that Nietzsche - perhaps caught in
his own ressentiment - never saw.
n24 To be humbled is not necessarily to be humiliated, and to insist on the virtue
of humility is not necessarily either to assume a false pride or to abase the
properly proud. We can do our part, which may not be the center and certainly
will not be the whole. In more traditionally religious terms, we can be
thankful that we are the means of grace, not resentful that we are not the
messiah, or God.
And there is also, I believe, something more generally salutary about the new
appreciation for the relative merits of Intruder in the Dust. When all is
finally weighed in the balance, Mockingbird is a much lighter tale.
n26 Before its Pulitzer Prize triumph and Hollywood apotheosis, it could be seen
"respectable hammock reading."
n27 The fact that legal scholars are now digesting meatier fare (or, if you
prefer, more complex carbohydrates) bodes well for legal education now, and for
law itself, in the long run. In law and in life, as in Intruder in the Dust,
the hard questions do not have simple answers,
[*610] and the best answers are not always those our predecessors have given us. If
we are to wrestle satisfactorily with those issues, we, like Gavin's nephew,
Chick, must look for help to those mentors who have shown us how to move beyond
their traditional solutions. That, of course, is what the Socratic method is
ultimately supposed to teach us.
Applied to the books we have before us, that method strongly suggests that
Faulkner's Intruder should displace Lee's Mockingbird in the canon of lawyers'
inspirational literature. Part I of this Article examines in detail the
diverging parallels of Intruder and Mockingbird. It begins in Section I.A by
looking at their treatments of hospitality, a critical and recurrent theme in
both novels that establishes very different social frameworks and patterns of
relationships between the characters. Against this background, Section I.B
analyzes the characters of the stories' main black figures, particularly how
their strikingly dissimilar natures produce parallel problems with the law.
Section I.C examines the relationships between these black clients and their
lawyers. Section I.D widens our perspective to explore how the lawyers interact
with various sets of outsiders: women, blacks, lower-class whites, children,
and the North. Part I concludes with an examination of the relationship between
lawyers and the law, one of lawyers' principal means of interaction with each
outsider group. Part II draws lessons from these comparisons for the law and
literature movement, especially its effort to find transcendent moral norms in
literature and to listen to traditionally excluded voices. Finally, Part III
turns the analytic lens around, moving from a focus on what literature can tell
us about how to be to a more introspective look at what our choice of
literature tells us about who we have been, who we are, and who we may become.
I. The Diverging Parallels
A. The Setting: Southern Hospitality
The characters in both novels enact their complex social relations against a
sharply defined background of Depression-era
n28 southern hospitality. We shall examine class and race relations more
[*611] systematically below,
n29 but the reciprocal rituals of guest and host serve as a useful introduction to
the realities of social order, reflecting who takes precedence and who owes
deference. These rituals reveal a pervasive tradition of noblesse oblige, and
breaches of hospitality signal fundamental problems in social relations. The
most fundamental problem in both novels is how to incorporate blacks into the
system. Both stories are thus set firmly on a foundation of southern
hospitality, a foundation dangerously astride the fault line of racial
Yet, on deeper inspection, the novels' fundamental structures of hospitality
differ profoundly. As Alasdair MacIntyre has shown, the moral culture of the
West is a sedimentary affair, comprising various layers of values laid down
over wide stretches of time and sometimes brought into peculiar juxtaposition
by normative shifts of seismic proportions.
n30 Traditional southern culture, as seen in the hospitalities of both books,
rests on two very distinct premodern traditions. Both of these traditions
coexist in considerable tension, not just with the South's Jeffersonian,
Enlightenment heritage, but also with each other.
The uppermost stratum is the Christianized chivalrous tradition of the European
n31 Beneath that tradition, itself quite old, are even earlier strata, the barely
remembered, semi-barbarous heroic ages reflected, for example, in the Homeric
epics, the chronicles of pre-Exilic Israel, and the Icelandic sagas.
n32 Medieval Europe struggled, with only partial success, to Christianize and
incorporate these earlier traditions,
n33 and the untidy edges are evident in the stories under consideration.
[*612] Atticus, the moral center of Lee's novel, weds the later, Christian chivalrous
tradition with the legal regime of modern liberal democracy. These are more or
less contiguous strata, and the friction between them is not especially great.
The same fault line of racism runs through them both, but in the novel it never
yawns very wide, barely reaching progressive liberals like Atticus at the top.
Lucas, the focus of Faulkner's novel, points both farther back, to the
pre-Christian epics, and farther forward, to a Nietzschean transcendence of
liberal egalitarianism. Lucas's volatile brand of heroism is thus disruptive in
two directions. It threatens to erupt through the weakest points of both
traditional southern culture, with its rejection of black aristocrats, and
modern egalitarianism, with its embarrassment at individual superiority of any
Thus, the ceremonies of hospitality in the two novels teach very different
lessons about who the nobles are - indeed, about what nobility is - and about
who is beholden to whom. Lawyers in both novels come from the white
plantation-owning aristocracy and are its presumptive co-heirs to social
precedence. In Mockingbird, this basic position is affirmed, with a heavy
emphasis on white professionals' concurrent obligations to social inferiors. It
is among the latter that most of the racial tension occurs. Blacks' principal
status claim directly threatens only the very lowest class of whites. In
Intruder, by contrast, the social superiority of the white professional class
is itself radically challenged.
In the final analysis, what really matters is not so much who's coming to
dinner, as in what capacity. Tom Robinson merely seeks to be allowed to serve
leftovers to the lowest of the low;
n34 Lucas Beauchamp conveys the unmistakable impression that he should sit at the
head of the table, as lord of the feast.
1. The Heroic Ethos of Intruder in the Dust.
Two instances of hospitality in the opening chapter of Intruder establish the
feudal-aristocratic background for the story. In the first, Carothers Edmonds,
owner of the two-thousand-acre McCaslin Place, his great-grandfather's
plantation, comes seventeen miles into town to discuss some
"county business" with Gavin, the county attorney, with whom he became friends while they were
students together at the state university.
n35 Having stayed overnight with Gavin at the home of the
[*613] Mallisons - Gavin's twin sister and her husband - Edmonds reciprocates their
hospitality, inviting their son, twelve-year-old Chick, to go home with him to
Chick accepts the invitation, and the whole affair takes on a decidedly
antebellum, English-squirearchical air. Carothers proffers a
"boy" who has a good rabbit dog, and Gavin points out that Chick has his own
"boy," Aleck Sander. The three boys set out early the next morning. Chick carries the
lordly shotgun; his two guides are armed with atavistic, metal-tipped throwing
sticks. We see the dog, and more, through Chick's eyes:
a true rabbit dog, some hound, a good deal of hound, maybe mostly hound,
redbone and black-and-tan with maybe a little pointer somewhere once, a
potlicker, a nigger dog which it took but one glance to see had an affinity a
rapport with rabbits such as people said Negroes had with mules.
This order, almost organically natural to Chick, is soon quite literally and
irreversibly upset. Crossing a
"footlog" over a creek, he loses his balance and, falling into the icy water, sees the
world turn upside down. He surfaces to face his rescuer and nemesis, Lucas
He looked up at the face which was just watching him without pity commiseration
or anything else, not even surprise: just watching him... - a face which in his
estimation might have been under fifty or even forty except for the hat and the
eyes, and inside a Negro's skin but that was all even to a boy of twelve
shaking with cold and still panting from shock and exertion because what looked
out of it had no pigment at all, not even the white man's lack of it, not
arrogant, not even scornful: just intractable and composed.
Lucas's first words to him are
"Come to my house,"
n39 and Chick accedes. Though he wants to return to Edmonds's house, he realizes
that Lucas, like his own grandfather,
"was simply incapable of conceiving himself by a child contradicted and defied."
n40 Following Lucas home, Chick remembers what everyone knows about him: Lucas is
the grandson of the patriarch Carothers McCaslin himself; his first
[*614] cousin, Carothers Edmonds's father, had deeded him the house to which they
were headed, along with the surrounding ten acres,
"an oblong of earth set forever in the middle of the two-thousand-acre
plantation like a postage stamp in the center of an envelope."
n41 Chick sees in that enclave, hill and house, respectively rutted and
ramshackled though they are, precisely the features he first saw in Lucas:
independence and intractability.
He should have seen, he realizes later, that Lucas, every bit as much as
Edmonds, had been his host, that
"he had gone out there this morning as the guest not of Edmonds but of old
Carothers McCaslin's plantation and Lucas knew it when he didn't and so Lucas
had beat him...."
n43 Lucas has, in fact, offered him a form of hospitality even more ancient than
he imagines, biblical and Homeric rather than feudal and manorial. Lucas has
given the sanctuary that the epic hero extends to strangers and wayfarers in
But this is obscured for Chick by his deeply ingrained racist assumptions about
the place of black people, about their very nature. As soon as he enters
Lucas's cabin he notices
"that smell which he had accepted without question all his life as being the
smell always of places where people with any trace of Negro blood live."
n45 When Lucas offers his own supper to Chick, Chick sees it as
"nigger food ... what Negroes ate, obviously because it was what they liked,
what they chose ... because this was their palates and their metabolism."
n46 Only much later, as an adult, would he begin to think otherwise, that the
smell and the food might be neither natural nor chosen, but enforced,
[*615] not so much by poverty as by racism.
n47 Quite explicitly, the mature Chick realizes that he has come to his new
understanding on account of this encounter with Lucas and his wife Molly.
The very familiarity of the smell, which suffuses the quilt that warms him and
the food that revives him, reminds him of Aleck Sander's familiar cabin in his
n49 He realizes almost immediately that
"his initial error, misjudgment had been there all the time, not even needing to
be abetted by the smell of the house" or by the food.
n50 On account of his habitual racism, Chick fundamentally misconstrues the
relationship created between him and Lucas by the latter's act of hospitality.
Assimilating it to the servile attentions of other blacks he knows, he offers
Lucas's wife money for her kindness. The offer is meant, we recognize, not so
much to pay them for their trouble as to put them in their place; it is less a
payment compensating them for services than a gratuity implicitly confirming
More than a mistake is at work here. By this point, Chick has realized that
something is radically wrong. Chick resolves to offer money only after he sees
a portrait of Lucas and Molly and learns from her that Lucas had insisted she
not wear the garb of a field hand. The offer of money is a frantic and futile
effort to escape from the skewed reality of the situation, the very real sense
in which Chick, the inadvertent trespasser, has become beholden to Lucas, the
But Lucas refuses the money, which Chick flings to the floor in consternation.
Chick's black companion obeys Lucas's explicit order to return the money, as
Chick obeys his implicit and symbolic command to take it back. For the next
four years, Chick struggles without success to restore the proper order of his
world, to remove his deeply offensive debt to Lucas, a debt that threatens what
he sees as his own-most self,
"his masculinity and his white blood."
n51 He and Lucas engage in a peculiar potlatch: he sends Lucas and his wife the
kind of remembrances that white landlords give their black tenants: cigars and
snuff at Christmas, a floral dress in the spring.
n52 Lucas replies
[*616] with a gallon of homemade molasses at harvest, a treat from a gentleman farmer
like Chick's grandfather to an urban child with a sweet tooth.
n53 And Lucas ups the ante: he has the molasses delivered by a white boy. In
effect, Lucas has returned the original money again, this time by white hands
rather than black.
Realizing this, Chick despairs of finding a way to restore the old order:
"Whatever would or could set him free was beyond not merely his reach but even
his ken; he could only wait for it if it came and do without it if it didn't."
n54 The reason is that his liberation does not exist in his world; it requires the
shattering and reconstitution of that world. As he is already dimly aware,
Lucas must liberate him; in the most fundamental sense, he cannot free himself,
much less Lucas.
The book begins with Chick in this same anxious state - waiting. From a
blacksmith shop across the street, Chick watches as the sheriff brings Lucas to
jail for the murder of a white man. The meaning of Chick's presence is highly
"He was there, waiting. He was the first one, standing lounging trying to look
occupied or at least innocent...."
n55 He does not know why he is there, or what he will do. He may become a more or
less active part of the gathering crowd, presumptive spectators to a lynching;
he may give way to a deep urge to flee.
n56 His meal at Lucas's house, which he recalls in detail as he waits in the
square, prepares both him and us for his ultimate course: he will do Lucas's
bidding. In the words of Milton's sonnet on his blindness and the sovereignty
of his Lord:
"They also serve who only stand and wait."
2. The Gospel According to Atticus. In Mockingbird, hospitality also plays a
critical role in setting the social background and establishing bonds of
obligation, but with decidedly different results. In the opening chapter,
Atticus, like Gavin, entertains a client from the country in his home. But this
is no plantation-owning university
[*617] buddy come to discuss
"county business." Atticus's client is the father of one of Scout's poorer schoolmates, and he
comes to Atticus's house to secure help in freeing his modest farm from
entailment. When he tells Atticus he will not be able to pay him right away,
Atticus magnanimously declares,
"Let that be the least of your worries."
He explains afterward to Scout that they will be paid within the year, but
"not in money."
n59 Sure enough, they are paid in kind: first a load of stovewood, then a sack of
hickory nuts; a crate of smilax and holly at Christmas, and a crokersack of
turnip greens in the spring.
n60 There is no mistaking what manner of man Mr. Cunningham is. Rather than leave
his land to take a WPA job,
"he was willing to go hungry to keep his land and vote as he pleased."
n61 He comes, Atticus explains,
"from a set breed of men";
n62 he is a sturdy yeoman, a Jeffersonian Democrat.
And yet, in escaping both the dead hand of feudal restrictions and the
blandishments of the welfare state, Mr. Cunningham is hardly as free as Atticus
would have Scout believe. He is, rather, caught in the middle, beholden to the
liberating law and its incarnation, Atticus Finch. Their respective social and
economic statuses are obvious, although only the latter is explicit. Atticus
explains to Scout that, although they themselves are poor, they are not as poor
as the Cunninghams:
"The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them the hardest."
More indirectly, Lee reveals their relative social status. In admitting that he
cannot pay immediately, the farmer makes his embarrassed apology to
"Mr. Finch"; in response, it is
"Walter" to whom the lawyer magnanimously extends his credit.
n64 The fruits of the farmer's land are distinctly inferior recompense for the
lawyer's professional services in the dominant cash economy; thus, they are
received as a favor rather than paid as a right. Mr. Cunningham's insistent
offerings of agricultural produce are oddly reminiscent of feudal dues, the
proverbial rose at midsummer. They are the sign, not of independence, but of
subinfeudation. The essential difference is that
[*618] the recipient is not a traditional landlord, but a modern lawyer. As we move
up the social pyramid in Maycomb County, we find not so much tightening tiers
of rural magnates, as an apex of urban professionals.
As in Intruder, from this first act of hospitality - a lawyer receiving a
client at home - flows another. But in Mockingbird, there is no reciprocity;
all the generosity runs in one direction. On the pretext that their fathers are
friends, Atticus's ten-year-old son, Jem, invites Cunningham's son Walter home
from school for lunch. The real point of the invitation is to patch over a
fight between young Walter and Scout, his first-grade classmate.
n65 They had come to blows on their first day at school when she failed to explain
with sufficient tact to the new teacher why he had no money for lunch and was
too proud to accept any as charity.
Atticus, himself home from his law office for lunch, plays the gracious host,
talking man-to-man with his guest about farm problems.
n67 But things go awry when Scout accidentally humiliates young Cunningham. She
asks why he is pouring molasses all over his food, country-fashion, apparently
spoiling his wholesome, middle-class meal. Calpurnia, their black maid and
surrogate mother, marches Scout off to the kitchen. Over Scout's objection that
Walter is not company, but just a Cunningham, Calpurnia lays down the law of
Hush your mouth! Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house's
yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you
was so high and mighty! Yo' folks might be better'n the Cunninghams but it
don't count for nothin' the way you're disgracin' 'em....
Thus, Scout learns the lesson of noblesse oblige, liberal style: though she
and her professional family are better than common folk, she must respect her
subordinates' pride while extending them her charity, even as her father does.
n69 Chick, sharing the
[*619] Lucas Beauchamp's cabin, learned a very different lesson, as we have seen.
But if Calpurnia can instruct Scout on manners toward lower-class whites, it is
clear from another instance of hospitality that Jem and Scout have a
benevolently patronizing attitude toward her. While Atticus is away on
legislative business in Montgomery, Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to worship at
her church. When they balk at her elaborate preparations, she mutters,
"I don't want anybody sayin' I don't look after my children."
n72 Once they are in the pew with her, she gives them each a dime for the
collection plate. Jem whispers that they have their own, but Calpurnia insists
that they take hers, since they are her
n73 This poses a minor dilemma:
"Jem's face showed brief indecision on the ethics of withholding his own dime,
but his innate courtesy won and he shifted his dime to his pocket."
Jem's instinctive understanding of how to be a guest among the lower orders is,
of course, precisely what got Chick into trouble. Jem was the honored guest of
his maid, in a place of Christian worship, where the last can safely play at
being first. Chick's host was no one's servant; the sanctuary of his house, no
temple to meekness.
These instances of hospitality reveal the mores of Mockingbird to be quite
patrician and patriarchal, and in that respect they are very like those of
Intruder. But it is a later incident of hospitality that more precisely
parallels Chick's encounter with Lucas as the novel's central social
disruption. This is the fateful encounter between Tom Robinson and his false
accuser, Mayella Ewell, in the latter's home, a shack on the outskirts of the
town dump. Here is revealed the racism that subverts the order of Scout's
world, even as the meal with Lucas does Chick's. But what Tom breaks into is
not the self-assured superiority of white professionals, but the intense status
anxiety of the very lowest white class.
Mayella's family, the Ewells, are poor white trash, the local
lumpenproletariat, a kind of outcaste, pariah people:
Every town the size of Maycomb had families like the Ewells. No economic
fluctuations changed their status - people like the Ewells lived as guests of
the county in prosperity as well as in the depths of a depression. No truant
officers could keep their numerous offspring in school; no public health
officer could free them from congenital defects, various worms, and the
diseases indigenous to filthy surroundings.
On the Ewells, Atticus himself is uncharacteristically harsh:
"Atticus said the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations.
None of them had done an honest day's work in his recollection.... They were
people, but they lived like animals."
The animals they resemble are scavengers and vermin. They subsist on the
gleanings of garbage, and the yard around their hovel is littered with a kind
of surreal meta-trash, the remains of refuse,
"like the playhouse of an insane child."
n77 Their home itself is a castoff of the lowest social caste: they live in the
decaying hull of
"what was once a Negro cabin."
n78 This is almost literally a no-man's land. Scout explains that
"nobody had occasion to pass by except at Christmas, when the churches delivered
baskets," and when conscientious citizens discarded their own trees and excess holiday
trash, at the mayor's request, to spare the town the trouble.
But Tom Robinson must walk past this wasteland every day on his way to work.
n80 Mayella, the eldest of the Ewell children, frequently accosts him to help her
with chores: chopping kindling and fetching water.
n81 Late one November day, she asks him to come into the house to repair a hinge.
But her real purpose is to seduce him; discovering it, he recoils in terror and
flees. Mayella's father, who has watched from a window, beats her. Then,
closing ranks against the outside, the two of them accuse Tom Robinson of rape.
This is the ultimate perversion of hospitality. The guest has not come to seek
sanctuary; the lady of the house has invited him to render chivalrous service.
But the guest is not honored, or even protected; he is immediately vilified and
ultimately killed. Accused of inflicting
[*621] the greatest breach of hospitality possible for a guest, seduction of his
n82 he suffers the greatest breach of hospitality by the householder, betrayal
unto dishonorable death.
n83 This treachery goes unpunished simply because, as we shall see in the next
section, Tom's damsel chooses to relieve her distress with a knight who is not
Yet, even to apply these terms to Mayella and Tom is to parody them. There are
indeed a knight and a damsel in Mockingbird, but they are Atticus and his
daughter, Scout. What we have here is a peasant helping a waif, starved as much
for affection as for food. To be sure, racial differences disrupt what might
otherwise have been a standard Shakespearean subplot. Tom's blackness makes it
presumptuous for him to help Mayella in her hovel; her whiteness makes it
outrageous for her to woo him there. But this is a far cry from his presenting
himself at Atticus's home, asking for Scout's hand in marriage and his share of
the patrimony. And it is a far cry from what Lucas did: acting with the
assurance that the patrimony was already his, the white heir apparent not
merely his squire, or even his page, but his errand boy, despite the fact that
he himself is the product of the ultimate anathema, miscegenation. Lucas's
cabin is his castle, metaphysically as well as metaphorically. It is the real
seat of the McCaslin dominion, as he is its proper lord.
B. Characters of the Black Defendants
Their respective ordeals reveal Tom Robinson and Lucas Beauchamp as the
paradigms of deeply different values in superficially
[*622] similar worlds. The egregiously ill treatment of each in his world reveals the
difficulties those worlds have in dealing with differences of race. At the same
time, however, they reveal that both the background value systems and the
racisms that disrupt them are radically different in the two stories. Tom is
charitably engaged, and engagingly charitable, the model not so much of
Christian kindness as of saintly supererogation. Lucas is pitiless and aloof, a
pagan hero out of place in the myths of both the chivalrous past and the
1. Tom Robinson, the Good Samaritan. As the reality of Tom Robinson's encounter
with Mayella Ewell becomes clear to us in the course of his trial, we realize
that he is a model liberal citizen and Christian neighbor. But what we learn of
him first, before the trial begins, is that he is a model black man in the eyes
of contemporary whites. Calpurnia vouches to Atticus for Tom as coming from a
"clean-living folks" whom she knows well, who are members of her church.
n85 He lives in one of the cabins out past the dump, but not a derelict cabin like
the Ewells'. These cabins rival the cottages of Irish tourism brochures in
their picturesque rural poverty:
"neat and snug with pale blue smoke rising from the chimneys and doorways
glowing amber from the fires inside."
In direct examination at trial, Atticus brings out the basics of Tom's
biography - he is twenty-five, married with three children - and paints his one
prior legal misadventure in the best possible light - he served thirty days for
disorderly conduct after trying to defend himself from a knife attack; the
attacker served no time because he could afford the fine.
n87 He is a faithful employee - one is tempted to say retainer - of a respected
white landowner; he helps to tend and harvest the boss's cotton crop and does
yardwork in the off-season.
Tom Robinson knows his place, and his predicament, and Atticus carefully
elicits this self-knowledge. In explaining why he fled the scene of his alleged
crime, Robinson says,
"Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared, too."
n89 Watching from the black people's balcony, as a guest of the wizened Reverend
Sykes, Scout affirms
[*623] Tom's goodness:
"He seemed to be a respectable Negro...."
n90 At the end of Atticus's direct examination, Tom's employer blurts out,
"That boy's worked for me for eight years an' I ain't had a speck o'trouble outa
him. Not a speck."
Tom Robinson, moreover, is not merely humble and respectable; he is pitiable.
"If he had been whole," Scout observes at his trial,
"he would have been a fine specimen of a man."
n92 But he is broken. Even before Atticus shows through Tom's own testimony that
he lacks the moral depravity to rape Mayella, he has already shown in
cross-examining her that Tom lacks the physical capability. As a boy, he had
had his left arm nearly ripped off by a cotton gin; the accident left Tom's
left arm useless, a foot shorter than his right, with a
"small, shriveled hand."
n93 Thus, the humble, hard-toiling helot is also the victim of a Dickensian
industrial disaster. In the pantheon of appealing working-class prototypes,
Robinson has a dual distinction: he is both a worker and a peasant. His very
ministrations to Mayella depict his subjection in almost literally biblical
terms: he splits kindling and fetches from the well; he is a hewer of wood and
a drawer of water.
But as Tom Robinson's encounter with Mayella Ewell becomes clear to us in the
course of his trial, we realize that he is more than just a respectable Negro,
a falsely accused innocent. He is a model liberal citizen and Christian
neighbor, and in that lies both his undoing and the indictment of his
persecutors. Tom Robinson takes the part of the Good Samaritan, helping those
whom the conventionally righteous pass by,
n95 even the part of Christ, ministering to the most despised and socially
opprobrious in their own homes.
n96 He, like Jesus, enters homes where the host does not confer honor and
sanctuary, but disgrace and even danger. Speaking of Mayella and her family
from the balcony at Tom's trial, Scout tells us that
[*624] gave them Christmas baskets, welfare money, and the back of its hand. Tom
Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her."
n97 Having met Jesus's unspoken command -
"inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done
it unto me"
n98 - Tom deserves his benediction:
"Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you."
That he receives a very different reward (at least in the here and now) is
attributable to his embodying the lesson of the Good Samaritan parable even
more perfectly than is at first apparent. That parable itself was originally an
indictment of racial prejudice, a much more radical message to its
first-century Jewish audience than it is to us in its present form.
n100 In the sanitized version we have in the Gospels, the message is the one we
have just seen in Tom's case: the neighbors we are to love as we love ourselves
are the suffering strangers, the least among us.
This was a message the religious establishment of Jesus's day - the very
priests and rabbis who ignore their needy neighbor in the parable - had long
espoused themselves. Thoroughly orthodox rabbis were already teaching that even
strangers are our neighbors and that virtue requires care for them.
n101 Nor was Jesus's message merely that they failed to practice what they
preached. This indictment of them was certainly there, but that was not the
point that would have been most salient to the parable's original hearers. For
them, the central question was not
"who is my neighbor," which the religious establishment had accurately answered, but
"who can be good," which the religious establishment held to be orthodox Jews, members of their
own temple-centered culture.
The parable's answer to that latter question cut to the very root of rabbinical
culture: a Samaritan can be good, can fulfill the essence of the moral law, to
love thy neighbor as thyself.
n103 This was a radical
[*625] reversal of moral expectations because Samaritans were mixed-race pariahs.
n104 They were apostate Jews who had intermarried with their non-Jewish neighbors
during the Exile, while the ancestors of Jesus's audience, led by the
predecessors of his
"Scribes and Pharisees," had kept the original creed and culture pure and intact.
n105 Jesus's radical message was that these very Samaritans, whom his hearers had
been taught to despise and reject, could be more virtuous than their teachers.
n106 To translate this message into the language of Tom's trial - language that has
not lost its power to disturb - the Samaritan whom Jesus held up as a moral
model was, in the minds of Jesus's audience, a
In his closing argument, Atticus invokes Jefferson's egalitarianism and
"the evil assumption - that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically
immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women...."
n107 As Atticus knows, he has already refuted the charge that this particular black
man fits these stereotypes, already disproved the charge that Tom is bad. What
he cannot do is convince Tom's jury to admit what it clearly knows: that Tom is
affirmatively good, and good in precisely the way that makes him, by their own
standards, their moral superior.
The prosecutor's sly trading on this difference - the difference between not
being bad and being affirmatively good - is Tom's undoing. Having established
that Tom had entered the Ewell compound many times to help Mayella, the
"Why were you so anxious to do that woman's chores?"
n108 Tom apparently takes the implication to be that he had amorous designs on
Mayella, or worse, and he hastens to reveal his real motive as not just
innocent but virtuous:
"I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em - ."
n109 At that point, the prosecutor, Mr. Gilbert, springs the trap, with the desired
"You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?" Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.
The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But
the damage was done. Below us [children, seated in the black balcony], nobody
liked Tom Robinson's answer. Mr. Gilmer paused a long time to let it sink in.
What sinks in is the realization, not of Tom's guilt, but of his even more
damnable presumption: condescending to help a white woman, even a Ewell, in her
home, even a home that is literally a dump. The prosecutor's strategy works
because Tom's jury is not ready to admit that the Samaritan in their midst
could be good - as good as, even better than, they themselves, something of a
saint, if not quite a messiah. Atticus's fellow citizens fail not so much
politically, because they cannot acknowledge Robinson's legal equality, as
morally, because they cannot accept his spiritual superiority.
Thus, Tom's embodying of the values his community professes to hold fundamental
is implicitly at stake in his trial. It is important to see what is implicitly
secure, affirmed rather than challenged. The truth of Tom's position, religious
and secular, is indeed suppressed here, but we must be clear on just how
subordinate he would have remained even if his truth had won. What he
affirmatively asks for is itself essentially negative. Tom asks only to be
given the very little to which the law, as thoroughly racist in its letter as
in its application, already entitles him: not to be judicially condemned for a
crime that he very obviously did not commit, merely because a white person
bears transparently false witness against him. Beyond that, he asks nothing.
Far from asking to be co-ruler with Atticus, or even for a color-blind legal
regime, he does not even ask for an end to what we know as petty apartheid:
drinking from separate water fountains, stepping to the back of the bus,
sitting in a segregated balcony in public buildings.
Nor are these requests, minor as they are in themselves, implicit in what he
does ask. Doing racial justice in Tom's trial is wholly consistent with a
thoroughly Jim Crow legal regime. Tom does not even ask that the separate
facilities of his segregated world be made equal; all he asks is that he not be
punished for a crime he did not commit nor for crossing a line not itself
inscribed in law.
[*627] Tom does not even ask directly for that. Quite significantly, his modest,
indeed minimal, demand is made only through Atticus, his white lawyer. Thus,
Atticus is not merely unthreatened by Tom's demand; his social and moral
supremacy is implicitly reaffirmed. As a moral matter, he is revealed as a
meta-Samaritan, implicitly improving on the parable itself: he is the helper of
the helper of the neighbor who is the most needy. As a sociopolitical matter,
even the most humble demands for minimal social justice must be made through
him. The political priesthood of all believers - as exemplified by Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s boycotts and street demonstrations and the black churches'
voter registration crusades - is nowhere in sight. If you want absolution in
Atticus's world for secular sins you did not commit, you must approach the
temple of justice through its self-appointed priests. If Tom's assumption of
his true place is a threat to the most economically poor and morally benighted,
it is no threat to the superiority of Atticus and his ilk. Tom, after all,
declines a clumsy advance from Mayella Ewell; he does not come a-courting
Atticus's sister, Alexandra.
Here again, a comparison with the original Good Samaritan story is instructive.
Jesus presents his principal audience, the lower orders of the Palestinian
Jewry, with a bitter pill: the Samaritans, religious syncretists and racial
amalgamists whom the Jews had always despised as lower even than themselves,
may in fact be purer and more pious. That is not the whole message, or even its
most radical part. Implicit in the parable is the message Jesus gives on
another occasion to someone who is herself a Samaritan: the day is at hand when
true worship shall be rendered not in the sacred mountains of Samaria, or even
in Jerusalem itself, but in spirit and in truth.
n112 Jesus's universalizing, spiritualizing message, in other words, threatens not
just to equate the lowest orders of Jewry with their historically compromised
neighbors; it calls for the transcendence of the very cultic apparatus of
traditional Judaism itself, and thus the displacement of Judaism's priestly
Tom's story presents the parable's first, less-radical message. It threatens to
disabuse lower-class whites of their sense of innate, race-
[*628] based moral superiority to their fellow peasants who happen to be black. Their
resentment is not presented as particularly understandable, and no one would
defend their carrying it to the extreme of condemning an innocent man to death.
The other half of Jesus's parable, the toppling of the top, is strikingly
absent here. Tom's trial leaves the temple of liberal law very much intact,
with its secular priests reaffirmed in their moral and social superiority. As
we shall see,
n113 this cannot but have been a profoundly comforting message.
Furthermore, Tom's story does not just omit this critical element of the Good
Samaritan story; it also reverses an important aspect of the Gospel account of
which that story is itself but a part. In the Gospels, it is the religious
establishment that conspires to crucify the ultimate Samaritan, with the
connivance of the secular Roman legal authorities.
n114 In Mockingbird, as we shall see,
n115 it is the ordinary farmer folk on the jury who condemn Tom, who kill the
mockingbird, the embodiment of beneficent humility. Unlike the Palestinian mob
"Crucify him!" in Jesus' case, Tom's jurors have no high priest to orchestrate their anger,
and no magisterial Pilate accedes to it. Quite the reverse: Atticus opposes the
hoi polloi at every turn, with the active sympathy of the trial judge.
n116 On appeal and certification, we have every reason to believe, a higher court -
not in Heaven hereafter, but in Alabama here and now
n117 - will deliver Tom from this evil, if only he is sufficiently long-suffering.
When he is not, the fault is more in his character than in their justice. The
Gospel according to Atticus is that liberalism's law is our proper lord and
lawyers its holy priesthood.
2. Lucas Beauchamp, the Denigrated Nobleman. Lucas, too, gets into trouble for
embodying in his blackness the highest virtues of his culture, but those values
and that culture are radically different from Tom Robinson's. Lucas is the
paradigm of the hereditary landed aristocrat, representative of an aristocracy
[*629] ruthless military prowess.
n118 Lucas is self-consciously such a person, and his neighbors' resentment of his
being such a person, paradoxically conjoined with their incomprehension of what
such a person is, is the source of his trouble.
Lucas, we have already seen, is the grandson of old Carothers McCaslin;
Carothers Edmonds, current owner of the McCaslin plantation, is his cousin.
Lucas, however, thinks of himself as
"the oldest living McCaslin descendant still living on the hereditary land...."
n119 As Gavin says elsewhere of a less noble and less sympathetic black, Lucas's
heritage, or at least his patronym,
"runs Norman blood."
n120 In the language of the conquerors of Anglo-Saxon England, Lucas's surname,
Beauchamp, literally means
"beautiful field," bespeaking his alliance with the land and the landed. The white family whose
name Lucas's ancestors took was quite conscious of this aristocratic heritage.
Lucas's given names - Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin - allude not just to
the Classical Romans, but also to one of the most notable Mississippians of the
nineteenth century, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, a U.S. Senator, Secretary
of the Interior, and Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
n122 As a young man, Lucas was careful to assert his transcendence of this
background by literally making a name for himself. By his own fiat, Lucius
"not denying, declining the name itself, because he used three quarters of it;
but simply taking the name and changing, altering it, making it no longer the
white man's but his own, by himself composed, himself selfprogenitive and
nominate, by himself ancestored, as... old Carothers himself was...."
[*630] When Chick first sees Lucas, towering above him on the stream bank, he
immediately notices the trappings of aristocracy: the worn, handmade beaver hat
like his own grandfather's and the heavy gold watch chain.
n124 Later, in Lucas's cabin, Chick sees him use a gold toothpick, again like his
n125 and notices
"a vast shadowy tester bed which had probably come out of old Carothers
n126 He also sees a gold-framed portrait of Lucas in his full regalia:
"the worn brushed obviously once-expensive black broadcloth suit... and the
raked fine hat and the boiled white shirt of his own grandfather's time and the
tieless collar and the heavy watch-chain and the gold toothpick like the one
his own grandfather had carried in his upper vest pocket...."
n127 All these, like his land, Lucas has from his ancestors, and he has more
besides: a walnut bureau, a wedding gift from Isaac McCaslin,
n128 legally rightful heir of the plantation, and a .41-caliber Colt pistol,
"that weapon workable and efficient and well cared for yet as archaic peculiar
and unique as the gold toothpick, which had probably (without doubt) been old
Carothers McCaslin's pride a half century ago."
n129 This pistol, like the heroic heritage it symbolizes, will be Lucas's burden
and his salvation - in a word, his fate.
These things are not castoffs, and Lucas is not aping illegitimate aristocratic
ancestors. Lucas not only owns his heirlooms; he is entitled to them. Beyond
that, he literally bears them well, befitting his status:
"not arrogant at all and not even scornful: just intolerant inflexible and
n131 In his own house, Lucas stands over his guest,
"straddled baronial as a duke or a squire or a congressman before the fire...."
n133 This is his bearing in public as well. Unlike other blacks and poorer rural
whites, Lucas comes to town only on
[*631] weekdays, not on Saturday. Like whites who are planters, not mere farmers, he
seldom comes more than the once a year he makes the trip - always in his
broadcloth suit - to pay taxes on his land.
This lordly deportment - not designed to impress, not in any conscious sense
designed for any outward effect - is profoundly offensive to Lucas's white
fellow citizens. After their initial encounter, Chick learns how whites
universally thought of Lucas:
The Negro who said
"ma'am' to women just as any white man did and who said
"mister' to you if you were white but who you knew was thinking neither and he
knew you knew it but who was not even waiting, daring you to make the next
move, because he didn't even care.
The effect of this attitude is wide and deep:
"Every white man in that whole section of the country had been thinking about
him for years: We got to make him be a nigger first. He's got to admit he's a
nigger. Then maybe we will accept him as he seems to intend to be accepted."
n136 When his uncle Gavin tells him Lucas has been arrested for murder, Chick
"Yes.... They're going to make a nigger out of him once in his life anyway."
n137 Nor are blacks favorably impressed. As Chick's companion, Aleck Sander, tells
"it's the ones like Lucas makes trouble for everybody."
White resentment at Lucas has boiled over before, but he remains unperturbed.
When an affronted white sawmill hand insults him in a country store one
"you goddamn biggity stiffnecked stinking burrheaded Edmonds sonofabitch,"
n139 Lucas calmly corrects him:
"I aint a Edmonds. I dont belong to these new folks. I belongs to the old lot.
I'm a McCaslin."
n140 As Cleanth Brooks has pointed out,
"this is not precisely the soft answer that turneth away wrath, and it is not
meant to be."
n141 In response to the ominous observation
"that look" will get him killed, Lucas is even more condescendingly dismissive:
"Yes, I heard that idea before, And I notices that the folks that brings it up
ain't even Edmondses...."
n142 This retort incites a murderous assault, to which Lucas responds with
unsettling equanimity while a white bystander diverts the blow. Lucas remains
"quite calm, not even scornful, not even contemptuous, not even very alert."
These are the characteristics of the warrior-aristocrat in its neoclassical,
n144 Lucas embodies virtue in its primary, primitive sense - natural and
instinctual. His conduct is hardly the product of reflective choice; it is more
the unselfconscious outworking of his character. He is quite conscious of, and
comfortable with, who he is, and from that consciousness flows, with an almost
organic inevitability, what he does. Even in the face of a lynch mob, Lucas
evinces not just calm, but also a related heroic trait, a sardonic sense of
n145 Lucas is cavalier, and not just metaphorically, in a culture that idolizes the
mythic cavalier. This is how Lucas's white cousin, Isaac McCaslin, sees Lucas
when he comes to claim his patrimony, his share of the thousand dollars
Carothers McCaslin bequeathed his slave son, Lucas's father:
"the face the color of a used saddle, the features Syriac, not in a racial sense
but as the heir to ten centuries of desert horsemen."
We learn of Lucas through his acts because he is a classical hero, a man of
action, as opposed to introspection, or even words.
n148 Indeed, his very words - orders, insults, jokes - are performatives
[*633] rather than descriptions or explanations.
n149 He does eventually explain how he came to be in his predicament, but only
after he has gotten himself out of it. He gets himself out of it by evoking
rather than commanding obedience, by being taken on faith, before he will
condescend to explain.
The best bred of his white contemporaries, his white cousin Carothers Edmonds,
owner of the McCaslin plantation and Chick's original host on the fateful day
of his fall into the creek, has long ago understood Lucas's character and the
basis for it. Looking at the same face that Chick saw as he emerged from the
creek, Edmonds had seen
a composite of a whole generation of fierce and undefeated young Confederate
soldiers, embalmed and slightly mummified - and he thought with amazement and
something very like horror: He's more like old Carothers [McCaslin] than all
the rest of us put together, including old Carothers. He is both heir and
prototype simultaneously of all the geography and climate and biology which
sired old Carothers and all the rest of us and our kind, myriad, countless,
faceless, even nameless now except him who fathered himself, intact and
complete, contemptuous, as old Carothers must have been, of all blood black
white yellow or red, including his own.
These are the same features that Edmonds's cousin Isaac McCaslin, rightful
heir of the plantation, had seen in Lucas forty-five years before:
"the composite tintype face of ten thousand undefeated Confederate soldiers
almost indistinguishably caricatured, composed, cold, colder than his
[Isaac's], more ruthless than his, with more bottom than he had."
Edmonds knows all this because he has grown up almost literally in Lucas's
house, and he has come to understand how Lucas had bested Edmonds's own father
when the latter tried to take Lucas's
[*634] wife, Edmonds's wet nurse and surrogate mother, as his mistress.
n152 Edmonds also realizes why Lucas had stayed on after this:
"because Lucas is impervious to anybody, even to forgiving them, even to having
to harm them."
Edmonds might thus have realized the truth about Lucas in the present case -
that Lucas could not be provoked by anyone, much less a local redneck, into a
murderous rage. Moreover, Edmonds, given his longstanding ties to Lucas and his
status in the community, is, as Chick puts it,
"the one man white or black... who would have had any inclination let alone
power and ability... to try to stand between Lucas and the violent fate he had
n154 Unfortunately, Edmonds is, at the critical juncture, off in New Orleans having
All other white people - from the rednecks at the barber shop to the
hyper-educated Gavin - profoundly misunderstand Lucas. Accordingly, when he is
found standing over the newly slain body of a white man, everyone assumes that
he has acted in the most flagrant defiance, courting disaster. They see all his
proud, even haughty conduct as seething up to the point when it inevitably
boiled over in murderous rage against a white man.
n156 This misunderstanding operates at two levels. At the first level, white people
attribute to Lucas, as a black man, the resentments that they believe all black
people feel, the fantasies of rage black men in particular want to act out. For
most whites, this assumption is unconscious; Gavin at his most sententious
makes it explicit for Chick in analyzing the actions of the expected lynch mob
and its sympathizers.
At a deeper level, a very different kind of imputation is occurring, one which
Gavin also shares, but without being conscious of it himself. The construction
of black rage that all whites share and impute to Lucas is a projection of the
kind of rage they would themselves feel if they were black. It is a very human
urge to lash out against deeply dehumanizing subordination. In imputing that
rage to blacks, whites implicitly grant them a common human nature, the
[*635] human nature that is theirs, and thus they must deny them its outlet, lest
they grant them a too-explicit equality. Black murderers, accordingly, must be
lynched. To allow them a trial - even a trial that inevitably will result in
conviction and execution - would implicitly recognize their legal, moral, and
psychological equality, all of which their lynchers at once know and must deny.
As applied to Lucas, this mentality is fundamentally misplaced. He is not, in
the sense that this thinking implies, their equal; he does not share their
resentment. He is above that, and in being above that, above them. Quite
ironically, he is superior to them in ways that even the best of them cannot
imagine. Because they do not know Lucas, and because Lucas is the only one in
their midst possessing such a nature, they have no means of understanding him.
The closest category they have to explain black forbearance is Christian
forgiveness, and Lucas, as only Edmonds is aware, has long since transcended
that. Far from forgiving enemies like them, he knows instinctively that they
are not worthy of his attention. Thus, the aloofness that they most resent in
him, and which they believe they have finally broken down with the cumulative
impact of their disrespect, is in fact more insulting than they are even
capable of realizing.
It is not so much that their desire to lynch him is evidence of their evil
"evil" is a category that applies only in their own resentful moral universe. It is
rather that their failure to understand his innocence reveals their
"badness," or baseness, the absence not merely of the virtue that crowns Lucas in the
very different moral universe he inhabits, but also of the capacity even to see
n158 Long before this tribulation, Lucas had ceased resenting their effort to make
"a nigger" and had ceased to strive to be their equal as a man. He has come to understand
what they never can: he is more than merely a man.
John Grisham's A Time to Kill,
n160 whatever its other merits, offers an instructive logical and psychological
middle ground between Intruder and Mockingbird. Faced with an affront to his
moral integrity, the meek and saintly Tom Robinson essentially turns the other
cheek; Lucas Beauchamp, at the opposite, Nietzschean end of the
[*636] moral spectrum, is almost wholly unperturbed, simply taking the follies of his
inferiors in stride. Grisham's Carl Lee Hailey, in contrast to both, acts as
most of us would be inclined to act, taking violent vengeance upon the defilers
of his daughter.
n161 Grisham's moral message is thus thoroughly orthodox: more egalitarian than
Lee's and less aristocratic than Faulkner's. To paraphrase Lucas's and Tom's
self-descriptions, Carl Lee is not a
"nigger"; he is a man. He is, however, no more than a man.
C. Lawyers and Clients
In the last section, we saw how Lucas's and Tom's characters upset their
places in their respective social worlds. In this section, we will see how
their characters and social positions combine to shape their relations both to
their lawyers and to the law itself. Through the various phases of their cases
- the initial selection of the lawyer, the actual conduct of the case, and the
final settling up of lawyer and client - Lucas shapes his own fate, while Tom
is ever at the mercy of others.
1. Selecting the Lawyers. Both Lucas and Tom get their lawyers through
intermediaries, but there the similarities end. Lucas sends his own
knight-errant, Chick, to fetch a free-lance lawyer, Gavin, whom he plans to pay
and whose proffered services he carefully weighs but quickly rejects. By
contrast, a judge appoints Atticus to defend Tom pro bono; we learn how wise
the judge was to choose Atticus and how virtuous Atticus was to accept the
appointment. But, for all we are told, Tom is wholly silent and passive
throughout the entire process.
a. Intruder. In Intruder's opening scene, Chick awaits Lucas's arrival at the
jailhouse. He shares the town's belief that Lucas has
[*637] murdered a white man, but he is drawn to him by a compelling sense of
continued obligation and, beyond that, of something approaching awe.
n162 Lucas, seeing Chick in the crowd, dispatches him to bring his uncle, the
lawyer, to the jail.
n163 The quasi-feudal bond established by the meal Chick ate at his house is thus
the first link between Lucas and his lawyer, and it is the imprisoned Lucas who
initiates the relationship. Though Chick later wrestles with why he was drawn
to Lucas's aid,
n164 the central reason is adumbrated in the opening scene, where Chick awaits
Lucas's arrival at the jail:
"Because he knew Lucas Beauchamp... because he had eaten a meal in Lucas' house."
n165 Chick's deliverance from the creek reminds us of that most ancient of
fealties, the source of obligation in the very Decalogue itself:
"I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of
the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Lucas's relationship with his other principal assistant, the elderly Miss
Habersham, illustrates the same pattern. As we shall see in more detail below,
n167 she comes to Lucas's aid not in a spirit of Christian charity or liberal
justice, but of feudal obligation - in her case, to Lucas's wife. No matter
that this was an obligation to a kind of feudal subordinate; feudal obligations
ran in both directions, down to subordinates as well as up to superiors. Every
lord but the king was also a vassal.
In an ironic reversal of his refusal of Chick's payment for hospitality, Lucas
insists on paying Chick for his quasi-legal service. Lawyers and their runners
never do Lucas a favor; he makes clear from the outset that they are his paid
agents. He has no friends, he insists,
[*638] and he pays his own way.
n169 Chick may not be clear on what draws him to Lucas, or on what sort of
relationship he can establish with Lucas, but Chick is quite clear on Lucas's
view of him:
"He was not even asking a favor, making no last desperate plea to his humanity
and pity but was even going to pay him provided the price was not too high...."
b. Mockingbird. By contrast, it is the law's guarantee of legal counsel, not
any deep personal ties, that puts Atticus in touch with Tom. Atticus tells his
"You know, I'd hoped to get through life without a case of this kind, but
[Judge] John Taylor pointed at me and said,
n171 It is clear that this is to be a classic, indeed paradigmatic, pro bono case.
The court, personified in the judge, sends the lawyer to the passive,
imprisoned client; the officer of the court implicitly picks up the tab,
absorbing the economic cost of providing uncompensated representation.
n172 And here liberal justice is not blindly impartial, but presciently benevolent.
Atticus's neighbor, Miss Maudie, explains to Jem that Judge Taylor passed over
the usual court-appointed defense lawyer,
"Maycomb County's latest addition to the bar, who needed the experience," in order to appoint Atticus,
"the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that."
When pressed to explain his motives for taking the case, Atticus's focus is
distinctly on himself, not his client. He makes clear several times that it is
his own sense of personal rectitude and his need to be seen as virtuous by
others that compel him to take Tom's case. In response to Scout's asking why he
is defending someone most people think he should not, Atticus alludes to
"a number of reasons,"
[*639] but elaborates only one:
"The main one is, if I didn't, I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't
represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not
to do something again."
n174 Each explanatory clause begins with
"I"; Atticus does not mention Tom Robinson at all.
When Atticus places his position on a religious foundation, he does base his
sense of obligation on Tom's need for help:
"This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence of a
man's conscience - Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't
try to help that man."
n175 But even here, the emphasis is on Atticus's personal righteousness. That
entails helping Tom, but helping Tom is in the subordinate clause. In helping
Tom Robinson, as Thomas Shaffer has pointed out, Atticus's mode is not
primarily acting according to high principles in the Kantian, deontological
tradition. Instead, he is simply living out the consequences of his virtuous
n176 But Atticus's character, if not flawed, is oddly focused. He turns distinctly
inward, toward being a virtuous person, rather than outward, toward helping
2. Listening to the Client's Story. Gavin and Atticus both respond with
genuine, even physical, courage to what they perceive as threats of grievous
racial injustice, willingly interposing themselves between their clients and
n177 But Gavin fundamentally, almost fatally, misconstrues his client's situation;
the critical work in making Lucas's case is complete before Gavin has done
anything but argue with him. Atticus, by contrast, foresees everything from the
beginning and assumes full control of every aspect of the case, without our
ever hearing him even consult with his client.
a. Mockingbird. Atticus scarcely needs to listen; he seems to have gathered the
truth of Tom's innocence osmotically. We never hear Tom tell Atticus his story;
the closest we have, in barest outline, is what Atticus tells his brother:
"The only thing we've got is a black man's word against the Ewells'. The
evidence boils down to you-did - I-didn't."
n178 Atticus not only knows, almost instinctively, his
[*640] client's innocence; he also knows his neighbors' racism:
"The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the
n179 Atticus knows from the outset that he will lose at trial, and he plans
"Before I'm through, I intend to jar the jury a bit - I think we'll have a
reasonable chance on appeal, though."
Nowhere does Atticus consult with his client on this strategy, though he
reports that he tried to explain it.
n181 But, when the authorities take Tom to prison, Atticus tells Calpurnia that
"he just gave up hope."
n182 Although Atticus empathizes with Tom's frustration, we are left with the
conviction that, had Tom listened to his lawyer and kept his faith in the law,
he would have been saved. The tragedy, ultimately, is that Tom took his fate
into his own hands, when he should have relied upon his lawyer and the law.
We learn of that fate thirdhand. Atticus reports to his sister what he heard
through an intermediary about the prison guards' account of Tom's futile
attempt to escape from prison:
"It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind
raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them -
"They fired a few shots into the air, then to kill. They got him just as he went
over the fence.... Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn't have to shoot him
This sequence confirms the town's racist interpretation:
To Maycomb, Tom's death was Typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run.
Typical of a nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future,
just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus
[*641] Finch might've got him off scot free, but wait - ? Hell no. You know how they
are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married,
they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes
down to the line the veneer's mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in 'em.
Thus, the town makes sense of the death of one who, they learned at trial, was
"respectable Negro": all blacks are, at bottom,
The town's minority of respectable white citizens draws the opposite conclusion
and draws together around it. The local newspaper editor, who had put aside his
own racism to support Atticus against the lynch mob,
n185 fulminates in an editorial:
"It was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He
likens Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and
n186 Tom's death finally brings Atticus's ambivalent sister Alexandra around to his
"This is the last straw, Atticus."
Atticus, as always, is forgiving and philosophical (and, of course, correct).
With respect to the guards who shot Tom, he tries to see things their way:
"He wasn't Tom to them, he was an escaping prisoner."
n188 And in Tom's death itself, Atticus bends under the tragic burden of its
Atticus leaned against the refrigerator, pushed up his glasses, and rubbed his
"We had such a good chance," he said.
"I told him what I thought, but I couldn't in truth say that we had more than a
good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take
His futile escape attempt was not, from Atticus's perspective, a confirmation
of Tom's racial inferiority. It was, instead, a flash of understandable but
ill-advised heroism sparked by deeply human frustration.
Just how good a chance they had, or may be supposed to have had, on appeal is
clearly to be assessed against the background of the
[*642] contemporary Scottsboro case.
n190 Addressed to an audience in 1960, Lee's account contains a heightened tragedy.
If only Tom had taken Atticus's advice, a virtuous appellate court might well
have overturned his conviction on appeal, as appellate courts repeatedly did in
the Scottsboro case.
b. Intruder. With Lucas, precisely the opposite is true. Lucas takes matters
into his own hands at the very outset, and he delivers himself not only without
his lawyer's help, but against his lawyer's advice. Moreover, Lucas makes it
quite clear from the outset that the law itself is a danger, with which he
suspects Gavin may be too closely allied. Gavin, who comes to the jail already
having decided to represent Lucas, learns that Lucas does not see him in the
first instance as a liberator. Knowing that appearances are against him, Lucas
first asks Gavin,
"What you going to do with me?"
n192 Gavin, surprised and offended, distances himself from what he presumes to be
the source of Lucas's danger, the murdered man's family and their network of
kin. Lucas dismisses these dangers with a wave of his hand, then gets to the
"I mean the law. Aint you the county lawyer?"
Only after Gavin assures him that he is not the prosecutor does Lucas observe,
"Then you can take my case."
n194 Even then, Lucas makes clear that he is not primarily interested in hiring a
lawyer. Gavin's status as a lawyer is incidental, rather than essential, to
[*643] a potentially serious hazard but not a particularly promising help:
"I wants to hire somebody. It dont have to be a lawyer."
n195 Their meeting is a veritable poker game of high stakes and mutual distrust.
Each looks for advantage, hoping to bend the other to his wishes.
n196 Lucas tries to maneuver Gavin into taking his case before revealing what
happened; Gavin tries to extract Lucas's story before agreeing to handle the
case in the manner Lucas wishes.
Frustrated with Lucas's reticence and insistence on controlling the course of
the representation, Gavin asserts that he holds all the cards:
"Because you aint got any job to offer anybody. You're in jail, depending on the
grace of God to keep those damned Gowries from dragging you out of here and
n197 Assuming that Lucas wants to plead not guilty and go to trial, Gavin is
"I dont defend murderers who shoot people in the back."
n198 Gavin lays out an alternative strategy: he will secure a venue in which the
judge does not know Lucas, plead him guilty, and persuade the judge to sentence
him to life imprisonment, in view of his advanced age and clean record.
But the advantage, ironically, is with Lucas. His look is
"shrewd secret and intent";
n200 he knows his opponent better and sizes him up more accurately. Lucas's
abbreviated version of events does not reveal
[*644] his innocence to Gavin, but it does reveal to Lucas that Gavin cannot begin to
fathom that possibility and thus that Lucas will have to look elsewhere for
n201 Gavin offers Lucas physical protection at the obvious risk of his own life,
precisely as Atticus had done for Tom.
n202 But Lucas rejects this aid, not because he believes he does not need it, but
because he knows it is inadequate. Moreover, he rejects it with sardonic humor,
nicely lampooning Gavin's loquacity:
"If you stay here you'll talk till morning."
What Lucas needs is someone to do the unthinkable: to exhume Vince Gowrie, whom
he had apparently shot, in order to prove that the fatal bullet was not from
his antique Colt pistol.
n204 He arranges for Chick to return without his uncle on the pretext of bringing
him some tobacco, and he puts the job to him. Chick, as we have seen, accepts.
Gavin only returns to Lucas's aid after Chick, with the help of Miss Habersham
and Aleck Sander, makes the exculpatory discovery that Vince Gowrie's body had
been removed from its grave after Lucas's arrest.
3. Settling up. The conclusions of Tom and Lucas's cases confirm the nature of
their relationships with their lawyers. The entire black community symbolically
acknowledges its debt of gratitude to Atticus. Lucas, if no longer quite
indebted to nothing and to no one, nevertheless deftly puts Gavin in his place.
a. Mockingbird. The underlying spirit of noblesse oblige in Mockingbird is
underscored in a scene at the end of the trial that nicely echoes the terms of
Atticus's relation with his other impoverished client, the white Walter
Cunningham. At breakfast on the day after the trial, Calpurnia serves up to
Atticus's surprise the offerings of the grateful black community: a chicken
"Tom Robinson's daddy sent you along... this morning" and rolls from
"Estelle down at the hotel."
n206 Following Calpurnia back into the
[*645] kitchen, Atticus and his children discover a countrified cornucopia:
"The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt
pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs. Atticus grinned when he found a jar
of pickled pigs' knuckles."
Even though Atticus seems amused, Calpurnia is concerned:
"This was all
"round the back steps when I got here this morning. They - they
"preciate what you did, Mr. Finch. They - they aren't oversteppin' themselves,
n208 The bounty briefly overwhelms Atticus, but he recovers and reassures
""Tell them I'm very grateful,' he said.
"Tell them - tell them they must never do this again. Times are too hard....'"
With this magnanimous message, Atticus restores order, but it is worth noting
in some detail what an order this is. In the first place, and most
fundamentally, it is an order in which Atticus is the arbiter of order.
Calpurnia is not sure her fellow blacks' gesture is proper until she has
Atticus's reaction. In the second place, it is an order in which not just Tom
Robinson, Atticus's pro bono client, and not just Tom Robinson's immediate
family, but also the entire local black community -
"they" - are indebted to Atticus. For all his graciousness, Atticus keeps it that
way; indeed, keeping it that way is not an intentional element that undermines
his graciousness; it is implicit in and inseparable from that very graciousness
In the third place, these are the very sorts of offerings Mr. Cunningham made
to pay Atticus for his legal service in the novel's opening pages. And Atticus
makes clear, as we have seen, that the Cunninghams are extremely poor. In
"the Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest."
n210 Yet, times are not too hard for Atticus to allow Mr. Cunningham to pay in
full, albeit in kind and on installment. Scout long ago learned the reason:
"The Cunninghams never took anything they can't pay back - no church baskets and
no scrip stamps"
n211 - in other words, no charity. Atticus clearly admires this independence:
"Mr. Cunningham," Atticus has said,
"came from a set breed of men."
n212 Blacks, it seems to go without saying, are from a different breed. Implicit
[*646] in Atticus's refusal of further payment from them is an acceptance not only of
their collective debt, but also of their collective place as the objects of the
charitable forgiveness of debt.
b. Intruder. Nothing could be further from the aristocratic aloofness of Lucas.
He is not just free of debt, but above the very commercial world in which mere
monetary debt is incurred. Everyone who is black is beholden to Atticus; Lucas,
although black, thinks himself beholden to no one, least of all to his lawyer.
At the end of his ordeal, in the very final pages of the story, Lucas confirms
the nature of his relationship with his lawyer. Gavin sees him coming across
the town square and tells Chick,
"He's a gentleman; he wont remind me to my face that I was wrong; he's just
going to ask me how much he owes me as his lawyer."
n213 Sure enough, Lucas has come to settle his accounts, and what transpires is a
comic recapitulation of their earlier, jailhouse encounter, in which Gavin
mismeasured Lucas with very nearly tragic consequences.
Gavin, jockeying for the upper hand, says Lucas owes him nothing for legal
services, since he did not believe Lucas at the outset.
n215 Lucas insists on at least paying Gavin's expenses, which Gavin sets at a
ludicrously low two dollars, the price of a fountain pen tip he broke writing
down Lucas's story. Lucas responds to what might have been taken as a slighting
offer of charity by reminding Gavin of their respective roles:
"That dont sound like much to me but then I'm a farming man and you're a lawing
man and whether you know your business or not I reckon it aint none of my red
wagon... to try to learn you different."
n216 What is more, Lucas proffers his payment in pennies. Gavin, with mock
"this is business," requires Lucas to count the coins. But Lucas has the last word: he asks for a
[*647] The mock-seriousness of the entire exchange redounds to Lucas's advantage.
n218 It trivializes both the currency in which Gavin, in his capacity as a lawyer,
is paid and the nature of the bonds that such payments establish. More
significantly, it underscores who, in the relationship between lawyer and
client, is beholden to whom. The agrarian aristocrat calls the lawyer, and by
implication the legal profession and even the law itself, to account, without
even taking that accounting very seriously.
D. Lawyers and
Gavin's relationship with Lucas, like Atticus's with Tom, is only the most
salient way in which these lawyers interact with traditional outsiders. In what
follows, we will examine the links between Gavin and Atticus and several
outsider groups: women, blacks and lower-class whites, and children, especially
the lawyers' proteges.
n219 In each case, we will see that, as presented in their respective stories,
Atticus has much to teach,
n220 and Gavin, much to learn.
1. Lawyers and Women. Bordering the adult male dominion in the world of each
novel is a distinct female hemisphere, never fully separate but never quite
perfectly congruent. Moreover, in each novel, a particular woman embodies
virtues admirable in the male realm. But these women's worlds differ both from
each other and in their intersections with the world of men, particularly male
lawyers. Mockingbird's women's world is supporting and subordinate; Intruder's
is, in important respects, independent and superior.
a. Mockingbird. Like the male world it complements, the female world of
Mockingbird revolves around Atticus. Atticus's wife
[*648] has died by the time the novel opens;
n221 there are three significant women in Atticus's life, each in a distinctly
supporting role. They are his maid, Calpurnia; his next-door neighbor, Miss
n222 and his sister, Alexandra. Calpurnia is, as we have seen, Jem and Scout's
surrogate mother, the junior partner in Atticus's unorthodox parenting
arrangement. As such, she runs afoul of Aunt Alexandra, who is very much torn
between affection for her brother and unthinking acceptance of traditional
southern folkways. This is how Scout describes Aunt Alexandra upon her coming
to live with them:
To all parties present and participating in the life of the county, Aunt
Alexandra was one of the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school
manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was born in the
objective case; she was an incurable gossip. When Aunt Alexandra went to
school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its
meaning. She was never bored, and given the slightest chance she would exercise
her royal prerogative: she would arrange, advise, caution, and warn.
She is particularly concerned about the proper deportment of elite women and
the preservation of family status. Atticus's representation of Tom precipitates
her decision to displace Calpurnia by moving in with Atticus's family.
n224 Her chief complaint is Scout's unladylike dress and conduct.
n225 She and Atticus come to loggerheads over her insistence that Calpurnia be
dismissed; he steadfastly refuses, maintaining that Calpurnia is part of the
Miss Maudie is a different kind of southern lady, unorthodox in socially
acceptable ways that make her in many respects the female counterpart of
Atticus. Scout introduces her as
"the best lady I
n227 She both resolves the conflict between Atticus and Alexandra over the rearing
of his children and teaches them and Alexandra what Atticus is all about. Like
Atticus's family, she comes from the old aristocratic stock of Finch's Landing,
n228 a pedigree that permits her an appealing array of eccentricities. She has a
sharp tongue, a love of the outdoors, and a no-nonsense candor with children.
n229 These qualities endear her to Atticus's children, especially Scout, who
confides in her and takes her as something of a role model. The most prominent
aspect of her role is defending and explaining Atticus.
Miss Maudie's values and her version of being a lady triumph in a Methodist
missionary society tea that Aunt Alexandra holds at Atticus's house.
n231 Aunt Alexandra is clearly in her element as hostess. Calpurnia is serving
teacakes in a starched apron;
n232 Scout also attends as a lady-in-training, with her best Sunday dress
n233 Miss Maudie, not a Methodist herself, is consigned to an adjunct status:
"It was customary for every circle hostess to invite her neighbors in for
refreshments, be they Baptists or Presbyterians."
But Aunt Alexandra soon loses the upper hand. The meeting's ugly subtext,
establishment disapproval of Atticus's representation of Tom, threatens to
disrupt the facade of Christian concern for the disadvantaged safely overseas
n235 Miss Maudie puts Atticus's detractors in their place with a deft word, winning
a grateful glance from Aunt Alexandra. Scout is duly impressed, if a bit
mystified, by their odd alliance:
"I wondered at the world of women. Miss Maudie
[*650] and Aunt Alexandra had never been especially close, and here was Aunty
silently thanking her for something. For what, I knew not."
But that is only the beginning. Back in the kitchen, Atticus calls Calpurnia
out to help him break the news of Tom Robinson's death to his widow. Shattered
by this news and shorn of their servant, Aunt Alexandra and Scout must keep up
appearances on their own. Aunt Alexandra nearly breaks down:
"I can't say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he's my brother, and I
just want to know when this will ever end." Her voice rose:
"It tears him to pieces. He doesn't show it much, but it tears him to pieces.
I've seen him when - what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?"
This is a critical juncture. Aunt Alexandra's perspective has shifted from
presiding over a hypocritical ceremony to helping Atticus, but she cannot quite
see what that involves. At this point, Miss Maudie, the ultimate lady, takes
""Be quiet, they'll hear you,' said Miss Maudie.
"Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or
not, we're paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do
right. It's that simple.'"
As Scout notices, Miss Maudie identifies who
"we" are in almost precisely the same terms she earlier had used to console Jem
over the injustice of Tom's conviction:
"The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White
Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody.... The
handful of people in this town with background...."
n239 With that identification of the true aristocracy and its champion, everything
falls into place, all in the service of Atticus.
At the outset of the meeting, when facetiously asked whether she wanted to be a
lawyer, Scout had replied,
"Nome, just a lady," and Miss Maudie had approvingly squeezed her hand.
n240 As the scene in the parlor opened, Scout had
"wondered at world of women," expressing anxiety about her inevitable entry into its superficiality and
n241 She felt
"more at home in my father's world," the rough but honest world of men, where people
"did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you."
n242 Now, having explained things, Miss Maudie checks them for their composure and
joins them as co-hostess.
"After all," Scout concludes at the scene's close,
"if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I."
n243 Atticus, self-appointed messenger of the law, has dispatched himself to the
relief of Tom's widow; back in the parlor, standing and waiting takes a very
different form from Chick's service to Lucas:
"Aunt Alexandra looked across the room at me and smiled. She looked at a tray of
cookies on the table and nodded at them. I carefully picked up the tray and
watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked
if she would have some."
Miss Maudie's depth of insight into Atticus's character and her devotion to his
cause might suggest an element of romance between them. But their relationship
is wholly platonic; when Miss Maudie playfully flirts, it is with Atticus's
brother, a protege of her father, a doctor.
n245 Indeed, it is Miss Maudie herself who makes clear to the children an aspect of
Atticus's character that they can understand only obliquely at their age.
Implicit in the wisdom of his fifty years is an immunity from romantic passion:
"You and Jem have the benefit of your father's age. If your father was thirty
you'd find life quite different."
"different," she clearly means to imply worse, and maybe even the worst, the horror of
childhood horrors: a stepmother.
In a heavily symbolic - indeed, almost parodically, Freudian - scene early in
the novel, Lee removes any suspicion that Atticus's age, in Scout's innocent
"reflected upon his abilities and manliness."
n247 Compared to the occupations and achievements of her
[*652] schoolmates' fathers, Atticus's career is a disappointment. He is fifty and
feeble; he works in an office and wears glasses; he will not even play on the
Methodists' church-league football team. Unlike other fathers, who hunted,
fished, played poker, smoked, and even drank, Atticus
"sat in the livingroom and read."
n248 Pressed to his defense, Miss Maudie insists that
"he can make somebody's will so airtight can't anybody meddle with it";
n249 besides which, he plays not only checkers, but also the Jew's harp. But Scout
remains unimpressed; indeed, having discovered only these modest
accomplishments, she is even more ashamed.
Then she and Jem discover a mad dog on their quiet street. Calpurnia coolly
calls Atticus, who rushes home with Sheriff Tate. Having declared that
"this is a one-shot job," the sheriff, much to the amazement of Jem and Scout,
"almost threw the rifle at Atticus."
n251 Atticus pushes his glasses up onto his forehead, then drops them to the
street, where Scout hears them crack; moments later, he
"ground the broken lenses to powder under his heel,"
n252 presumably to protect the feet of small children. But first, with Zen-like
coordination, he fires a single shot that hits the mad dog just above the eye;
"didn't know what hit him."
n253 Jem and Scout are astounded.
Miss Maudie hails Atticus from across the street:
"I saw that, One-Shot Finch!" She follows up her advantage with the children, explaining the nickname of
Atticus's youth, when he was renowned as the best shot in the county.
n255 When Jem asks why he no longer hunts, Miss Maudie elaborates:
"If your father's anything, he's civilized in his heart. Marksmanship's a gift
of God, a talent.... I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that
God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things."
n256 Atticus's apparent lack of stereotypical southern machismo is not impotence,
but a kind of chivalrous renunciation, the symbolic celibacy of the most truly
[*653] A political cartoon in the Montgomery Advertiser suggests an element of
sublimation as well, revealing the real outlet of Atticus's mature energies:
"It showed Atticus barefooted and in short pants, chained to a desk: he was
diligently writing on a slate while some frivolous-looking girls yelled,
"Yoo-hoo!' at him."
n257 Jem explains to Scout that this is a compliment. In an emergency session
called in the depths of the Depression, Atticus is doing the things that
otherwise would not get done,
"like reorganizing the tax systems of the counties and things. That kind of
thing's pretty dry to most men."
n258 That kind of thing, in our idiom, of course, is not
Atticus had met his much younger wife while he was in Montgomery with the
legislature, but she is dead and that phase is long past. Lee avoids the
obvious cliche of calling the law Atticus's jealous mistress. But this metaphor
would not be entirely accurate: Atticus is, rather, the law's devoted consort,
with all the women in his life as law's ladies-in-waiting.
But even well-meaning ladies can be a bother, to law and to its male agents, as
we learn in the book's final episode. In a kind of Halloween-out-of-hand, the
elusive Boo Radley saves Jem and Scout from the vengeance of Bob Ewell, whom he
kills in the fracas. Atticus, briefly addled by the affair, mistakenly assumes
that Jem, rather than Boo, has killed Bob Ewell. Even after Sheriff Tate
dispels this illusion, Atticus insists on an inquest to clear Jem's name. The
sheriff vows to assert that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife; Atticus insists,
true to form, that the
"best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open."
But the sheriff finally prevails, convincing Atticus not to subject the
reclusive Boo to the ordeal of publicity. Significantly, it is not the inquest
itself that concerns the sheriff; it is the well-intended but unwelcomed
attentions Boo's heroism would inevitably bring from women:
"All the ladies in Maycomb includin' my wife'd be knocking on his door bringing
angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's
done you and this town a great service an'
[*654] draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight - to me, that's a sin. It's
a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head."
Scout, who has overheard the debate, tells Atticus that the sheriff is right.
She has heard Atticus call only one thing a sin,
n261 and she recognizes that sin here:
"It'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"
Thus, Atticus's understudy, with his assent, equates the customary attentions
of southern women with the cardinal sin, the only other instance of which we
have in the story is the shooting of Tom Robinson. Scout, Atticus, and the
sheriff all agree implicitly that the women in question could not be made to
understand what a child realizes instantly and intuitively. Rather than try to
explain something so simple to women of ordinary intelligence, Atticus will not
only wink at a lie, but also involve his daughter in the connivance. In
Atticus's manly world, even the processes of law itself must bend in the crisis
to the silly ways of women.
There is, however, one woman in Mockingbird who is neither silly nor servile,
one who embodies manly virtues that Atticus himself admires as such. She is
another of their neighbors, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose.
n264 Paradoxically, she loathes Atticus, largely for his representation of Tom,
though Atticus greatly admires her. As it turns out, however, this paradox,
too, is resolved very much in Atticus's favor.
Mrs. Dubose is a perversion of masculine virtues, a virago. Her trademark is a
Confederate army pistol,
"concealed among her numerous shawls and wraps."
n265 She is physically hideous
n266 and thoroughly racist, sexist, and snobbish. She taunts Jem and Scout by
n267 and she torments Scout about her
[*655] unladylike deportment and the prospect of her becoming a waitress at a local
cafe, to the disgrace of her well-born mother from Montgomery.
Atticus enjoins Jem to bear with her stoically, like a gentleman, but Jem
breaks under the constant insults to his father. He retaliates by decapitating
her prized camellias.
"fallen into her hands,"
n270 as Atticus puts it, Jem must honor what seems at first a bizarre request. Late
each afternoon, he must read to her from Ivanhoe.
n271 The point of this exercise only becomes apparent with her death. Atticus, who
as her lawyer was with her at the last, informs Jem that, after putting her
business affairs in order, she had resolved to conquer her morphine addiction,
"to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody."
n272 For her, Jem's readings were nothing more than distractions from the agonies
of her ultimately successful withdrawal.
But for Jem Atticus meant these readings to be something more, as he explains:
"I wanted you to see something about her - I wanted you to see what real courage
is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.
It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you
see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs.
Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died
beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
She was also
"a great lady," and Jem is duly impressed.
n274 The scene, which concludes the book's first part, closes with Jem
"fingering the wide petals"
n275 of the perfectly white Snow-on-the-Mountain camellia, symbol of pure and
incorruptible southern womanhood,
[*656] which she had sent him as her parting beau geste - and Parthian shot.
Self-immolation in gloriously lost causes is, of course, the stereotypically
Cavalier and Confederate virtue, rivaled only by the aristocratic aloofness of
"being beholden to nothing and no one." These are the virtues Lucas embodies in Intruder, and it would be striking
indeed if their ultimate exemplar in Mockingbird were Atticus's candidate, Mrs.
Dubose. Scout knows otherwise and has told us before Mrs. Dubose's apotheosis.
Describing the foul-mouthed abuse Atticus unflinchingly endured from his
heroine, Scout says,
"It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never
been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived."
Furthermore, Atticus has already stated his own position on lost causes. When
Scout asked him whether they would win Tom Robinson's case, he had replied,
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason
for us not to try to win."
n279 Scout immediately recognized this as the spirit of
"Cousin Ike Finch [who] was Maycomb County's sole surviving Confederate veteran."
n280 But it is neither this nostalgic relic, given as he was to
"rehashing the war,"
n281 nor the cantankerous Mrs. Dubose, secreting her CSA pistol, who ultimately
stands for virtue, southern style. It is, of course, Atticus. He divorces
Confederate pertinacity from both the re-living of past glories and the
exorcizing of personal demons, wedding it to the progressive, public cause of
Mrs. Dubose, then, is what theologians call a type or prefigure of Atticus, a
kind of rough-hewn John the Baptist preparing us for his gentler Jesus.
Moreover, she is not quite as
"unbeholden" as she would like to believe. It is, after all, Atticus who sends Jem to
relieve her suffering with his gentlemanly readings of Scott's chivalrous epic.
It is Atticus who recognizes her as the bravest person he ever knew and Atticus
who uses her to educate his children in courage. Thus, she who denounces
Atticus is eventually brought round to serving his purposes, even as the
rebellious angels unwittingly serve God; those who curse him, bless him.
Ultimately, Atticus even improves on God;
[*657] he, like Christ, is modest. Mrs. Dubose has wronged Atticus, and he implicitly
forgives her (presumably because she knows not what she does).
b. Intruder. Gavin's relationships with women could not be more different from
Atticus's. Seeing Atticus through the eyes of Scout, we would think he never
had a sexual thought; seeing Gavin through Chick's eyes, we blush at both the
adolescent romantic exuberance of his young adulthood and the almost ludicrous
misogyny of his middle age. The latter comes out most clearly in the book's
final chapter, when Gavin delivers to Chick a long excursus on how
"the automobile has become our national sex symbol":
"The American woman has become cold and undersexed; she has projected her libido
onto the automobile not only because its glitter and gadgets and mobility
pander to her vanity and incapacity... but because it will not maul her and
tousle her, get her all sweaty and disarranged. So in order to capture and
master anything at all of her anymore the American man has got to make that car
When Chick protests,
"That's not true," Gavin gives the basis for his opinions:
"I am fifty-plus years old.... I spent the middle fifteen of them fumbling
beneath skirts. My experience was that few of them were interested in love or
sex either. They wanted to be married."
As Chick will come to find out later, his uncle's assessment is not so much a
deduction from false premises as an induction from too small a sample. We learn
through Chick's narration in other Faulkner novels, particularly The Town and
The Mansion, that fumbling beneath skirts was very much on his uncle's mind for
the better part of fifteen years and that few women were interested in either
love or sex with him.
n285 The height of his romantic misadventures involves Eula Varne Snopes and her
daughter, Linda. He pursues the married mother with awkwardly adolescent
chivalry, ostensibly to defend her
[*658] universally and rightly doubted chastity;
n286 he courts the daughter when she is barely an adolescent, plying her with
poetry and ice cream floats on the dubious pretext of
"forming her mind."
n287 At various times, he engages in fisticuffs on behalf of each.
n288 As Richard Weisberg has observed, these indiscretions reveal not the sterling
attributes we look for in our heroes, but the darker desires we fear finding in
At the risk of radical understatement, Gavin is a deeply sexually frustrated
fellow by the time of Intruder.
n290 Faulkner gives us ample reason to suspect that many of Gavin's higher
intellectual pursuits are thinly concealed sublimations. He flees to the
University of Heidelberg when he loses Eula;
n291 he uses poetry to impress Linda.
n292 In stark contrast with Atticus's behind-the-scenes service to the law as
legislator, Gavin as city attorney presses an absurdly public lawsuit to harass
Eula's paramour, the mayor.
n293 No dusty-street showdown with a mad dog redeems his masculinity. Rather, as
Chick later observes about his quail-hunting,
"he - Gavin - wouldn't be much of a gun even if he stopped talking long enough
but now and then he would go with me."
n294 Gavin does eventually marry, but only to become a kind of cuckold by
indirection. His wife is an old flame from another fine local family, the
wealthy widow of a murdered New Orleans mobster whose children Gavin must
assist from the well-feathered nest before he can resume his long-suspended
[*659] Gavin, like Atticus, has a sister - indeed, a twin - but she, unlike Aunt
Alexandra, is in no need of enlightenment about her brother. She predicts not
only that he will lose his first love through an excess of porch-swing poetry
reading, but also that he will marry a widow with children;
n296 with uncanny accuracy, she is right on both counts, about the same woman. It
is this sister's son, Chick, who is the childless Gavin's understudy, almost
exactly the reverse of Atticus and Alexandra's child-rearing arrangements.
n297 Gavin's sister does play something of a supporting role, but this is
particularly in furtherance of Gavin's quixotic romances, and it generally
serves to limit their damage publicly while privately highlighting their
As there is in Mockingbird a female character, Mrs. Dubose, who parallels the
protagonist, so there is in Intruder a female counterpoint, Miss Habersham, to
n299 But Miss Habersham, unlike Mrs. Dubose, is not a dark mirror giving a
recognizable but distorted reflection of her male counterpart. She is of
essentially the same heroic substance as Lucas himself, and she brings the same
insights to Chick about his uncle and his world. In the end, the only
ascendancy Gavin, perennially wrong about women in general, ever gains over
Lucas is to point out that Lucas ultimately is beholden to Miss Habersham.
Miss Habersham's similarity to Lucas, especially from Chick's perspective, is
adumbrated as he introduces her. She wears a hat and gold watch like his
grandmother's, even as Lucas's matched his grandfather's;
n300 her expensive gloves and shoes,
"made to her measure in a New York shop,"
n301 contrast with her secondhand pickup truck and unpainted house with
"neither water nor electricity,"
[*660] as the worn elegance of Lucas's attire contrasts with the rudeness of his
Yet, even here, the implicit comparison begins to run in Miss Habersham's
favor: her dilapidated home is not a cabin but
"the columned colonial house on the edge of town."
n303 Lucas, as we have seen, is proud to be the oldest McCaslin living on the
ancestral plantation; Miss Habersham's name
"was now the oldest which remained in the county."
n304 The county seat, indeed, was originally called
n305 after her ancestor and the town's founder, whose ascendancy thus antedated the
existing political order symbolized by the town's new name, Jefferson.
Even in independence, Lucas's most cherished quality, Miss Habersham excels
him. Thanks to her land, she is as economically independent as he; she makes
her living selling door-to-door the vegetables and chickens she and her
n306 raise. But personally, she is even more independent. She is
"a kinless spinster of seventy";
n307 though old and a widower by the time she helps rescue him, Lucas has had a
wife and children.
And it is through his beloved wife that Lucas, who claims to be friendless and
beholden to no one, comes to be both befriended by and beholden to Miss
Old Molly, Lucas's wife, who had been the daughter of one of old Doctor
Habersham's, Miss Habersham's grandfather's, slaves, she and Miss Habersham the
same age, born in the same week and both suckled at Molly's mother's breast and
grown up together almost inextricably like sisters, like twins, sleeping in the
same room, the white girl in the bed, the Negro girl on a cot at the foot of it
almost until Molly and Lucas married, and Miss Habersham had stood up in the
Negro church as godmother to Molly's first child.
[*661] Lucas, who prides himself on being descended from his illustrious forebears
through the male line, is rescued by the female sole surviving heir of a longer
line. And Lucas is not even rescued in his own name. Miss Habersham comes not
primarily to help Lucas, the man, but derivatively, in the name of Molly,
It is Chick who remembers the connection with Molly, and it is he who also sees
that there is something more between Miss Habersham and Lucas. Theirs is not
just a quasi-feudal tie between vassal and lady, but also a shared insight into
the nature of the social and legal order in which they are both outsiders,
Titans surviving the end of their time. Indeed, just as Chick originally failed
to appreciate Lucas's noble qualities because he was black, so Chick had not
only failed to take Miss Habersham's proper measure at the outset, but also
dismissed her as entirely irrelevant, because she was an old woman.
This shared outsider status gives Miss Habersham a particular appreciation of
Lucas's plight. When Chick tells her Lucas's account of the murder, Miss
Habersham knows immediately why Lucas did not confide in Gavin:
"Yes,' Miss Habersham said.
"Of course. Naturally he wouldn't tell your uncle. He's a Negro and your uncle's
a man.... Lucas knew it would take a child - or an old woman like me: someone
not concerned with probability, with evidence. Men like your uncle and Mr.
Hampton [the sheriff] have had to be men too long, busy too long. - Yes?'
Chick had first heard this analysis in a homey, stereotypically
"other" setting: an elderly black man, with the help of an elderly white witch, had
located a lost ring of Chick's mother's under a pig trough.
n311 It was a friendship ring,
"a cheap thing with an imitation
[*662] stone," one of a pair,
"which his mother and her roommate at Sweetbriar Virginia had saved their
allowances and bought and exchanged to wear until death as young girls will...."
n312 The outsiders' uncanny, intuitive, almost clairvoyant approach had succeeded
where Chick's family's more orthodox methods had failed. Chick had explicitly
doubted whether this alternative approach could apply in the serious world of
his uncle, the real and important world of adult white men, particularly in
life-and-death matters like Lucas's case.
Miss Habersham shows him that it can.
n314 Chick continues to doubt Lucas's claim that someone else committed the murder;
n315 Miss Habersham accepts it immediately on its own authority or, more precisely,
on Lucas's authority. And she moves to do something about it, without
entertaining the probability of failure but not without attention to logistics:
she lends her pickup and lines up the picks and shovels.
n316 Her after-hours presence in Gavin's office when Chick arrives there Sunday
evening from Lucas's jail cell is uncanny and never accounted for; she is just
there, as the need arises.
This event points to the most striking dimension of Miss Habersham's world -
her time. As Chick himself comes to understand it, her time requires the
attention in which access to truth is available universally, to anyone:
"All they had to do was just to pause, just to stop, just to wait...."
n317 This is the very element lacking in the men's time, which is why she says they
miss the truth of Lucas's story.
[*663] presiding over Chick and Aleck Sander's exhumation, she insists that they take
time reverently to remove and replace the flowers on the grave despite their
alarming lack of time.
n319 On the boys' nearly heedless panic, she imposes the reverence of an almost
Yet, this is an order very much at odds with that of adult males, business and
professional men. Her real, organic time sharply contrasts with their
artificial, mechanical, nine-to-five schedule. Her time is responsive to the
exigencies at hand but never wholly determined by them; their schedules force
the needs at hand into a Procrustean bed of office hours, only to be swept away
themselves in the rush of unpredictable events. Hers is flexible; theirs,
static. When Gavin, informed of their discoveries, insists on waiting for
daylight to re-exhume the body, she cuts him off with a curt observation:
If only briefly and symbolically, Miss Habersham makes even the menfolk bend
their time to hers. Gavin astutely observes that, if she will stay at the jail
with Lucas while they reopen the grave, the Gowries, out of deference to her
sex, will not lynch Lucas in the men's absence. Before acceding, she insists
that they take her home to fetch her mending. Now that the crisis is over, she
will not sit idly by or, worse still, impose on the jailer's wife the social
obligation of entertaining her.
n321 Time to her is more than money and more than a Newtonian dimension: it is a
fluid element with which she lives in harmony.
Even in stereotypically manly things, Miss Habersham excels her men. She proves
herself an excellent equestrian, dismissing Chick's apology for not having a
ladies' sidesaddle with a disdainful
n323 She rides astride, literally like a cavalier, in a culture in which the
cavalries of J.E.B. Stuart and N.B. Forrest have cultic status.
[*664] Lucas, as we have seen, embodies the resolution of defeated but unvanquished
n324 his female counterpart, Miss Habersham, acts with that resolution to save him,
doing what needs doing in the face of seemingly inevitable failure.
n325 Unlike Mrs. Dubose, she does not act for her own sake; unlike Atticus, she
does not act through the law, or on the basis of faith in the law. Atticus
believes firmly in the justice of the courts and the efficacy of his own words
before them; Miss Habersham rests her faith, rightly as it turns out, on her
own actions and the word of the beleaguered Lucas Beauchamp, uttered in jail.
It is only to her, at the end of the book, that Lucas must pay homage, at the
behest of Gavin. He pays in flowers, the currency of her kind, which Lucas must
get from Gavin's sister, since his wife, Molly, who grew the flowers at his
house, is dead.
n327 Lucas's token payment to Gavin, as we have seen, asserts his mastery over
those who work for bourgeois money.
n328 By contrast, his payment of flowers to Miss Habersham acknowledges fealty to
one who works in a very different, and implicitly superior, realm. That
superiority, Miss Habersham has shown us, is not the enforced elevation of
genteel white ladies, into which Chick originally and repeatedly tried to
dismiss her. Nor is it an untenable, isolating self-reliance of adult men. It
is, rather, an organic, almost familial network of both friendship and
practical, effectual virtue, a fellowship to which even the heroic Lucas
belongs only by proxy, through his wife.
c. Summary. At the outset of the final chapter of Mockingbird, Scout declares,
"Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as
mist with sunrise."
n329 Aunt Alexandra had a premonition of evil that fateful night,
n330 but she had long since been shown to be woefully unreliable. None other than
the wise Calpurnia had dismissed such references to the supernatural as
n331 and when Calpurnia herself displays
[*665] an uncanny intuition, Scout dismisses it as
"some voo-doo system."
n332 Very early in Intruder, Chick realizes that his mother's friendship with her
girlhood roommate is like Miss Habersham's sisterly tie with Molly, the
connection that is essential to saving Lucas. And he comes to appreciate that
"outsider" mode of experience and praxis, peculiar in his world to women, blacks, the
elderly, and the young, ought not be rejected simply on account of these
associations. Quite the contrary, he comes to see the busyness of
"menfolks" as inferior in fundamental ways to the womanly, even the witchly.
2. Lawyers, Race, and Class. Both Faulkner and Lee portray a gallery of
lower-class whites distinct from both the country gentry and the urban
professional class, themselves mostly descended from the gentry. Both authors
draw the racism of their poor whites in stark relief, and both make it an
immediate threat to the very lives of their innocent black defendants. Their
principal false accusers are very devils: Faulkner's Crawford Gowrie is a thief,
n333 a fratricide,
n334 and a corpse-defiler;
n335 Lee's Bob Ewell is a violent drunkard, a child abuser,
n336 and an attempted murderer. Faulkner's
"Beat Four" and Lee's
"Old Sarum" are rural enclaves of violent autonomy, literally laws unto themselves, where
the writ of liberal law only sporadically runs.
[*666] On the other hand, neither author reduces all poor whites to easy, even
tempting, negative stereotypes.
n338 Instead, both Faulkner and Lee attribute to their lower-class whites the
virtues of sturdy yeomanry, virtues that their lawyers very much admire,
n339 and both show that even members of lynch mobs can be sympathetic figures.
n340 Both draw their law enforcement officers from the white lower-middle class,
n341 and both not only absolve them of any active sympathy with the lynch mobs, but
also show them to be heroic upholders of the rule of law, ready to risk their
very lives to protect their charges.
n342 Indeed, the lawyers in both stories insist on solidarity with
[*667] their communities, including their racist members,
n343 and each helps his adolescent male protege address a deep ambivalence between
communal loyalty and revulsion at racism. Each protege, in turn, comes to see
his and his mentor's role toward the community as one of respected, albeit
sometimes tragic, leadership.
Yet, there are striking and instructive differences. Lee's racists, or at least
some of them, have an element of incorrigibility that Faulkner's lack. Lee's
poor whites, as a jury, convict Tom even after Atticus proves his innocence,
and their upper-class white sympathizers never show any shame about the
n344 Faulkner's poor whites, even the family of Lucas's alleged victim, accede to
Lucas's release without any trial at all, as soon as the evidence of his
innocence is established.
n345 They never admit, much less apologize for, their error, but neither do they
assert their rightness. Indeed, in acting as if nothing untoward had occurred,
they implicitly acknowledge their guilt.
n346 Bob Ewell egregiously lies to support his daughter's false accusation of rape,
and he attempts to murder Atticus's children after Atticus reveals the lie.
Nathan Bedford Forrest ("Nub") Gowrie
n347 ignores Chick's profound affront to his youngest son - Chick's disturbing of
his grave to exonerate a black man - once it becomes clear that the dead son's
elder brother is the real culprit. The truth
[*668] brings Ewell to cynical, even diabolical, denial; in Gowrie, it arouses deep,
and deeply human, grief.
As Lee and Faulkner give very different accounts of lower-class racists, so
they treat very differently important aspects of their lawyers' relationships
to them. Both Gavin and Atticus purport to understand what drives racism, and
on that basis to forgive it, even as they oppose it. But Atticus's virtue is
defined in total opposition to racism; Gavin's moral failing lies largely in
his complicity with it, conscious as well as unconscious. In Mockingbird,
sympathy for Tom Robinson against the racists is the precise demarcation of
"real" social standing. People
"with background" are with Atticus; those against him, whatever their pedigree, are
In Intruder, Gavin, for all his aristocratic ancestry, his Harvard and
Heidelberg education, cannot escape the racist assumptions that infect his
entire community. He only belatedly understands Lucas's innocence, and he never
quite appreciates the fullness of his nobility. Moreover, his affiliation with
his racist compatriots, even the lynchers, has an aspect Atticus's lacks.
Gavin, quite unlike Atticus, insists on standing with them, despite the evil of
their position, against outsider reformers. As we shall see in the next
section, Gavin insists at great, indeed wearying, length on taking his stand
with a solid South, his country, right or wrong; for Atticus, this issue never
Inextricably bound up with issues of class are issues of race. Both novels
depict blacks as an underclass, repressed and oppressed. Both show their
lawyers to be opposed to lynching, to the point of being willing to risk their
lives to prevent it. On the other hand, neither lawyer is particularly radical
on matters of race.
n349 The central difference between the stories, however, is their treatment of
race relations. Mockingbird, particularly the trial of Tom Robinson and its
impact on Atticus's children, leaves us with the unmistakable impression
[*669] that Atticus is right about race; Intruder shows Gavin's attitude to be deeply
flawed, particularly in his misassessment of Lucas Beauchamp, who has revealed
to Chick a very different perspective on race.
a. Mockingbird. The proper ordering of the social classes and relations between
them are very much an issue in Mockingbird. Aunt Alexandra's criterion, a
travesty of traditional southern female opinion,
n350 is a muddled notion of pedigree and
"background" that even the children can parody, if not quite escape:
Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a
family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.
"That makes the Ewells fine folks, then," said Jem. The tribe of which Burris Ewell and his brethren consisted had lived
on the same plot of earth behind the Maycomb dump, and had thrived on county
welfare money for three generations.
Against Aunt Alexandra's comically genealogical notion of class, Scout places
her childlike version of Atticus's implicit moral meritocracy:
"Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did
the best they could with the sense they had...."
n352 When Atticus tries to oblige Aunt Alexandra by presenting Jem and Scout with
their aunt's view on what it means to be a Finch,
"the product of several generations' gentle breeding,"
n353 things end in a muddle of mutual embarrassment. All three know that Atticus
takes a different position, but even he is unable at this point to articulate
The children struggle to reconcile Aunt Alexandra's preachments on
"background" with Atticus's meritocratic practice.
n355 Jem suggests that
"background doesn't mean Old Family" but rather
"how long your family's been readin' and writin'";
n356 Scout maintains
"there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
n357 Jem, however, cannot concur in this innocent affirmation. The cataclysm of Tom
Robinson's conviction has shaken the foundation of his democratic faith:
"If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other?
... Why do they go out of their way to despise each other?"
But if Tom Robinson's case destroys a childlike moral egalitarianism, it does
so to make way for a more mature moral meritocracy. As we have seen, Miss
Maudie Atkinson provides the synthesis,
n359 modulating social class and personal morality to identify Maycomb's real
"The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White
Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us;
the handful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro,
there but for the Lord's kindness am I.... The handful of people in this town
with background, that's who they are."
This is, of course, a very particular virtue, and its exponents have Atticus
at their head.
Atticus, for his part, identifies the other end of Maycomb's sociomoral
spectrum, the true
"trash." As he tells Jem, they are his principal opponents in Tom Robinson's case,
those whose essential vice negates his defining virtue:
"As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life,
but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man
does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a
family he comes from, that white man is trash."
Atticus was speaking so quietly his last word crashed on our ears. I looked up,
and his face was vehement.
"There's nothing more sickening
[*671] to me than a low-grade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance."
On other occasions, Atticus explicitly links the use of racial epithets with
low class standing.
Atticus had begun his early, ill-fated, and palpably unauthentic disquisition
to his children on the standing of their family by describing it as
"the facts of life," reflecting his sister's insistence on the fundamentality of class.
n363 In the same passage in which he identifies
"trash," Atticus points to a very different fundamental reality:
"There's something in our world that makes men lose their heads - they couldn't
be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it's a white man's words against a
black man's, the white man always wins. They're ugly, but those are the facts
Yet, even Scout realizes that this is not the whole story, but merely
"another scrap to add to Jem's definition of background."
n365 There is, she senses, something not quite complete about this synthesis, with
its subordination of class to virtue. Jem's own amateur taxonomy reflects a
sociological insight that cannot be reduced without remainder to personal
morality, without distorting their social world:
"There's four kinds of folks in the world. There's ordinary folks like us and
the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind
like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes."
"The thing about it is, our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the
Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored
This account, which strongly reflects Aunt Alexandra's perspective, is a
necessary supplement to Atticus's analysis of social standing.
For one thing, blacks, whatever their virtue, are definitely not included in
Jem and Miss Maudie's
"people like us."
n367 As Jem's taxonomy makes explicit, everyone acknowledges them as the lowest
class, and not just as a matter of economic reality. Even in their moral
"background," the most enlightened of the uppermost class, Miss Maudie and Atticus,
condescend toward blacks. For Miss Maudie, blackness is an unmistakable mark of
divine pretermission, if not quite reprobation, a stigma right-thinking white
people see and allow for;
n368 for Atticus, blacks are susceptible, if not gullible, and decent white people
do not take advantage of them. For both Miss Maudie and Atticus, blacks'
exclusion from the virtue of
"our kind of folks" is implicit in their very definition of that virtue: blacks are those
permanent unfortunates in the helping of whom we -
"folks like us" - become virtuous.
Conversely, the virtuous are only those who are, or become,
"folks like us." Aristocratic roots seem almost a necessary, though not quite a sufficient,
condition of Miss Maudie and Atticus's brand of virtue. No lower-class whites
seem immune to the infection of racist unreason, and none of them ever seems to
be cured. Not all upper-class whites are immune; many in Aunt Alexandra's
missionary circle, for example, spout the foulest racism, as does the dowager
Mrs. Dubose. Even Atticus's own children are susceptible.
The critical factor seems to be education, and not so much elitist, liberal
education as education in elitist liberality. Though Jem's effort to explain
background in terms of education
n370 is held up as farcical, it has surprising explanatory power. All the white
upper-class folk who support Atticus are themselves either professional people,
[*673] of professional people, or officers of the law: Atticus's sympathetic brother
is a doctor, as was Miss Maudie's father; Atticus's only other identified
supporters are Heck Tate, the sheriff; John Taylor, the presiding judge; and
Braxton Underwood, the local newspaper editor. The exceptions that tend to
prove the rule are two plantation owners: Link Deas, who also runs a store in
town and who was Tom's employer, and Dolphus Raymond, who lives down on the
river with his black mistress and their outcast children.
Miss Maudie leaves no doubt, however, that there are other
"people like us,"
n371 and Scout suggests why:
Because its primary reason for existence was government, Maycomb was spared the
grubbiness that distinguished most Alabama towns its size.... Maycomb's
proportion of professional people ran high: one went there to have his teeth
pulled, his wagon fixed, his heart listened to, his money deposited, his soul
saved, his mules vetted.
Maycomb, it seems, is something of a professional enclave,
"an island in a patchwork sea of cottonfields and timberland."
n373 Education, particularly professional education, is its bulwark against the
backwardness of the countryside and the racism that arises there.
Lee's aristocrats are always reading.
n375 Atticus starts every morning, in proper professional fashion, with the
newspaper, and he spends each evening with a book.
n376 Sitting in his lap each night, Scout learned to read so effortlessly that Jem
brags she was born knowing how. Her teacher looks foolish for failing to
appreciate her precociousness as a student and Atticus's genius as a teacher.
Calpurnia, best of the black folks, taught Scout to write.
n377 Calpurnia herself learned from
"Miss Maudie Atkinson's Aunt, old Miss Buford," who
[*674] taught her from a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries, a gift from Atticus's
n378 Calpurnia's son Zeebo, a garbage collector, appears in the story principally
to make the point that she taught him to read from the Bible and Blackstone,
n379 and that his literacy makes him a leader in their church despite his humble
n380 Jem, for all his adolescent male energy, is addicted to books.
n381 Miss Maudie Atkinson, despite her gardener's conviction that
"time spent indoors was time wasted,"
n382 quotes Holy Writ to the consternation of lower-class literalists, the
Primitive Baptists, from
"out of the woods."
If lower-class whites are united in their ignorance and racism, they are
divided by another distinctly moral quality: their industriousness. The
Cunninghams, the eponymous people
"of the woods," are, as we have seen, paradigmatic Jeffersonian yeomen, indefatigable workers
of proud peasant stock.
n384 The Ewells
"of the dump" are congenitally lazy, ever on the dole. If the Cunninghams are backward and
ignorant, it is the fault of economic forces beyond their control; the Ewells'
misery is of their own making. Walter Cunningham, Sr., declines a WPA job
rather than risk losing his ancestral farm and his political independence;
n385 Bob Ewell
"made himself unique in the annals of the nineteen-thirties" as
"the only man ... who was fired from the WPA for laziness."
n386 Walter Cunningham, Jr., clad in
"a clean shirt and neatly mended overalls," has hookworms because he has no
n387 Bob Ewell's son Burris, whom Scout calls
"the filthiest human I had ever seen," has head lice because he refuses to bathe.
Burris's sister Mayella, by contrast, is habitually clean. What arouses Scout's
sympathy for her is not so much her poverty, or even her abuse at the hands of
her father, as her efforts to keep herself clean and raise herself up. She
eminently qualifies as one of traditional philanthropy's favorites, the
deserving poor. In the Gospel that informs Scout's story, even the least
complacent of Christians prefer to help those who help themselves.
What distinguishes the deserving poor whites is thus their industriousness and
their amenability to self-improvement: led to water, they not only drink, they
n389 Industriousness, moreover, is critically linked to education, here as in the
mythology of Lincoln's log cabin.
n390 Citing Walter Cunningham, her classmate, Scout contests Jem's identification
of education and family background:
"That Walter's as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because
he has to stay out and help his daddy."
n391 By contrast, the evil Burris Ewell defies the teacher to keep him in school,
slurring her as a slut and stomping home to the dump, thus confirming the
Ewells' reputation for recalcitrance and truancy.
Jem's deserving poor,
"the Cunninghams out in the woods," are thus redeemable in a way that the Ewells of the dump are not.
n393 What the Cunninghams need are stable markets for their crops and education for
their children - the very benefits promised by the modest reforms of the New
Deal, mediated by progressive local lawyers like Atticus. As we have seen,
Atticus is ever willing to lend a helping hand not only in the microcosm of
Maycomb, but also in the legislature in Montgomery. Beyond that, Lee is careful
to tell us, he is a
[*676] supporter of the macroeconomic program of the New Deal. When Scout asks what
happened to Maycomb's
"NRA - WE DO OUR PART" stickers, Atticus replies that
"nine old men" killed the National Recovery Act.
Maycomb's religion reflects the same patterns of class and race. At the top,
good Christianity reflects and reinforces good citizenship. The religion of the
upper-class whites is uniformly low-church Protestant,
n395 internally divided along lines of racial sympathy. On one side of that divide
are the hypocrites, epitomized by hyperemotional women who worry over foreign
missions while ignoring their own injustice to local blacks generally and to
Tom Robinson in particular.
n396 On the other side are the
"true Christians," who support Atticus's position.
n397 Implicitly representing lower-class white religion are the foot-washing,
Bible-thumping Primitive Baptists. They rail at the virtuous regular Baptist,
Miss Maudie, for her vain interest in the beauty of her flowers, and she cites
their benighting influence on Boo Radley's father as a principal source of
n398 What is more, as Miss Maudie points out,
"foot-washers think women are a sin by definition. They take the Bible
literally, you know."
n399 These are the folks of the Monkey Trial - and, of course, of Tom Robinson's
Among blacks, religion is a source of comfort and community, as Scout and Jem
see when they accompany Calpurnia to her church, First Purchase African M.E.
Church (so called because it was bought with the first earnings of freed
slaves). Black religion is not an unmixed blessing: the preacher lapses into an
antediluvian misogyny that offends Scout,
n400 and Sister Lula affronts both the children and her fellow parishioners with a
most inhospitable prototype of black separatism.
n401 Black religion, like black life generally, bears the scars of disreputable
white racism: on weekdays white men defile the black
[*677] people's sanctuary with gambling.
n402 But the black church provides wise - which is to say, deferential - leadership
as well: Jem and Scout sit in the black balcony with the Reverend Sykes at
Tom's trial, and he bids them rise with his flock in silent tribute as Atticus,
their knight-errant, leaves the courtroom.
n403 As he had told them when they worshiped with him,
"this church has no better friend than your daddy."
In summary, then, Maycomb's class structure is essentially as Jem describes it,
once we supplement that description with Atticus's and Miss Maudie's moral
insights. At the top is an educated, urban professional class, drawn from the
rural aristocracy. This class is subdivided into those who, like Atticus, are
enlightened on racial matters and those who, irrespective of their aristocratic
pedigrees, are the moral equivalent of
"trash." The true trash, socially and morally, are the undeserving poor like the
Ewells, irredeemably racist and lazy. Other lower-class whites, represented by
the Cunninghams, are poor and benighted but diligent and educable, and thus
redeemable through a combination of their own efforts and modest progressive
reforms. At the bottom are blacks, whose permanently underprivileged status is
the foundation of the moral community. Whites who are truly virtuous, those
with genuine background, mitigate black suffering; whites who oppress them,
from whatever class, are the most vicious.
Only one group is omitted, and tellingly so: people of mixed race. In
explaining to Scout what mulattos are, Jem describes their pariah status:
"They don't belong anywhere. Colored folks won't have 'em because they're half
white; white folks won't have 'em 'cause they're colored, so they're just
in-betweens, don't belong anywhere."
n405 In explaining Mayella Ewell's false testimony against Tom Robinson, Atticus
sounds the same theme:
"I say guilt, gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She has
committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our
society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as
unfit to live with."
b. Intruder. Like Atticus's son, Jem, Gavin's nephew, Chick, also muses on the
composition of his community and on his own place in it. As he drives with his
uncle into the hill country for the second, official opening of Vinson Gowrie's
"he seemed to see his whole native land, his home ... unfolding beneath him like
a map in one slow soundless explosion...."
n407 At the same time, he remembers his uncle's account of his people, which he
matches to the topography.
n408 As Jay Watson has shown,
"this great patchwork quilt of a landscape ... is the visual equivalent - indeed
the embodiment - of all that Gavin has orally brought to life for Chick in his
Yoknapatawpha tales and legends."
n409 It is a stratification superficially congruent with Jem's
"four kinds of folks"; it includes an urban professional class allied with the plantation-owning
country gentry, two categories of lower-class white farmers, and an underclass
of black peasants. But closer inspection reveals some very different features
In the hill country live the Gowries and their ilk, the constituents of
Lucas's expected lynch mob. They choose to live in the hills, as Gavin has told
Chick, because these hills are like those from which they came - the Highlands
of Scotland by way of the Appalachians of the Carolinas.
n410 And these Mississippi hills are equally harsh and lawless; the hillfolk can
grow just enough corn to manufacture illegal whiskey,
n411 which they still call by its ancient Scots Gaelic name, usquebaugh.
n412 Their folk, furthermore, are largely illiterate, their very names the barely
recognizable corruptions of the Highland clan rolls.
[*679] In their outlawry and illiteracy, these hillfolk are reminiscent of Lee's
Ewells, themselves a Scottish clan.
n414 Yet, their highland aerie is the antipodes of the Ewells' dump; the very air
they breathe, in sharpest contrast to the Ewells' reeking dump, is
intoxicatingly rarefied, acting on the lungs as wine on the stomach.
n415 They are not so much lawless as autonomous, a law unto themselves.
n416 Though ready on Saturday evening to wreak blood-vengeance on the murderer of
their kin, they, with the inflexible Sabbatarianism of the Ulster Scots, will
forebear until Sunday midnight.
n417 It is from the perspective of their plateau that Chick looks back over
everything else. Their synecdoche is not the dump down below town, but a chapel
high above it:
[A] plank steepleless box no longer than some of the one-room cabins hill
people lived in, paintless too yet (curiously) not shabby and not even in
neglect or disrepair because he could see where sections of raw new lumber and
scraps and fragments of synthetic roofing had been patched and carpentered into
the old walls and shingles with a savage almost insolent promptitude, not
squatting nor crouching nor even sitting but standing among the trunks of the
high strong constant shaggy pines, solitary but not forlorn, intractable and
independent, asking nothing of any, making compromise with none and he
remembered the tall slender spires which said Peace and the squatter
utilitarian belfries which said Repent and he remembered one which even said
Beware but this one said simply: Burn ....
There are some significant connections to be noted here. First, the essential
features of the church, and by extension its congregants - poor but
"solitary but not forlorn, intractable and
n419 - are precisely the features of Lucas's cabin and, of course, of Lucas
himself. Lucas's free, almost wild, aloofness has, in Lucas's own mind, a
source that is essentially the same as that of his nemeses. His measure of
himself is his grandfather, old Carothers McCaslin, a Highland Scot who came to
Mississippi by way of Carolina.
Second, these are, as we have seen, essential qualities of Miss Habersham,
n421 some of the very virtues that enable her to help Chick rescue Lucas by
violating the sanctity of this same churchyard. Indeed, at the end of his
quest, when Chick leaves his uncle to walk back into the silent and dark town
square, he himself manifests these same heroic virtues, virtues shared with all
the aristocratic elements in his culture and community. He is
"unhurried and solitary but nothing at all of forlorn."
n422 Only at that point does he feel a degree of reintegration with his people,
"a sense a feeling not possessive but proprietary, vicegeral, with humility
still, himself not potent but at least the vessel of a potency."
As Claudia Durst Johnson has observed,
"Bob Ewell is the antithesis of Atticus,"
n424 the one's home the inversion of the other's.
n425 To Chick and Gavin, by contrast, hillfolk like the Gowries are anything but
alien. Chick recognizes their hills as rising
"in similitude of the actual mountains in Carolina and before that in Scotland
where his ancestors had come from but he hadn't seen yet."
n426 He knows these distant mountains from his beloved uncle's firsthand accounts,
n427 and in time he will make his own hadj, Gavin's gift for his graduation from
n428 The chapel of Chick's highland compatriots bears the ancient Roman name of
their common homeland: Caledonia.
[*681] The Gowries and their ilk, then, are not lumpenproletarians like the Ewells,
exemplars of the basest vices. They are, rather, remnants of heroic
ur-ancestors, living near the source of elemental virtues. Their very
insistence on blood-vengeance for the death of a kinsman affirms their affinity
to Lucas's own heroic value system. They are not killing Lucas because he is
black, but because their own obligations of kinship require it.
n430 They are reminiscent of Nietzsche's proto-heroes, the much-misunderstood
n431 Though Chick must and will transcend them, he cannot ultimately repudiate
them. Like Lucas, he must acknowledge their virtues as essential parts of
himself, even as he incorporates them into a superior synthesis.
In Chick's survey of Yoknapatawpha, its lowland farmers get shorter shrift than
these highland folk:
"And in the valleys along the rivers, the broad rich easy land where a man can
raise something he can sell openly in daylight, the people named Littlejohn and
Greenleaf and Armstead and Millingham and Bookwright...."
n432 The equivalent of Lee's Cunninghams, they bear obviously Anglo-Saxon surnames,
rather than Celtic, and their pursuits are those of law-abiding, yeoman
farmers, not brawling moonshiners. Yet, they do not hesitate to join the
throngs who flock to see Lucas lynched - if not as active participants, then at
least as eager, even insistent, spectators.
Blacks symbolically live - more precisely,
"elect" to live - in both the highlands and the lowlands. According to Gavin,
"they elect both because they can stand either [and] because they can stand
n434 Gavin very much admires this capacity for endurance.
n435 As the word
"elect" suggests, the patience of Gavin's blacks is not to be confused with
helplessness or passivity. To the contrary, it is the foundation of what he
"homogeneity," a deep cultural rootedness
[*682] that he sees as the precondition of all virtue
n437 and the defining quality of all southern culture, white as well as black.
n438 Indeed, according to Gavin, the rootedness of the Yoknapatawpha black exceeds
that of its whites, a superiority proved by
"finding himself roots into the land where he had actually to displace white men
to put them down...."
n439 If Gavin had his way, southern whites would
"confederate" with blacks to produce a strong, organic national character drawing especially
on blacks' superior capacity
"to wait and endure and survive."
Thus, though Gavin uses the disparaging generic
"Sambo" to refer to blacks, he apparently uses it ironically, for he is quite explicit
in his admiration.
n441 He has, moreover, conveyed this admiration to Chick. Approaching the pinnacle
from which he surveys Yoknapatawpha's sociogeography, Chick spots
"the land's living symbol," a man plowing with a mule.
n442 Of course, it is a black man.
n443 Most of the black laborers are discreetly indoors, and most of their white
counterparts have flocked into Jefferson for the spectacle about to be made of
Lucas. But, as Gavin reminds Chick,
"somebody's got to stay home and work...."
n444 On the boy's first trip along this road, the trip that consciously marked his
earliest emergence from
"the long tradition of his native land,"
n445 the absence of blacks along the way had revealed to him their central position
in the moral as well as political economy of the county:
"The deliberate turning as with one back of the whole dark people on which the
very economy of the land itself was founded, not in heat or anger nor even
regret but in one irremediable invincible inflexible repudiation, upon not a
racial outrage but a human shame."
n446 When Lucas is finally free, we are not surprised
[*683] that these people do not regale Gavin and his family with the folksy country
breakfast that Maycomb's blacks give the Finches.
Jefferson, the county seat, shares in the county's shame to a much greater
extent than Maycomb. The countryfolk flood into Jefferson to attend the
lynching, confident that the town is
"theirs ... since it existed only by their sufferance and support to contain
their jail and their courthouse ... theirs the right not just to mere justice
but vengeance too to allot or withhold."
n447 They find in Jefferson itself the willing help of more distinctly urban sorts
- clerks, shopkeepers, and tradesmen generally,
n448 many of whom are their recently transplanted rural neighbors.
n449 And, as Chick ruefully notes, this crowd has the tacit support
"behind the drawn shades of the offices themselves" of those who indisputably belong to the professions.
n450 Scout sees Maycomb as a tidy professional island secure against a sea of rowdy
n451 against the blue-green panorama of his homeland, Chick sees
"the faint stain of smoke which was town."
Chick's survey of his home county, finally, sweeps in
"the long reach of rich bottom land marked off into the big holdings, the
n453 He realizes in the same thought that these are the sites of miscegenation,
"where the present Edmonds and Lucas both had been born, stemming from the same
n454 In his account, people of mixed race cannot be officially omitted and said
parenthetically not to belong anywhere. They spring from the same stock as the
socially superior, and sometimes they surpass them; if they lie generally
outside society, in mutual shame and shared pathos, at least one of them stands
self-consciously above society, in independent pride.
These plantations, like those in Mockingbird, are typically the ancestral homes
of the urban professional class. Chick recalls that his
[*684] grandfather, a judge, was a cousin of one of the great landowners, Major de
n455 As we saw at the outset, Chick's family reciprocates hospitality with Lucas's
cousin Edmonds, present lord of the McCaslin lands. But even his uncle Gavin,
most educated of these aristocratic urban professionals, is not untainted by
racism. He is allied to the racism of the lower elements in ways wholly absent
Near the outset, on their way to meet Lucas in jail, Gavin lectures Chick on
the lynch-mob mentality of lower-class whites.
n456 Although he does not condemn the lynchers and, indeed, sees a certain logic in
their thinking, his condemnation of the practice is clear:
"Which proves again how no man can cause more grief than that one clinging
blindly to the vices of his ancestors."
n457 He is, moreover, ready to stand against the lynchers, against overwhelming
odds, to the last.
n458 Beyond that, Gavin makes quite clear that blacks should be given their full
"economic and political and cultural."
n459 Even on the very sensitive issues of voting and public education, he is
But there are two critical qualifications to Gavin's progressiveness. First,
Gavin is a gradualist.
n461 He quite explicitly believes that these reforms, necessary and desirable as
they are, are not to be wrought overnight,
n462 though he thinks the worst abuses will end
n463 Not an activist, he has no particular agenda or positive reform program. More
precisely, his reform platform has a single plank, that southern whites will be
the liberators of southern blacks. He explains that southern whites deserve
"the privilege of setting him free ourselves."
[*685] Conversely - and this is the second qualification of Gavin's reformism -
efforts to reform at a faster pace and through other agencies than southern
whites are to be condemned and actively resisted. This is especially true of
northern efforts to ameliorate the condition of southern blacks through federal
n465 Gavin points back to the failure of Radical Reconstruction and extrapolates
from that the futility of all such efforts in the future. Not only will they
fail; they will set the course of black liberation back even as, in his mind,
radical abolitionism did.
n466 Like a mantra, he repeats the conditions of liberation:
"Only we must do it and we alone without help or interference or even (thank
At one level, this sectionalism has a certain symmetry. It can be seen not just
as a tribal
"myself against my brother; my brother and I against all outsiders," but also as an insistence on taking upon oneself the sins of one's brother as
the only real expiation. But it fails in two related ways. In its rejection of
the alien North, it frustrates real reform, sacrificing aid to the repressed on
the altar of redemption, or perhaps just face-saving, for the oppressor. As we
shall examine in more detail below, this makes it unacceptable to most readers.
n468 Moreover, in its embrace of the solid South, which is our focus here, Gavin's
sectionalism violates its own premise. The basis for Gavin's critique of his
fellow southerners is the harm done by blindly following ancestral errors. But
this is exactly his basis for defending them: the ancient insistence on not
having the slave freed by outsiders,
"the privilege of setting him free ourselves."
n469 Gavin's prescription for racial reform thus threatens to collapse into the
very atavistic and self-perpetuating harm to self and other that Gavin at the
The untenability of Gavin's position is underscored not only by this internal
tension, but even more by a critical situational irony. Even as Gavin is
arrogating to himself the right to liberate blacks, praising their patience in
awaiting his conferral of equality and treating Lucas as an eponym for blacks
generally, the very course of Lucas's case is negating each of these
assumptions. In their first encounter,
[*686] Lucas tried Gavin and found him wanting; Lucas has already seen to his own
liberation, a liberation that will not confer upon him a mere legal equality,
but restore to him the physical freedom with which to resume his long exercise
of natural superiority.
Gavin's general disquisitions on race relations suffer the same deficiency that
Miss Habersham sees in his dealing with Lucas's case: he is too caught up in
his preconceptions and preoccupations to see the very facts before him. When
Gavin predicts the effect of Lucas's release from jail on the white citizens of
Yoknapatawpha County, he gets it exactly wrong:
"We shall watch right here in Yoknapatawpha County the ancient oriental
relationship between the savior and the life he saved turned upside down: Lucas
Beauchamp once the slave of any white man within range of whose notice he
happened to come, now tyrant over the whole county's white conscience."
n470 As we have seen, Lucas never kowtowed to anyone; as Chick is soon to learn,
the county forgets its wrongful assumption of Lucas's guilt before the week is
Beyond these weaknesses, Gavin's position poses two further problems, each of
which we shall take up later. For readers of Intruder, it has been profoundly
off-putting, particularly for those who glibly attribute Gavin's views to
n472 Second, and more significantly, Gavin's opinions threaten to corrupt Chick,
the novel's central figure of hope and redemption.
3. Lawyers and the North. In both books, the southern setting is essential, and
the characters' southernness is underscored, especially in the case of the
lawyers. Both books deal not only with relations between lawyers and
"outsiders" within their culture, but also with one group literally outside that culture,
the North. Attitudes toward the North, however, differ significantly between
the two novels. In Mockingbird, references to the North are the source of
little more than mild and minor interregional humor. Such references reveal the
provinciality of the children and highlight the quaintness of some of the more
droll adult characters, a background against which Atticus's progressiveness
stands out all the more sharply. In Intruder, by contrast, the North is serious
stuff indeed. As we have already begun
[*687] to see,
n474 lingering animosity toward the North on the part of the most enlightened of
southerners, Gavin himself, threatens to divide reformist southerners from
their counterparts in the North and to unite them with racists at home in a
reactionary common front against the outside.
a. Mockingbird. In Mockingbird, continued animosity toward the North appears in
the form of comic figures like cousin Ike Finch, Maycomb County's sole
surviving Confederate veteran, who is ever ready to refight the battle of
Shiloh from his porch rocker.
n475 The basically decent but blustering newspaper editor, Braxton Bragg Underwood,
is undone by
"a fey fit of humor" that gave him his name, and Scout observes,
"Atticus said naming people after Confederate generals made slow steady drinkers."
n476 The higher the general's rank, apparently, the greater the harm: Bob Ewell is
the namesake of none other than Robert E. Lee.
n477 As Claudia Durst Johnson concludes,
"the destructive and powerful influence of the past is linked with another
characteristic of the Gothic - the theme of decay and degeneration...."
Recalling sectional conflict too vividly is a mark of consummate kookiness.
The sanctimonious Mrs. Merriweather, champion of keeping Alabama blacks in
their place while saving souls in Africa, ironically berates the Yankees for
their hypocrisy toward blacks.
n479 The devilish and drug-addicted Mrs. Dubose brandishes a Confederate pistol,
and, as we have seen, Atticus carefully redirects the lesson of her courage
from the Lost Cause to the liberal cause.
n480 In invoking the stolidness of their Confederate kin, Atticus can assure Scout,
"It's different this time.... This time we're not fighting the Yankees,
[*688] we're fighting our friends."
n481 At least implicitly, the Yankees are in important respects the model he holds
up to his children. Having pressed Jem to the limits of his understanding,
Atticus would assign him the speeches of Henry W. Grady,
n482 whose New South creed preached assimilation to northern industrialism as the
South's road to salvation after the Civil War.
The children's own attitude to the North is one of mild bemusement. In
explaining why the declasse Dolphus Raymond sends his mixed-race children,
"in-betweens, [who] don't belong anywhere," North to school, Jem observes that
"they don't mind 'em up north."
n484 Scout relates that their old family home at Finches' Landing has
"the usual legend about the Yankees."
n485 It is a comic tale of a young bride-to-be getting stuck in a stairway after
"donned her complete trousseau to save it from raiders in the neighborhood."
n486 As it turned out, the Finches were
"stripped of everything but their land."
n487 The culprit, however, was not the North, but
"the disturbance between the North and the South," which their antebellum ancestor
"would have regarded with impotent fury."
n488 Adult thought on the conflict thus comes to us in the present perfect
conditional, with a futurity odder than its futility; there simply is no
looking back in anger.
n489 The war Jem and Scout are taught to remember hardly seems like Hell; it is a
"recent unpleasantness" no more unpleasant than recent.
Atticus's only negative comments about the North are oblique and ambiguous.
They appear in the peroration of his closing argument, as he is laying the
foundation for his ultimate appeal to equality before the law. He is careful to
distinguish more radical notions of equality, which he vaguely equates with the
[*689] men are created equal," he laments, is
"a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive Branch in
Washington are fond of hurling at us."
n490 The disapproving allusion to Eleanor Roosevelt would certainly have carried
racial connotations for his audience, but his examples of acceptable inequality
all have to do with natural differences in individual endowments.
Atticus in his closing must distinguish carefully between the First Lady's
locally unpopular integrationist views and the cause of justice in Tom's trial,
if the latter is to have any chance of prevailing over his lower-class
compatriots' prejudices against both northerners and blacks. This is not a
particularly strong indication that he himself shares the former prejudice any
more than the latter. Indeed, when Mrs. Roosevelt's integrationist ideas, along
with those of the North generally, come in for direct censure, it is with heavy
irony. Mrs. Merriweather, the target of Miss Maudie's subtle barbs and the most
transparently hypocritical member of the ladies' missionary society, declares,
"People up there set 'em free, but you don't see 'em settin' at the table with
n491 Whatever Atticus himself thinks of
"the distaff side of the Executive Branch," he is, as we have seen, a general proponent of the New Deal against the courts.
b. Intruder. Gavin's aversion to things northern, by contrast, could not be
deeper or more explicit. Moreover, Gavin's sectionalism is not that of the
parochial redneck or the nostalgic ne'er-do-well. He has been not only to
Harvard, but also to Heidelberg. When a wealthy and well-educated northerner,
besotted with champagne, crashes his convertible into a Jefferson storefront
and comes to admire the town's rustic jail, it is the cosmopolitan Gavin who
acts as ambassador. He brings the stranger home to dinner, where they
"talked for three hours about Europe and Paris and Vienna."
n493 Gavin's southern patriotism, particularly his animosity toward the North, is
disturbing precisely because it cannot be easily dismissed as silly or
[*690] This is underscored by the fact that Chick initially shares Gavin's sentiment.
Here is the North's place in the cosmology Chick envisions from the Gowries'
The uttermost rim of earth itself, the North: not north but North, outland and
circumscribing and not even a geographical place but an emotional idea, a
condition of which he had fed from his mother's milk to be ever and constant on
the alert not at all to fear and not actually anymore to hate but just - a
little wearily sometimes and sometimes even with tongue in cheek - to defy: who
had brought from infancy with him a childhood's picture which on the threshold
of manhood had found no reason or means to alter and which he had no reason to
believe in his old age would alter either....
These ideas come principally from Gavin, as Chick acknowledges at each of
their several iterations.
n495 But it is especially important to note, in light of what we have seen of the
role of women in the novel, that these ideas come from the maternal side as
n496 These idees fixes about the North, particularly the role of the North in
ameliorating the condition of blacks, seriously jeopardize real reform. Whether
and how Chick can transcend this mindset is a critical issue up to the final
pages of the novel. As we shall see in the next section, it is not comfortably
resolved, though there is genuine room for optimism.
4. Lawyers and Innocents. We see each story largely through the eyes of an
innocent, Atticus's daughter, Scout, and Gavin's nephew, Chick. Each is related
to the respective lawyer figures by much more than mere consanguinity; they are
quite distinctly proteges and understudies. Yet, as their relationships with
their mentors develop through the course of their stories, they diverge
sharply. Childlike innocence, though critical in both stories, works in very
different ways. In Mockingbird, it is the tabula rasa on which Lee writes us
Atticus's moral message; in Intruder, it is the window through which
[*691] Faulkner shows Gavin - and, through Gavin, us - an alternative not only to
Gavin's world, but also to our own.
a. Mockingbird. Scout's story sees her coming to appreciate, and revealing to
us in the process, the fundamental virtue of her father and the essential
rightness of his view - indeed, of his life. At the beginning, she thinks he is
embarrassingly boring and not worth much;
n498 by the end, he is the bravest man that ever was.
n499 Atticus, it turns out, is right not only about Tom Robinson, Mayella Ewell's
mischosen Lancelot, but also about Boo Radley, Scout and Jem's unlikely
guardian angel. His unorthodox child-rearing practices are implicitly
vindicated in the very lives of his children, as his litigation strategy would
have been, we are led to believe, if only Tom Robinson had listened and waited.
Atticus insists that Scout, in good lawyerly fashion, fight evil with her
head, not her fists.
n500 In skillfully dispatching a mad dog with a single rifleshot, he shows her that
he does not lack more manly virtues, but transcends them. He gives Scout the
slightly offbeat, child-friendly version of the Golden Rule that she tries to
apply throughout the book:
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point
of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
n501 And his central parable of good and evil, killing a mockingbird,
n502 informs her understanding of both Tom and Boo and, of course, gives the story
its title and theme. If everyone were like Atticus, Scout comes to understand,
all would be well. Yet, all the while, in her daughterly way, she reveals
enough of Atticus's fatherly foibles to prevent him from hardening into a
Atticus is the ideal father, the perfect prototype for the projections of
n503 His benevolence is not quite omnipotent, but he is wise to the point of
[*692] He cannot deliver his client, the Christ-like Tom, from death, but Tom's death
is not in vain. Rather, through it Atticus delivers his younger proteges, Scout
and Jem, from the besetting sin of their southern idyll, racism. Lee makes it
quite clear that it is not the children who deliver Atticus from racism, but
very much the other way around. They are already imbibing its poisonous
assumptions by the time of Tom's trial,
n504 and Atticus is explicit about the source of their problem and its cure. In
describing the difficulties of Tom's case, Atticus tells his brother,
"I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of
listening to the town."
n505 Nor does Atticus leave this to chance. Scout herself comes to understand that
he arranged for her to overhear this:
"I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not until many
years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said."
The truth about racism, revealed to them by Atticus through the trial of Tom,
frees them from it. There remains, however, a final temptation, particularly
for the older, more idealistic Jem: bitterness toward and hatred of their
racist neighbors and fellow citizens. Here again, the lesson is familiar and
ultimately well learned:
"Forgive them; for they know not what they do."
n507 This is not to denigrate this message, in the context of either the story or
the southern civil rights movement. In that latter, larger context, after all,
it was the message
[*693] of Dr. King himself from the very beginning.
n508 The point here is that, in the context of the novel, forgiveness is Atticus's
message, especially his message to his children. As such, it is further
evidence of Atticus's moral superiority to the innocents around him.
In a revealing coda at the novel's conclusion, Scout does seem to teach Atticus
an important moral lesson. But this is the exception that proves the book's
otherwise unvarying rule; the lesson she teaches him is none other than his
own. Boo Radley has killed Bob Ewell, who had waylaid Jem and Scout in an
effort to kill them. Sheriff Tate, as we have seen, finally convinces Atticus
to help him cover up the truth about Ewell's death, to save Boo from public
attention. It remains for Atticus to explain this apparent lapse from
truthfulness to Scout, who has overheard and understood the sheriff's evasions.
"Can you possibly understand?" Atticus asks.
He need not have worried:
"Atticus looked like he needed cheering up. I ran to him and hugged him and
kissed him with all my might.
"Yes, sir, I understand.'"
n510 And indeed she does:
"Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"
n511 She is, of course, referring Atticus to the ultimate moral authority, himself,
with all the tentativeness and tenderness of a devoted daughter. She has
learned at last the lesson of Maycomb's southern womanhood, of Miss Maudie and
Calpurnia, even of the initially critical Aunt Alexandra: help your man stand
by his own principles.
In his dealings with the childlike Boo, Atticus also shows himself to be
ultimately in charge. At one level, of course, it is Boo who saves Atticus by
saving his children, and this salvation takes Atticus by surprise. But that is
hardly the whole story. Atticus has taken up for Boo from the beginning,
n512 and his surprise at Boo's beneficence is a function of its timing, not its
source. Beyond that, we have a strong hint that Boo shares Atticus's sense of
what is wrong with the world. In the throes of his alienation from his
community after Tom's trial, Jem
[*694] diagnoses Boo's problem: he does not want to come out; he cannot bear the evil
of the world.
Boo only ceases to be pathetic when he briefly abandons his arrested-adolescent
world-aversion and comes out to play his role, actively and manfully, in
Atticus's cause. And if the logic of his position is close to that of Atticus,
the dramatic relation is closer still: it is a matter of cause and effect.
Atticus's defense of Tom ignites Bob Ewell's murderous rage, which brings Boo
out to defend Atticus's children. Atticus thanks Boo at the end for giving him
his children's lives. But it was through Atticus's own endangering of his
children that Boo's life gained its modicum of moral meaning as a tragedy
rather than merely as a mystery or a monstrosity.
And yet, in the last analysis, it is Atticus who ensures that the moral meaning
of Boo's life is but minimal. In protecting his mockingbird from the town's
attention, Atticus keeps him caged in his own severe, and unaddressed,
psychopathology. Boo's transcendence of his reclusiveness is most transient;
after this appearance, Scout herself never sees him again.
n514 Atticus's paternalism, for all its kindness, is not without its costs, not
least of which is its undiluted transmission to Scout's generation.
And if Scout has, by the end, become a supporter of this paternalism, she has
also become its victim. She is poignantly aware that Boo saved her life, that,
in a deeply moral sense, he was
n515 She knows, too, that
"neighbors give in return" and that she has in that sense not been a proper neighbor to Boo:
"We had given him nothing, and it made me sad."
n516 Her sadness bespeaks the ultimate inadequacy of Atticus's gift, protection,
and points to what their relationship with each other and with Boo essentially
lacks: reciprocity. Boo never becomes a full member of their community; he
literally disappears within it, protected from it rather than helped by it or
reintegrated into it.
More tragically, Scout and Atticus themselves show little sign of entering into
a fuller communion with each other. Even as she feels the inadequacy of
Atticus's way of dealing with Boo, she is unable to try to save his life in
return, because she is unable to question Atticus's
[*695] way, to acknowledge that it might be other than absolutely right. To the end,
she is the protege. She does, of course, mature, but her maturer vision is only
clearer insight into her father's infallibility.
On the very night that she has barely survived a murderous assault, Atticus
reads her a story in which an initially scary character turns out, like Boo
Radley, to be, as she puts it,
n517 Atticus makes clear that it is not a story he has read before, but no matter:
it strikingly parallels Scout's own story, and all stories point in one
direction. As he tucks her in, Atticus affirms her liberal optimism (which is,
of course, really his own) in his final words to her:
"Most people are [nice], Scout, when you finally see them."
n518 She has seen Bob Ewell with the ultimate finality, and to the end he was not
very nice; one suspects the irony here is unintentional.
But perhaps not. By the end of Mockingbird an innocent has seen radical evil,
and she can safely forget about it, literally lulled to sleep by its denial.
Scout has the last word in her story, and she seems to say that Atticus the
protector will always be there:
"He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night,
and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."
b. Intruder. It is emphatically otherwise between Gavin and Chick. As we have
seen, it is Chick who returns to Lucas in jail, who believes his story, and who
acts on his instructions, all without the aid, or even the understanding, of
Gavin. And it is through Chick that we see, dimly but definitely from the very
beginning, the inassimilable excellence of Lucas. Chick's innocence is our
window on what even the most receptive and childlike of the white male adults
in his world cannot see. He does not come around, like Scout, to seeing how and
why his mentor is always right; he sees, from fairly early on, why his mentor
misses not only most of what is really true and virtuous about his client, but
also much of what is false and vicious about his world.
Quite the opposite of Scout, Chick begins with the assumption that his uncle
is an oracle:
"His uncle who had for everything an explanation not in facts but long since
beyond dry statistics into something
[*696] far more moving because it was truth: which moved the heart and had nothing
whatever to do with what mere provable information said."
n520 But the end of Chick's enlightenment is not the antipodes of his beginning;
his earlier adoration is not merely negated. He comes around at the end, not to
dismissing his uncle, but to arguing with him.
As Chick accepts the job of helping Lucas, he realizes why his uncle could not
accept it and why Lucas ultimately declined to offer it to him. The job is
nearly impossible for Chick to conceive of undertaking and obviously impossible
for him to perform in the time available. It is the very sort of job the
comprehension and undertaking of which requires suspending belief in the
ordinary limits of the possible. When he sees it as such, Chick remembers the
words of old Ephraim, the elderly father of his mother's housemaid:
"Young folks and womens, they aint cluttered. They can listen. But a middle-year
man like your paw and your uncle, they cant listen. They aint got time. They're
too busy with facks. In fact, you might bear this in yo mind; someday yo mought
need it. If you ever needs to get anything done outside the common run, dont
waste yo time on menfolks; get the women and children to working at it.'
Grown white men are bounded by the rationality of their mundane worlds; only
those not so bounded can see beyond the horizon to possibilities otherwise
Having realized that, Chick also realizes how close Lucas had come to confiding
in Gavin and how nearly worthy of that confidence Gavin was. He remembers
"that quality in his uncle which brought people to tell him things they would
tell nobody else, even tempting Negroes to tell him what their nature forbade
them telling white men."
n523 On most occasions Gavin
"had had no more trouble than he believing things that all other grown people
doubted for the sole reason that they were unreasonable...."
But at the critical juncture when his client's life hangs in the balance, that
childlike quality fails Gavin. Lucas has seen both the possibility of his
transcendence and its failure. Gavin, like the other adult
[*697] male citizens of Jefferson, reasons from their flawed premises about Lucas's
character to the only conclusions consistent with those premises and the facts
before them. Having imbibed - albeit less fully than most - the racism of the
contemporary adult world, Gavin as a lawyer cannot presume his own client's
innocence and cannot even listen to that client long enough to hear, much less
believe, the truth that would ultimately exonerate him. For that, as Miss
Habersham immediately understood, Lucas needed an innocent, an outsider.
Chick's innocence has an equally important converse aspect. As we have just
seen, unlike Gavin (and presumably in common with most of us readers), Chick is
more innocent of racism and thus more capable of seeing something in Lucas, a
black man, that Gavin, a mature white southerner of the 1930s, cannot see. But
in common with Gavin, and opposed to us - or most of
"us" - Chick is
"innocent" in a very different, and more problematic, way. He is
"innocent" of the notion, deeply ingrained in the prevailing ethos of the modern liberal
West, that what Lucas really is, Lucas's real character, cannot be called -
indeed, experienced as -
For us, the essential aspects of Lucas's character - his aloofness,
intractability, intolerance, and inflexibility - oft-repeated in Faulkner's
account, are eccentric at best, and more properly antisocial. The more
sophisticated among us, trained in the pluralist school of, say, Sir Isaiah
Berlin and, before him, Giambattista Vico,
n526 may acknowledge, at a rational level, that such features counted as virtues in
long-lost, if not purely mythic, heroic societies.
For Chick, by contrast, they are the very features that marked his own
grandfather, although in less high relief than Lucas.
n527 And Chick's relationship with his grandfather, unlike ours with the heroes
[*698] of myth and saga, is quite literally immediate, unmediated by translation,
either linguistic or cultural. To the extent that we can empathize with Chick
and thus share his
"innocence" of our modern liberalism, we not only come into direct contact with the
embodiment of a very alien set of values; we can also experience those values
as familiar, even familial. At the very least, we can see that, through the
eyes of an engaging young person not alien to ourselves, Lucas is virtuous. We
may also see, in the example of Lucas, a different Jeffersonian vision, not a
radical egalitarianism but a natural aristocracy of talent.
Chick himself stands, even as Gavin brings him to understand it, in a position
of leadership in his community. His deep, familial identification with local
aristocrats like his grandfather enables him to see and to affiliate with
Lucas's nobility in a way that other whites might have missed. Here, Chick has
already transcended Gavin as a leader against his own people's racism. Yet, on
the other, external front, he is very much at risk of following in Gavin's
anti-northern footsteps. That is the unresolved tension within the book, and,
as we shall see, an essential part of the book's ambiguous relationship with
Faulkner underscores Chick's position of leadership with an extended theatrical
n529 The scene is set with the urban crowd before the jail
"in that preliminary settling down like the before-curtain in a theatre,"
n530 awaiting the lynch mob's performance of Lucas's tragic fate. When, to the
crowd's consternation, Chick and his collaborators exonerate Lucas, the crowd
flees the scene of its humiliation, exiting the stage even as the focus of the
drama shifts to its own flight. Chick is angry that they have sullied the part
he performed in freeing Lucas; he had wanted to act with them, not against them.
Only later does he realize how their parts are related. Leaving his uncle,
Chick reenters a now-vacant square
with a sense a feeling not possessive but proprietary, vicegeral, with humility
still, himself not potent but at least the vessel of a potency like the actor
looking from wings or perhaps empty balcony down upon the waiting stage vacant
yet garnished and empty yet, nevertheless
[*699] where in a moment now he will walk and posture in the last act's absolute
cynosure, himself in himself nothing and maybe no world-beater of a play either
but at least his to finish it, round it and put it away intact and
On further reflection, he realizes the square is not empty, any more than it
was the night of the expected lynching.
n533 The town had not abandoned the square,
"but only withdrawn giving room to do what homely thing must be done in its own
homely way without help or interference or even (thank you) advice."
n534 This is precisely the language Gavin uses with respect to the North, and it
is, in fact, its local equivalent: aristocrats like Chick will lead their own
people in both internal reform and external defense. The crowd abandoned this
critical public space to those who would do what needed doing not just better,
n535 Chick and Miss Habersham, with their assistant, Aleck Sander, and with the
help of the sheriff, Gavin, and Lucas himself.
But exactly what is to be done, beyond wrapping up Lucas's case, is painfully
unclear to Chick, as is how to do it. All through this dramatic section, the
interaction between Chick and Gavin is critical, and critically ambiguous.
Gavin insists that Chick not repudiate his community; Chick accuses Gavin of
excusing, or even defending, lynchers, then of asking too much of him. Gavin
recognizes Chick's sanctimoniousness toward his fellows, forgives it, and
insists that he keep on going. Their dialogue becomes intense and elliptical:
"Dont stop what?' he said again. But he knew what now; he said,
"Aint it about time you stopped being a Tenderfoot scout too?'
"This is not Tenderfoot,' his uncle said.
"This is the third degree. What do you call it? - '
"Eagle scout,' he said.
"Eagle scout,' his uncle said.
"Tenderfoot is, Dont accept. Eagle scout is, Dont stop. You see? No, that's
wrong. Dont bother to see. Dont even bother to not forget it. Just dont stop.'
"No,' he said.
"We dont need to worry about stopping now. It seems to me what we have to worry
about now is where we're going and how.'
These questions are never explicitly answered; as is often the case in
Socratic dialogues, the answers must be extrapolated from the interaction of
the interlocutors, the dramatic matrix in which the dialogue itself develops.
n538 Ultimately, these dialogues are about the nature of communal life,
n539 and critical hints about how that life is to be structured are given in the
way the speakers interact, between themselves and with other members of the
community, in addressing these very issues.
n540 Thus, if Chick and Gavin never give a definitive answer to the broader aspects
of the question of
"where we're going and how,"
n541 the way they go about inquiring may itself contain the answer.
It becomes clear that Chick and Gavin, between themselves, will answer these
questions in continued conversations. Gavin, who has always attended to Chick's
questions, now attends increasingly to his answers; indeed, Gavin revises his
own answers in light of Chick's objections. In this sense, Gavin implicitly but
unmistakably takes Chick into full partnership in a shared moral life, a shared
moral life of a distinctly Socratic sort. Their court of ultimate resort on
fundamental moral issues is each other, through the medium of mutually
respectful conversation. In an important sense, the question of
"where we are going" is answered in how they go about getting there; through their dialogue, they
are creating a mutually acceptable moral world.
But if the nature of the community between Gavin and Chick is thus clear, at
least in outline, the nature of their relation to the larger community remains
very much in doubt. At a minimum, as we have seen in the several acts of the
town square drama, Gavin's conversations
[*701] with Chick prevent Chick's repudiating his fellow white citizens.
n542 Beyond that, in the scene where Chick reenters the square alone, Chick assumes
that his role will be front and center, that he will be the drama's star and
enact its conclusion. In his frequent invocation of Gavin's
"solid South" orations, we have reason to fear that Chick simply sees himself as
uncritically picking up his uncle's banner.
But the novel's final scene opens with Chick a spectator again, looking down
with Gavin from the latter's law offices onto the square below. The square
itself, the equivalent of Socrates's agora in consciously neoclassical
Jefferson, has become incapable of sustaining reasoned discourse. Jammed with
Saturday commercial and recreational traffic, it is too crowded and too noisy.
The blare of bourgeois sales pitches and the blast of working-class radio music
cancel each other out in pure cacophony. Lucas strides through this chaos,
across the square, to settle his account with Gavin. Lucas, not Chick, becomes
n543 of the drama's final scene.
Lucas shifts the focus of discussion back to the place of Chick's original
enlightenment, Lucas's house, by inviting Chick to come there again.
n545 Chick's oblique reference to Miss Habersham,
"sitting in her own hall now, mending the stockings until time to feed the
n546 reminds us that this is at once the place of
"the other," the outsider, and the aristocratic, ancestral hero. This is an order of
apparent opposites that she and Lucas have merged in their persons and, more
particularly, in their homes, the seats of hereditary aristocrats who are also
social outsiders. Moreover, Lucas invites Chick to reenter that order, at once
outside and above the bourgeois town, on radically altered terms. This time
Chick is not to come as a supplicant, arriving by accident and staying at the
sufferance of the landlord, but at his lord's express invitation, voluntarily
to assume his position as a proper member of that order himself.
This altered relationship is apparent in the chivalrous banter of Lucas and
Chick's final exchange:
"Young man - ' courteous and intractable, more than bland: downright cheerful
almost, removing the raked swagger of the hat:
"You aint fell in no more creeks lately, have you?'
"That's right,' he said.
"I'm saving that until you get some more ice on yours.'
"You'll be welcome without waiting for a freeze,' Lucas said.
Lucas thus reminds Chick of how their relationship began, the source of
quasi-feudal obligation that Chick has obviously acknowledged and reciprocated
in saving Lucas's life. Chick responds with the self-deprecating humor of the
noble who is also a vassal, free to joke with his overlord, but in a way that
accedes to a subordinate role. Accepting this tacit affirmation of their
respective roles, Lucas in turn invites Chick back to his cabin on the McCaslin
place. It is an invitation that parallels Edmonds's rabbit-hunting invitation
to Chick at the outset. But now it comes from the plantation's true lord,
Lucas, to Chick in his own right, not as the nephew of Gavin. And, implicitly
at least, it is not about boyish stuff like rabbit-hunting, but the serious
matter of remaking their common world.
Yet, there hangs in Lucas's invitation an unmistakable, almost painful irony.
He leaves us with the fear that Chick will not come until that proverbial
freeze, ever invoked by the defiant and the despairing alike: not until Hell
freezes over. Before, Lucas had orchestrated Chick's rescue; this time, Chick
must save himself. To enter the kingdom of God, Chick must have heard, one must
become as a little child;
n548 whether his original baptism at Lucas's hands can survive his impending
immersion in the adult white male world of his uncle is, at the end, poignantly
in the balance.
Yet again, the end of the novel is encouraging on this point. As we have seen,
the final word in the novel is Lucas's,
n549 and in it he
[*703] shows, to both Gavin and Chick,
n550 the superiority of his world to Gavin's, even as Gavin, in his turn, had shown
Lucas his fealty to Miss Habersham. Gavin's giving Lucas his receipt, like
Chick's returning to Lucas's cabin, lies outside the literal scope of the book.
Yet, we know Gavin will give the receipt immediately, and we have reason to
hope Chick will eventually return the visit.
What gives us that hope is what we have come to know about Chick's relationship
with Gavin, which takes a critical turn in the final chapters. At numerous
junctures in the novel, Chick answers questions, from the most practical to the
most profound, from minor issues of local lore to fundamental matters of
morality, with the remembered lectures his uncle has given him.
n551 When he finally faces the critical dilemma of his place in their deeply flawed
community, he finds he is at a crossroads:
Gavin is the person who would naturally talk to the boy about the problems that
are disturbing him, and the adult's notions about the community, the Negro, and
the nature of law and justice represent for the boy at once a resource and an
impediment. It is against these that his own developing notions must contend
and it these views that he must accept, repudiate, or transcend.
Chick is by then painfully aware that his uncle had radically misunderstood
Lucas, and he has taken to heart Miss Habersham's critique of adult male
problem-solving. Moreover, he has proved himself able to act on these insights.
Just before Lucas crosses the square at the end of the novel, Chick contradicts
Gavin most explicitly. Gavin has delivered his disquisition on America's love
affair with the automobile, and its result, the frigidity of American women.
Chick, who early in the novel had identified his uncle's discourse with Truth
itself, says simply,
[*704] not true."
n553 Gavin offers the evidence of his personal experience, but Chick is unmoved,
for his own experience has by this time been different. He has worked with Miss
Habersham, and he will have none of Gavin's misogyny:
"I still dont believe it."
n554 It is Gavin who relents and, beyond that, encourages Chick's dissent:
""That's right,' his uncle said.
"Dont. And even when you are fifty and plus, still refuse to believe it.' And
that was when they saw Lucas crossing the Square, probably at the same time...."
n555 They literally see, together, the personified refutation of Gavin's
prejudices, and Gavin has prepared Chick for further insights by encouraging
Chick to continue to argue with him.
Atticus, it must be conceded, is in some respects a good mentor. He teaches
painful but invaluable lessons about virtue, particularly about courage. He
does not merely lecture about goodness; he leads a good life, practicing
instead of preaching. At the end of his story, we hope Jem will grow up to be
like him. But we know Scout is bound for a very different fate. In our time, we
see that the lessons Atticus taught, the very life he lived, are inadequate.
Most critically, his lessons leave people out, in ways of which he himself was
unaware, even as he tries to take care of them.
n556 He is a fine father, but he is only as good a person as a paternalist can be.
As Thomas Shaffer has eloquently demonstrated, the ethic of the southern
gentleman is itself ultimately inadequate if Atticus Finch, its most famous
example, is also its exemplar.
But he is not. Uncle Gavin is a paternalist, too, but he is also something else
altogether. He is no Socrates, but he is a Socratic teacher. From him Chick
learns, not merely how to be good, but how to make the good - or at least the
received wisdom about
"good" - better: he learns how to engage in constructive dialogue with not only his
mentor and other people
"like us," but also with
"others," those who are racially, and even more radically, different. Looking to the
future, faced with the awful prospect that his protege will exceed him, even
leave his world behind, Gavin has a consistent, indeed resolute,
"Just dont stop."
n558 And his continued encouragement is a large part of what enables Chick to go
on, to transcend, to create a better world than the one Gavin's discourse has
yet given him.
Critics originally focused almost exclusively on Gavin's tendency to serious
moral and political error, particularly in defense of the established southern
n559 Only recently have they come to appreciate his capacity not only to accept
correction, but also to create his own best critic, his nephew Chick, the
potential co-creator of a radically new order.
n560 Chick's ultimate assessment of Gavin, from the perspective of his own Harvard
education and post-graduation European tour, is this:
Because he is a good man, wise too except for the occasions when he would
aberrate, go momentarily haywire and take a wrong turn that even I could see
was wrong, and then go hell-for-leather, with absolutely no deviation from
logic and rationality from there on, until he wound us up in a mess of trouble
or embarrassment that even I would have had sense enough to dodge. But he is a
good man. Maybe I was wrong sometimes to trust him and follow him but I never
was wrong to love him.
E. Lawyers and the Law
Both Tom Robinson and Lucas Beauchamp are in serious trouble with the law, and
both secure the services of lawyers. Legal process, moreover, is a source of
potential relief to both, a plausible place from which to expect justice. In
both accounts, law is not an autonomous system of rules and procedures, but, as
the Legal Realists saw it, a complex of social interactions ultimately
inseparable from society itself. Moreover, neither Gavin nor Atticus is a
fetishist of legal form; each takes liberties with the law's letter to achieve
what he sees as substantive justice. Yet, they have very different
[*706] the law, and the law plays very different roles in their respective stories.
1. Intruder: Law Burdened by Busyness. A salient aspect of Intruder is the
extent to which legal process is repressed into the background. Lucas is
arrested off-stage, as it were, and the charges against him are dropped behind
the scenes. Moreover, what little formal legal process there is is highly
irregular. Lucas's arrest is primarily a matter of protecting him from a lynch
mob, and only secondarily a prelude to trial and legal conviction or
vindication. His official release is the mere ratification, the
rubber-stamping, of the exonerating evidence gathered in a technically illegal
exhumation and never formally presented. The anticipated drama of criminal
trial, with all its ritual and regularity, its unequivocal verdict, is
anticlimactically absent. Not only is Lucas exonerated without trial; the real
culprit, Crawford Gowrie, dies without one.
This striking absence, and awkward presence, of formal legal procedure is less
a fault of law itself than it is of law's functionaries, those whose job it is
to invoke and apply formal legal process. Deeply ingrained racism, as we have
seen, keeps Gavin and other agents of the law from seeing Lucas as he is, and
thus from invoking proper legal process in his defense.
n563 But more than racism is at fault here. Understanding Lucas's paradoxical
nobility, the precondition of appreciating his innocence, is but one instance
of a general category of experience closed to adult white men. Old Ephraim had
identified such experience as
"something outside the common run."
n564 It is not the case, then, that law is inherently
"male," principled rather than practical, rule-bound and harsh rather than
fact-sensitive and equitable.
n565 The absence of legal process in Intruder indicates not so much law's
inadequacy as an instrument for handling Lucas's problem, as the inability of
law's principal agents, adult white men, to preside over its application in his
[*707] Moreover, as Miss Habersham and Ephraim understand it, the ultimate problem
lies no more in the whiteness or maleness of the law's agents than it does in
the nature of law itself. The problem lies, in both their views, in white men's
being too busy, in their not having time, or not being able to take time, to
listen. The conscientious agents of law, men like Gavin and the sheriff, fail
to understand, but not because they are too obtuse to hear or too committed to
maintaining the status quo to listen. They are quite simply too caught up in
the busyness of mundane affairs to attend, to harken, to the extraordinary. The
press of business - the need to process not just
"facts," the very raw data of experience itself, through standard categories,
"the common run" - has closed their minds to radically different ways of seeing, and thus of
Yet, significantly, the mind of the most perceptive of law's agents, Gavin, is
not closed to that very insight.
n567 Indeed, Gavin is able to assimilate the need to listen to outsiders to a part
of their common cultural perspective, to an existing category - albeit,
significantly, a religious, rather than strictly legal, category. Upon learning
of the results of the exhumation that Chick, Aleck Sander, and Miss Habersham
had performed, Gavin concedes,
"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings and old ladies - ."
n568 Chick immediately recognizes this as a paraphrase of Jesus's paradoxical
n569 teachings about radical epiphanies, indeed, teachings that were themselves
[*708] Law, then, is not so much pushed to the side in Intruder, dismissed as
unnecessary, as it is marked for radical recentering, reorienting. Law, as
practiced by men of affairs, is limited by their limitations. In order for law
to work, those who work with it must broaden their horizons, lift their heads
from the mill. Lucas's case shatters conventional paradigms of justice and
equality, not only in his time, but also in ours. As he himself posits, he is
"nigger," someone less than equal under segregation law, but neither is he merely a man.
He is more than a man,
n571 a notion our egalitarian law can scarcely accommodate. To be equal to the
demands of justice in such a case, law must not be bound by those paradigms.
The problem of lawyerly busyness occurs at two levels, which overlap in Lucas's
case. At the first level, the problem reflects the oft-noted tension between
law and equity, between what old Ephraim calls
"the rules and the cases," with which men like Gavin work, and
"the circumstances," the intricate and immediate, sometimes anomalous, details with which women and
children work. Pressed to get results, to finish business, lawyers and other
agents of the law rely on simplifying heuristics in dealing with facts and
broad principles in applying law; in a word, they become
Gavin critically overlooks Lucas's innocence because he is interpreting the
facts before him - a long-harassed and proud black man caught standing over the
slain body of a white man - according to implicitly plausible assumptions about
how such men act in such matters. As Miss Habersham puts it, he is concerned
n572 with what is likely to happen most of the time, in the mill run of cases.
Similarly, when Chick relates to him Lucas's alternative account, he dismisses
it out of hand; it is precisely the kind of account that he knows, as an
experienced lawyer, the guilty of Lucas's class and race typically concoct.
But, as I have been at pains to show, Lucas is not typical, much less
stereotypical, and the nature of his uniqueness takes us to the second level at
which the problem of lawyerly busyness operates. Any legal system must balance
the streamlining achieved by simplifying rules and evidentiary assumptions
against their cost, the inequities of their application, in anomalous, atypical
cases. If this balance
[*709] is properly struck, the gains in the mill run of cases offset the costs of
injustice in the few.
The rules applied in Lucas's case reflect this instrumental logic
remorselessly. The unwritten but clearly operative procedural and substantive
rules in Lucas's case are these: as a matter of substance, blacks must act at
their own risk when they presume to help whites; as a matter of procedure,
"uppity" blacks are presumed to react explosively, even murderously, when years of
pent-up rage inevitably boil over. Both rules rest on an implicit
constitutional principle, which itself rests on an unquestioned empirical
assumption: blacks do not deserve the equal protection of law because they are
inherently inferior beings by every relevant measure, worth less than whites,
if not quite worthless.
n1. Harper Lee, To
Kill a Mockingbird 218 (1960) [hereinafter Lee, Mockingbird] (quoted by his daughter, Jean Louise
n2. Id. at 207.
n3. William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses 46-47 (Vintage Books 1990) (1940)
[hereinafter Faulkner, Moses].
n4. William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust 121 (First Vintage Int'l ed. 1991)
(1948) [hereinafter Faulkner, Intruder] (as spoken to his nephew, Charles ("Chick") Mallison, Jr.).
n5. See Thomas L. Shaffer, Growing Up Good in Maycomb,
45 Ala. L. Rev. 531, 556-57 & n.119 (1994) [hereinafter Shaffer, Growing Up Good] (describing Atticus's insistence that
Maycomb is his family's home and that his opponents in Robinson's trial are
their friends and citing this as a theme in Intruder as well).
n6. See Richard H. King, Lucas Beauchamp and William Faulkner: Blood Brothers, in
Critical Essays on William Faulkner: The McCaslin Family 233, 237 (Arthur F.
Kinney ed., 1990) [hereinafter Critical Essays] ("At the moral center of such novels is the relationship between an adult of good
will, often a lawyer, and a younger relative.").
n7. See discussion infra Part III.A.
n8. See To
Kill a Mockingbird (Universal Pictures 1962).
n9. Intruder in the Dust (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1949).
n10. Brown directed more than 50 films between 1920 and 1952, working with such
stars as Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, and
Gregory Peck. His screen credits include Flesh and the Devil, The White Cliffs of Dover, and
National Velvet. See Internet Movie Database, Clarence Brown (visited Feb. 4,
<http://us.imdb.com/M/person-exact?Brown%2C%20Clarence%20%28I%29> (on file with the Duke Law Journal).
n11. See Regina K. Fadiman, Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust: Novel into Film 7
(1978) (describing the film as a succes d'estime and noting Brown's receipt of
the British Academy Award for Best Director in 1949); Magills On-Line Movie
Review, 1995, available in WESTLAW, Database Magills (indicating that Juano
Hernandez, who played Lucas, won two European film awards and that the movie as
"was well received in Europe"). Perhaps tellingly, the movie was panned by Time and praised by the Times.
See Cinema, Time, Dec. 12, 1949, at 98, 101 (describing the movie as a
"too-earnest treatment" that is
"not only dead serious, but dead on its feet"); Bosley Crowther, The Screen in Review, N.Y. Times, Nov. 23, 1949, at 18 ("And without one moment's hesitation, this corner, still shaking, proclaims that
it is probably this year's pre-eminent picture and one of the great cinema
dramas of our times.").
n12. For the lawyerly equivalent of The Imitation of Christ, see Mike Papantonio,
In Search of Atticus Finch: A Motivational Book for Lawyers (1996). Tellingly,
the volume of legal scholarship on Mockingbird significantly outweighs the
literary. See Claudia Durst Johnson, To
Kill a Mockingbird: Threatening Boundaries 20 (1994) (noting the paucity of literary scholarship
on Mockingbird and concluding that
"since 1960 a greater volume of critical reading of it has been amassed by two
legal scholars in law journals than by all the literary scholars in literary
n13. See Janice A. Radway, A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club,
Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire 337-47 (1997) ("For all its interest in empowering girls and Negroes, Harper Lee's novel
finally assents to the rule of a learned and compassionate elite."); Monroe H. Freedman, Atticus Finch - Right and Wrong,
45 Ala. L. Rev. 473, 480 (1994) [hereinafter Freedman, Right and Wrong] (citing Atticus's remark that he had
hoped to get through life without taking a case like Tom Robinson's); Theresa
Godwin Phelps, The Margins of Maycomb: A Rereading of To
Kill a Mockingbird,
45 Ala. L. Rev. 511, 530 (1994) (describing a
"dismissive" narrative voice). Professor Monroe Freedman first questioned Atticus's
character in the popular legal press in Atticus Finch, Esq., R.I.P., Legal
Times, Feb. 24, 1992, at 20, and Finch: The Lawyer Mythologized, Legal Times,
May 18, 1992, at 25, evoking a storm of protest that caught the attention of
the New York Times. See David Margolick, At the Bar, N. Y. Times, Feb. 29,
1992, at B7 (discussing Freedman's critique of Atticus Finch); see also
Johnson, supra note 12, at 15 (noting efforts on the part of blacks in the East
and Midwest to censor Mockingbird on account of its
"condonation of institutional racism").
n14. See, e.g., Richard Weisberg, Poethics 92 (1992) (finding Gavin to be an
exemplary lawyer figure in whom
"there is every indication of ultimate soundness").
n15. See Jay Watson, Forensic Fictions: The Lawyer Figure in Faulkner 109-39
(1993). But cf. Weisberg, supra note 14, at 84-92 (faulting the loquacity of
Gavin in his earlier appearances, especially in Intruder, but arguing for his
growing appreciation of the value of silence in later novels, especially in
Faulkner's The Town).
n16. See discussion infra Part III.A.
n17. See E. Grady Jolly, Feelings for Flem, Faulkner and Federalism,
4 Miss. C. L. Rev. 217, 223-24 (arguing that Faulkner's fictional lawyers, typified by Gavin Stevens in
Intruder, would have been active in the early phase of the civil rights
movement, but would have resisted the later phases, as the role of federal
n18. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 218.
n19. In analyzing Intruder, I follow other scholars in making intertextual
comparisons with other Faulkner works set in his fictional Yoknapatawpha
County, Mississippi. See John E. Bassett, Gradual Progress and Intruder in the
Dust, 13 C. Literature 207, 215 (1986) ("Multiple references [in Intruder] to Go Down, Moses and the McCaslin-Edmonds
legends, of course, invite intertextual readings between the novels."); see also Watson, supra note 15, at 109 (calling for intertextual analysis of
Go Down, Moses and Intruder in the Dust). For the classic statement that
Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha cycle should be read as a single, unified work, see
Malcolm Cowley, Introduction to The Portable Faulkner xi-xvi (Malcolm Cowley
ed., Viking Press rev. ed. 1968) (1946). Gavin appears in the final, title
story of Go Down, Moses, and he and Chick also figure prominently in the
stories collected in Knight's Gambit and in the second and third books of the
Snopes trilogy, The Town and The Mansion. Their characters are generally
consistent with their depictions in Intruder, though Faulkner's chronology
occasionally falters. In The Mansion, Chick is five in 1919, see Faulkner, The
Mansion [hereinafter Faulkner, The Mansion], in Snopes 681, 839 (Modern Library
Edition 1994), and thus 24 on the eve of World War II, see id. at 865. For this
chronology to be consistent with that of Intruder, which covers Chick's life
from ages 12 to 16, the novel has to be set between 1926 and 1930. But several
passages in Intruder suggest a post-World War II setting. Old Nub Gowrie and
his sons share a
"twenty-year womanless house," Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 214, and the date of death on his wife's
tombstone is 1926, id. at 100, yielding a date of 1946. And Gavin refers both
"our atom bomb," id. at 147, and the communist threat to what seems to be post-Nazi Europe, id.
n20. See King, supra note 6, at 238 ("In general such novels [which King calls
"racial thrillers'] are moral psychodramas for moderate, well-intentioned white
readers who can have their essential moral decency reaffirmed and in turn can
look down their moral noses at the backwardness of poor whites.").
n21. For a discussion of Nietzsche and altruism, see infra notes 624-28 and
n22. See King, supra note 6, at 239 ("For the only way an oppressed people can become the psychological equal of
their oppressors is by self-liberation").
n23. This, for example, was the initial reaction of Morris Dees, founder and
current director of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
On a warm June night in 1966, I saw To
Kill a Mockingbird at a local drive-in theater.... When Atticus Finch walked out of the empty
courtroom after the jury ruled against his client and the upper gallery, still
packed with black folks, rose in his honor, tears were streaming down my face.
Why couldn't I be a lawyer like Mr. Finch?
Morris Dees, Foreword to Papantonio, supra note 12, at 5, 7; see id. at 68 ("Are there any among us who would not trade several million dollar verdicts for
such an expression of appreciation and admiration?"); Timothy L. Hall, Moral Character, the Practice of Law, and Legal Education,
60 Miss. L.J. 511, 519 (1990) ("We want a lawyer-hero, and by the time the book is over we have one in Atticus'
defense of Robinson").
n24. It is also a message consistent with, if not rediscovered by, some branches of
feminism, at least as early as George Eliot's concluding elegy to Dorothea in
her novel Middlemarch.
n25. See Thomas L. Shaffer, American Lawyers and Their Communities 86-96 (1991)
[hereinafter Shaffer, American Lawyers] (criticizing traditional
gentleman-lawyer ethics for elevating
"mere optimism" above
"hope" and truth, and for emphasizing the gentleman-lawyer's skill at protecting the
client from suffering instead of manifesting the Christian
"hope" that the fate of others is in the hands of
"the Ruler of the Universe"). As I have urged elsewhere, one can find insight in Shaffer's traditional
religious terminology without embracing any particular theological orthodoxy or
theism in any form. See Rob Atkinson, A Dissenter's Commentary of the
74 Tex. L. Rev. 259, 269 (1995); Rob Atkinson, How the Butler Was Made to Do It: The Perverted Professionalism
of The Remains of the Day,
105 Yale L.J. 177, 181 n.14 (1995) [hereinafter Atkinson, Butler].
n26. Flannery O'Connor, in the candor of a private letter, put the matter more
bluntly, explaining Mockingbird's popularity
"by the fact that it is a child's book and that the average American reads on a
child's level." Letter from Flannery O'Connor to Caroline Ivey (Aug. 20, 1961), quoted in
Jerry Elijah Brown, Introduction to Caroline Ivey, The Family vii, xv (1991);
see also Gregory J. Sullivan, Children into Men: Lawyers and the Law in Three
Novels, 37 Cath. Law. 29, 38 (1996) ("However much Atticus is and ought to be an ideal figure for a lawyer, the
triumph of the child's vision leaves To
Kill a Mockingbird bereft of an enduring moral resonance.").
n27. Phoebe Adams, Reader's Choice, The Atlantic, Aug. 1960, at 98. There is,
however, some evidence that the reviewer's reading was in fact done in a
hammock. According to the reviewer,
"the book's setting is a small town in Mississippi." Id. According to the novel, Ms. Lee's Maycomb is in Alabama.
n28. Although it is clear that Mockingbird is set in the Depression, see, e.g.,
Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 217 (referring to
"this year of grace, 1935"), there are inconsistencies in the chronology of Intruder, see supra note 19.
n29. See infra Part I.D.2.
n30. See Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue 2-4 (2d ed. 1984) (describing how through
the historical process of
"one [conception of] morality succeeding another," we have arrived at a point where
"the language of morality is in [a] state of grave disorder"). See generally Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice, Which Rationality? (1988)
(discussing how the concepts of justice and rational action have evolved
throughout Western philosophical history).
n31. See W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South ix (1969) ("The gentlemanly idea ... had taken refuge in the South and fashioned for itself
a world to its heart's desire: a world singularly polished and mellow and
poised, wholly dominated by ideals of honor and chivalry and noblesse ....").
n32. See infra notes 143-51 and accompanying text.
n33. See MacIntyre, After Virtue, supra note 30, at 166 (explaining how in European
literature from the Middle Ages,
"Christian and pagan elements coexisted in varying degrees of compromise and
n34. See Mark 7:24-30 (describing Jesus' accession to curing the daughter of a
Greek woman once she likened herself to a dog eating crumbs under a dining
n35. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 4.
n36. See id.
n37. Id. at 5.
n38. Id. at 6-7.
n39. Id. at 7.
n40. Id. at 8.
n41. Id. Old Cass built the house for Lucas when he married Molly. See Faulkner,
Moses, supra note 3, at 46, 106.
n42. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 8-9.
n43. Id. at 18.
n44. Thus, Odysseus, homeward bound from Troy, invoked the custom of sanctuary in
the cave of Polyphemus the Cyclops:
But since we've chanced on you, we're at your knees
in hopes of a warm welcome, even a guest-gift,
the sort that hosts give to strangers. That's the custom.
Respect the gods, my friend. We're suppliants - at your mercy!
Zeus of the Strangers guards all guests and suppliants:
strangers are sacred - Zeus will avenge their rights!
Homer, The Odyssey, bk. 8, ll. 300-06 (Robert Fagles trans., 1996). So, too,
Lot, nephew of Abraham the patriarch, invoked the sanctity of hospitality
against threats by the men of Sodom against his houseguests:
"Do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." Genesis 19:8 (Revised Standard Version).
n45. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 9-10.
n46. Id. at 13.
n47. See id. at 11-13.
n48. See id.
n49. See id. at 12.
n50. Id. at 14.
n51. Id. at 26. In another instance, Chick describes Lucas as he
"who had debased not merely his manhood but his whole race too ...." Id. at 21.
n52. See id. at 22.
n53. See id. at 22-24.
n54. Id. at 23; cf. King, supra note 6, at 241 (maintaining that
"Lucas subtly shifts the nature of the transactions from a battle of gifts to an
exchange of services among equals" but concluding that
"by finally allowing Chick to pay him back, Lucas maintains his life and his
superiority" (emphasis added)).
n55. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 3.
n56. See Watson, supra note 15, at 134-35 (agreeing that the novel portrays Chick
in an ambivalent relation to the angry mob).
n57. John Milton, Sonnet XIX ("When I consider how my light is spent ...."), in The Complete Poetical Works of John Milton 190 (Douglas Bush ed., 1965).
n58. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 27.
n60. See id.
n64. See id.
n65. See id. at 29.
n66. See id. at 26-27.
n67. See id. at 30. Similarly, in Intruder, Chick describes an exchange between
Gavin and a farming client about
"crops or politics, one of which his uncle knew nothing about and the other the
farmer didn't, until the man would get around to telling what he came for." Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 74.
n68. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 31.
n69. See Shaffer, Growing Up Good, supra note 5, at 539 ("Calpurnia is an avenging angel on behalf of Walter and of Southern manners ...."). But see Johnson, supra note 12, at 101 (citing young Walter Cunningham's
lunch with Atticus as evidence of Atticus's breaking down class barriers).
n70. Robert Burns, A Man's a Man, for A' That, in 3 The Poetical Works of Robert
Burns 234, 234 (Wm. Scott Douglas ed., 1886) ("What though on hamely fare we dine, wear hoddin grey, an' a' that ... the
honest man, tho e'er sae poor, is king o' men, for a' that.").
n71. See supra notes 38-57 and accompanying text.
n72. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 128.
n73. See id. at 130.
n75. Id. at 181.
n76. Id. at 37; see also Shaffer, Growing Up Good, supra note 5, at 555 (noting
that Atticus's condemnation of people who are
"trash" is uncharacteristically harsh).
n77. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 181.
n79. Id. at 182.
n80. See id. at 203.
n81. See id.
n82. This was, of course, the offense that launched the chief of the classical
epics, The Iliad. See also Guillaume de Lorris
& Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose 42 (Charles W. Dunn ed.
& Harry W. Robins trans., Dutton 1962); Howard Maynadier, The Arthur of the
English Poets 205-10 (1907) (describing Sir Gawain's betrayal of his host's
hospitality through dalliances with the Green Knight's wife in Sir Gawain and
the Green Knight).
n83. Cf. Genesis 39:6-20 (imprisonment of Joseph under false accusation by his
Egyptian master's wife of having tried to seduce her, after he refused thus to
betray his master and
"do this great wickedness"); Genesis 19:1-8 (Lot's effort to protect the strangers whom he had extended
"the shelter of my roof" from sexual defilement by offering his virgin daughters in their stead).
n84. Cf. S.F.C. Milson, Historical Foundations of the Common Law 105-06 (1981)
(recording the absence of inheritability immediately after the Conquest);
A.W.B. Simpson, A History of the Land Law 3 (2d ed. 1986) (noting that after
the Norman conquest of England, William parceled out land to his more
proficient knights to ensure their continued loyalty and service); id. at 49 ("Immediately after the [Norman] Conquest it seems that the tenant's fee was not
regarded as heritable of right ....").
n85. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 88.
n86. Id. at 182.
n87. See id. at 202.
n88. See id.
n89. Id. at 207.
n90. Id. at 204; compare Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act 58 (Signet 1964) on whites'
"a malignant stereotype (the bad nigger) on the one hand and a benign stereotype
(the good nigger) on the other." For both blacks and whites, of course, the latter stereotype has an eponym
from earlier fiction: Uncle Tom.
n91. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 207.
n92. Id. at 204.
n93. Id. at 197.
n94. See Joshua 9:3-27 (describing Israel's reduction of the people of Gibeon to
"hewers of wood and drawers of water").
n95. See Luke 10:30-36 (relating the parable of the Good Samaritan who helps a
stranger on the side of the road).
n96. See Matthew 9:11; Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30 (discussing the religious
establishment's questioning of Jesus's eating with
"tax collectors and sinners").
n97. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 204.
n98. Matthew 25:40 (King James Version).
n99. Id. 25:34.
n100. See John Dominic Crossan, Parable and Example in the Teaching of Jesus, 18 New
Testament Stud. 285, 294-95 (1971/72) (arguing that the Good Samaritan story
should be read as a parable within its original historical context as well as
an allegory of the divine). Crossan's thesis is now widely shared among New
Testament scholars. See, e.g., Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An
Introduction 291-93 (1974) (following Crossan's account).
n101. See Perrin, supra note 100, at 292.
n102. See id. at 292-93.
n103. More precisely, as Jesus is reported to have said to one of the scribes, the
First Commandment is to love God above all; the second, to love your neighbor
as yourself. See Matthew 22:34-40; accord Mark 12:28-31. On this point, at
least according to the Gospels, Jesus and the Jewish authorities were in
accord. See Mark 12:32-34; see also Luke 10:25-28 (describing how when a lawyer
gives Jesus the same answer, Jesus affirms that it is the proper one). As we
shall see below, Jesus radicalized the First Commandment as well as the second,
also with explicit reference to the despised Samaritans and the temple
establishment. See infra note 112 and accompanying text.
n104. See Perrin, supra note 100, at 292-93.
n105. See id. at 319-20.
n106. See id. at 292-93; Crossan, supra note 100, at 294.
n107. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 217.
n108. Id. at 209.
n111. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 64 ("The most destructive disruption occurs when Mayella Ewell asks a Black man, Tom
Robinson, to first come inside the Ewell fence and then the Ewell house."). Though Johnson rightly notes that this is the novel's greatest disruption,
she fails to note how much this disruption leaves intact, and thus how
relatively minor it really is.
n112. See John 4:21-24.
n113. See infra Part III.A.
n114. See Matthew 26:3-5, 14-16, 47-75, 27:1-26; Mark 14:1, 2, 10, 43-72, 15:1-15;
Luke 22:2-6, 47-71, 23:1-25; John 18:1-40, 19:1-16.
n115. See infra Part I.E.2.
n116. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 228 (describing the judge's appointment
of Atticus instead of the usual, less well-qualified, candidate). In the movie
version, the judge signals his disgust at the trial's conclusion by slamming
his door on the jury's verdict.
n117. This was the lesson of the Scottsboro rape case. See infra notes 190-91 and
n118. On virtue in heroic cultures generally, see MacIntyre, After Virtue, supra
note 30, at 121-30.
n119. Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 39.
n120. William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun 103 (Vintage Books 1975) (1951)
[hereinafter Faulkner, Requiem] (explaining that the murderer Nancy Manigault's
patronym, if not her heritage, is Norman).
n121. One Beauchamp asserted the family's rightful ownership of the Beauchamp estate
in England and proper succession to its earldom, insisting that its Mississippi
plantation be called Warwick, after the family's English seat. See Faulkner,
Moses, supra note 3, at 5, 288.
n122. See C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South 1877-1913, at 17-18, 271 (rev.
ed. 1971); Arthur F. Kinney, Introduction to Critical Essays, supra note 6, at
1, 16 (suggesting that Faulkner meant the name Lucius Quintus Carothers
McCaslin to allude to L.Q.C. Lamar).
n123. Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 269.
n124. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 6, 12-13.
n125. See id. at 12, 24.
n126. Id. at 10. Heirlooms, at common law, were chattels that descended like real
property to the primogenitary heir. Local custom sometimes included the best
bed among the heirlooms; it went with the patrimony to the new head of the
family. See Robert Megarry
& H.W.R. Wade, The Law of Real Property 547-48 (5th ed. 1984).
n127. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 24.
n128. See Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 51.
n129. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 68.
n130. Significantly, Lucas insists that he has the pistol by purchase, not by gift.
See id. at 221. Lucas has earned, not merely inherited, his aristocratic
n131. Id. at 13.
n132. See id. at 12.
n133. Id. at 36.
n134. See id. at 24-25.
n135. Id. at 18; see also Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 101, 110-11, 113
(describing how Lucas always refuses to call Edmonds and his father
"Mister Zach," but instead says
"Mr. Edmonds" or no name at all).
n136. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 18.
n137. Id. at 31.
n138. Id. at 84.
n139. Id. at 19. Significantly, the murder of which Lucas is accused occurs near the
same store, also on a Saturday. See id. at 27.
n140. Id. at 19.
n141. Cleanth Brooks, William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country 284 (La. State
Univ. Press 1990) (1963).
n142. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 20.
n144. See Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals 39 (Random House 1967)
(1887) ("To be incapable of taking one's enemies, one's accidents, even one's misdeeds
seriously for very long - that is the sign of strong, full natures in whom
there is an excess of power to form, to mold, to recuperate and to forget ...."); see also David Millard, What Is It Like to Be a Faulkner?, in Perspectives
on Perception: Philosophy, Art, and Literature 139, 145 (Mary Ann Caws ed.,
1989) (describing as
"an admirable Southern response" Lucas's choice to cite his own prestigious ancestry in response to angry
comments from a white man).
n145. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 63, 72; see also MacIntyre, After
Virtue, supra note 30, at 123 ("In the Icelandic sagas a wry sense of humor is closely bound up with courage.").
n146. See Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 257-58; see also id. at 102 (describing
how the legitimate sons of Carothers McCaslin execute the legacy).
n147. Id. at 104.
n148. See MacIntyre, After Virtue, supra note 30, at 122 (explaining that in a
heroic society, actions are required because a man is what he does).
n149. See J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words 4-6, 47 (1962) (distinguishing
"constative" uses of language).
n150. Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 114-15; see also id. at 101 ("Yet it was not that Lucas made capital of his white or even his McCaslin blood,
but the contrary. It was as if he were not only impervious to that blood, he
was indifferent to it."). It is important to note, against any suggestion that Lucas's aristocratic
qualities all come from white people, that his black great-grandmother, herself
a slave, who committed suicide upon learning of Carothers McCaslin's
unavengeable act of incest against their daughter, had qualities precisely like
those of Lucas:
"solitary, inflexible, griefless, ceremonial." Id. at 259; see also id. at 69 (recounting Gavin's description of Lucas as
"a man most of whose blood was pure ten thousand years when my own anonymous
beginnings became mixed enough to produce me").
n151. Id. at 104-05.
n152. See id. at 112.
n154. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 35-36.
n155. See id. at 30, 36.
n156. See id. at 32, 36-37, 48.
n157. See id. at 47-48 ("Which is exactly what Lucas is doing: blew his top and murdered a white man -
which Mr. Lilley [a local shopkeeper] is probably convinced all Negroes want to
n158. See Nietzsche, supra note 144, at 40 (describing how in Neitzsche's moral
order, those of base morality are unable to perceive the true moral nature of
things, and, through their misunderstanding, conceive of aristocratic
n159. See supra note 3 and accompanying text.
n160. John Grisham, A Time to Kill (1989).
n161. Witness the exchange between Carl Lee and his liberal white lawyer, Jake
"Lemme ask you this. If it was your little girl, and if it was two niggers, and
you could get your hands on them, what would you do?"
Carl Lee smiled, then laughed.
"Sure you would, Jake, sure you would."
"I have no choice, Jake. I'll never sleep till those bastards are dead. I owe it
to my little girl, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my people. It'll be done."
Id. at 43-44.
n162. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 3, 42-44.
n163. See id. at 44.
n164. See id. at 64-67, 71.
n165. Id. at 3-4.
n166. Exodus 20:2-3 (King James Version). Reference to the Exodus, of course, points
to an important, and ironic, reversal. Chick is saved by a black man, a son of
slaves. He is literally saved from death in the creek, but more fundamentally,
he is saved from the racism that trammeled his understanding of human
excellence. See King, supra note 6, at 241 ("Having saved Chick's life, Lucas asks now to be saved by him.").
n167. See infra note 308 and accompanying text.
n168. Under the feudal doctrine of nulle terre sans seigneur,
"all land whatsoever is held, mediately or immediately, that is directly or
indirectly, of the Crown." Simpson, supra note 84, at 1. On the other hand, outside his own dominions,
even the king himself could be a vassal.
n169. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 63 (""I said I pays my own way,' said Lucas.").
n170. Id. at 71.
n171. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 97.
n172. See Talbot D'Alemberte, Remembering Atticus Finch's Pro Bono Legacy, Legal
Times, April 6, 1992, at 26 (describing as pro bono Atticus's representation of
Tom). On the other hand, some commentators have argued that Atticus's
representation of Tom should not be viewed as true pro bono work because
Atticus was not a volunteer. See Freedman, Right and Wrong, supra note 13, at
481 (noting somewhat disparagingly that
"Atticus Finch never in his professional life voluntarily takes a pro bono case
in an effort to ameliorate the evil - which he himself and others recognize -
in the apartheid of Maycomb, Alabama"); see also Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 174 (noting that Scout is
relieved to discover that Atticus did not take the case voluntarily).
n173. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 228.
n174. Id. at 83; see also id. at 96 (Atticus explains to his brother,
"But do you think I could face my children otherwise?").
n175. Id. at 113.
n176. See Thomas Shaffer, Faith and the Professions 7 (1987) [hereinafter Shaffer,
Faith and the Professions] (arguing that Atticus is best understood by
examining his character, not his principles).
n177. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 63 (Gavin offers to stay with Lucas
in jail in the face of a mob's imminent arrival); Lee, Mockingbird, supra note
1, at 155-157 (Atticus faces down a lynch mob).
n178. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 96.
n180. Id. Earlier, Atticus had told Scout they must fight on even though they will
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason
for us not to try to win." Id. at 84.
n181. See id. at 247.
n182. Id. at 248-49.
n183. Id. at 248.
n184. Id. at 253-54.
n185. See id. at 167 (""You know, it's a funny thing about Braxton,' said Atticus.
"He despises Negroes, won't have one near him.'").
n186. Id. at 254.
n187. Id. at 248.
n188. Id. at 249.
n190. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 11 (analyzing parallels with the Scottsboro
case as essential to understanding the historical context of Mockingbird). The
Scottsboro case developed from the March 25, 1931, arrest of nine young black
men in Scottsboro, Alabama, for the alleged rape of two young white women. See
James Goodman, Stories of Scottsboro 3-5 (1994). Even though most of the
evidence against them came from the testimony of their accusers, one of whom
subsequently recanted, eight of the accused were sentenced to death. See id. at
xi, 131-32. The trial of the ninth, who was only thirteen years old, ended in a
mistrial. See id. at 8-9. After seven years of appeals and retrials, during
which the U.S. Supreme Court twice overturned the convictions, four of the
original indictments were dropped, and the remaining five men received long
prison terms. See id. at 394-96. By 1946, all the men had been paroled except
one. See id. at 396. Two years later, he escaped to Michigan, where the state
government refused to extradite him to Alabama. See id. at 379-81.
Patterson v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 600 (1935) (overturning a conviction because blacks were excluded from the jury);
Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 587 (1935) (same);
Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932) (reversing convictions on the ground that Alabama failed to provide adequate
assistance of counsel);
Powell v. State, 141 So. 201 (Ala. 1932) (reversing one defendant's conviction on the ground that he was a juvenile at
the time of the alleged crime).
n192. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 58.
n195. Id. at 59.
n196. See id. The conversation first reminds Chick of the child's game Five Hundred,
then of high-stakes poker. See id. The latter allusion clearly raises the
metaphorical stakes for Lucas; his mother was won (and, of course, lost) in a
poker game between two white men, one her cousin, the other her owner. See
Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 20-29, 101. And the deck was almost certainly
stacked by the dealer, Lucas's father, who stood to marry the young slave woman
at wager, and did. Here the stakes are equally high, but now Lucas is playing
his own hand.
n197. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 60; see also MacIntyre, After Virtue,
supra note 30, at 127 (identifying the role of suppliant as antithetical to
that of hero:
"The suppliant, too, who has been forced to beg for what he must have, has put
himself at the mercy of another and so renders himself a potential corpse or
n198. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 58; see also Brooks, supra note 141, at
282-83 (asserting that
"it is essential to our understanding of the novel for us to realize that when
Gavin Stevens tells Lucas that he will take his case, he does so in spite of a
presumption of Lucas's guilt that amounts almost to certainty").
n199. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 63. The penitentiary to which Lucas
would have gone was the notorious Parchman, see id. at 58, a byword for slave
labor under field-gang conditions, see David M. Oshinsky,
"Worse than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice; William Banks Taylor, Down
on Parchman Farm: The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta (1999). But cf.
Brooks, supra note 141, at 286 (stating that
"Gavin Stevens ... simply wants Lucas to get a fair trial and only such
punishment as the law will properly mete out").
n200. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 59.
n201. See id. at 60-63.
n202. See supra note 177.
n203. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 63.
n204. See id. at 93 ("It remained ... to elect and do ... the two things out of all man's vast
reservoir of invention and capability that Beat Four [an area of Yoknapatawpha
County] would repudiate and retaliate on most violently: to violate the grave
of one of its progeny in order to save a nigger murderer from its vengeance.").
n205. See id. at 103.
n206. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 225-26.
n207. Id. at 226.
n210. Id. at 27.
n211. Id. at 26.
n212. Id. at 27.
n213. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 234.
n214. See supra notes 192-201 and accompanying text.
n215. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 238.
n216. Id. at 239.
n217. See id. at 240-41; cf. Brooks, supra note 141, at 292-94 (conceding that
"Lucas leaves with the honors of the field, and he is allowed the last word," but viewing Lucas's coins as
"token of a debt beyond payment" to Gavin and Chick); King, supra note 6, at 241-42 (conceding that Lucas turns
the tables and finally reverses Gavin's paternalism here, but finding the
reversal inadequate because it is merely personal, not communal and political,
a gesture rather than a conversation).
n218. Cf. Brooks, supra note 141, at 294 (noting the characters' use of jests to
handle what might otherwise have been an embarrassingly maudlin situation).
n219. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 71-93 (discussing encounters with
"the Other" as one of Mockingbird's main Gothic themes).
n220. Thus, according to Janice Radway,
Harper Lee's novel aims for nothing less than the reconceptualization of women
"Negroes" as collections of individually different human beings rather than as
categories of people identifiable by certain common properties. In the end,
though, it can only manage that task by modeling this newly recognized
individuality on that of the white men who are presumed to be its most
extraordinary exemplars. Although the book wants very much to be progressive
about the subjects of gender and race, it fails finally to undo the fundamental
equations that generally ensure that those with power are gendered male and
Radway, supra note 13, at 337.
n221. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 12.
n222. I have persuaded a surprising number of people that Miss Maudie is my paternal
grandfather's sister-in-law; this is probably not the place to continue the
n223. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 139.
n224. Aunt Alexandra arrives precisely as Jem and Scout return from their visit to
Calpurnia's church. See id. at 137.
n225. See id. at 89 ("But the only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply to anyone was when I once
heard him say,
"Sister, I do the best I can with them!' It had something to do with my going
around in overalls.").
n226. See id. at 147; see also Johnson, supra note 12, at 52 ("Aunt Alexandra, so strong in her obsession of remaking Atticus's unconventional
family into an orthodox one and forcing the family history on the reluctant
children, ironically promotes the emergence of the worst values from Atticus's
family, and simultaneously threatens the existence of the best values of that
n227. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 52.
n228. See id. at 50.
n229. See id. at 51.
n230. For example, when Atticus proclaims that it is a sin to
kill a mockingbird, Scout recalls that she has never before heard Atticus call anything a sin, so
she asks Miss Maudie about it. See id. at 98. Miss Maudie explains:
"Your father's right .... Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us
to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they
don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to
kill a mockingbird." Id.
n231. See id. at 240-51.
n232. See id. at 240.
n233. Id. at 241.
n235. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 87 (describing the society meeting's Gothic
fascination with the safely distant
""sin and squalor' of a dark Other").
n236. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 246.
n237. Id. at 249.
n239. Id. at 249-50; cf. id. at 228 (""We're the safest folks in the world,' said Miss Maudie [to Jem].
"We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like
Atticus to go for us.'").
n240. Id. at 243.
n241. Id. at 246-47; see also id. at 147 ("I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me ....").
n242. Id. at 246-47. Unless, of course, you deserve to be tricked, as both Bob and
Mayella Ewell learn to their chagrin. See id. at 189 (describing Bob Ewell's
"tricking lawyers like Atticus Finch took advantage of him all the time with
their tricking ways"); id. at 193-200 (detailing Atticus's sly and devastating cross-examination of
n243. Id. at 251.
n244. Id. Although Mrs. Merriweather was a simpering hypocrite, the Atticus
detractor whom Miss Maudie had initially silenced, even she must be accorded
the courtesies due guests in a proper lady's house.
n245. See id. at 50-51.
n246. Id. at 99.
n247. Id. at 97; cf. Johnson, supra note 12, at 36 ("The gun also takes on some symbolic value in the novel as a source of power
that must always be reined in.").
n248. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 98.
n249. Id. at 99.
n250. See id.
n251. Id. at 104.
n252. Id. at 105.
n254. See id. at 105-06.
n256. Id. at 107.
n257. Id. at 126.
n259. Id. at 287.
n260. Id. at 290.
n261. See id. at 98.
n262. Id. at 291.
n263. Johnson is right, as far as she goes, to argue that
"in the case of Boo Radley's killing of Bob Ewell ... laws and boundaries must
be overridden for justice to be done." Johnson, supra note 12, at 106. It is important, however, to see precisely
what, in Atticus's mind, the particular threat to justice is here.
N264. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 114-21, 257.
n265. Id. at 108. Lest we overlook the obvious phallic associations, the movie has
Jem tell us she keeps the pistol in her lap.
n266. See id. at 115-16. This is Scout's perception; Atticus explains,
"She can't help that. When people are sick they don't look nice sometimes." Id. at 117.
n268. See id. at 110.
n269. See id. at 111.
n270. Id. at 120.
n271. See id. at 114-15. As Claudia Durst Johnson points out,
"the malignancy of romance is most apparent in the association of Sir Walter
Scott's Ivanhoe, a novel synonymous with romance, with Mrs. Dubose, the
repugnant old woman ...." Johnson, supra note 12, at 69.
n272. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 120.
n273. Id. at 121.
n276. Hence the name of a Reconstruction-era vigilante band, the Knights of the
"a particularly violent group of southern vigilantes, given to lynching and
terrorizing the black populace after the Civil War as a way of preserving the
old southern way of life ...." Johnson, supra note 12, at 48-49.
n277. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 121.
n278. Id. at 109.
n279. Id. at 84.
n282. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 233.
n284. Id. at 234.
n285. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 194 ("For if any one thing about [The Town] soon becomes clear, it is that Gavin, and
not for the first time in Faulkner's fiction, is treated as a figure of fun -
almost as the butt of the author's jokes."); id. at 219 (observing that by the time of The Mansion, when he has graduated
from Harvard, Chick
"in spite of his affection for his uncle, sees him more and more as a lovable
n286. See William Faulkner, The Town [hereinafter Faulkner, The Town], in Snopes,
supra note 19, at 351, 391-93, 415.
n287. Id. at 505-06; see Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 802.
n288. Gavin scuffles with Eula's husband out of jealousy. See Faulkner, The Town,
supra note 286, at 415. Gavin is also forced to defend himself from an attack
by a boy enamored with Linda. See id. at 514.
n289. See Weisberg, supra note 14, at 88.
n290. Eula has committed suicide, after committing Linda to his care, see Faulkner,
The Town, supra note 286, at 634-40; Linda herself, widowed and war-wounded,
see Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 838-39, professes a love for her
mentor that needs no consummation, id. at 904, then leaves town, never to
return, id. at 1054-58.
n291. See Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 795; Faulkner, The Town, supra
note 286, at 396, 437.
n292. See Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 802; Faulkner, The Town, supra
note 286, at 505-06.
n293. See Faulkner, The Town, supra note 286, at 421.
n294. Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 863.
n295. This is recounted in the title story of Knight's Gambit. See William Faulkner,
Knight's Gambit [hereinafter Faulkner, Knight's Gambit], in Knight's Gambit
(Vintage Books 1978) (1939) [hereinafter Knight's Gambit]; see also Faulkner,
The Town, supra note 286, at 504 (briefly describing Gavin's wife's former
n296. See Faulkner, The Town, supra note 286, at 393.
n297. Unlike Gavin, Aunt Alexandra does have a child, but her son
"left home as soon as was humanly possible" and remains deeply estranged from his parents. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1,
n298. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 194 ("Naturally, his twin sister, Maggie Mallison, loves him and, as he is well
aware, would like to mother him and protect him from some of his follies.").
n299. Thomas Shaffer has noted that the children in both stories learn about courage
"elderly, single women," Thomas L. Shaffer, On Teaching Legal Ethics in the Law Office,
71 Notre Dame L. Rev. 605, 610 n.24 (1996), but he does not go on to explore differences between these teachers and their
n300. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 74-75.
n301. Id. at 76.
n302. Id. at 75-76.
n303. Id. at 75.
n304. Id. Faulkner emphasizes the antiquity of the Habershams as chief of
Jefferson's three founding families elsewhere as well. See Faulkner, The Town,
supra note 286, at 628. Indeed, the town originally bore their name. See
Faulkner, Requiem, supra note 120, at 6-7. But cf. Faulkner, Knight's Gambit,
supra note 295, at 65-66 (implying the third family was Stevens, not
n305. Faulkner, Requiem, supra note 120, at 7.
n306. She has two
"Negro servants," an elderly woman and her husband, Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 76, who
is the brother of Lucas's wife, Molly, see id. at 117. See also Faulkner,
Moses, supra note 3, at 114 (referring to Molly's older brother living in
n307. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 75.
n308. Id. at 86; see Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 357 (depicting a parallel
account of the two women's long-standing relationship). In the earlier story,
the prototype of Miss Habersham was called Miss Worsham. See Watson, supra note
15, at 109 (identifying Miss Habersham with Miss Worsham).
n309. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 76-81; see also id. at 77 ("He had forgotten Miss Habersham. He had dismissed her; he had said
"Excuse me' and so evanished her ...."). Even after their successful graveyard expedition, he repeatedly finds
himself thinking that, as an old woman and a lady, she should not be involved
in such things. See id. at 110, 114.
n310. Id. at 88.
n311. See id. at 69. Faulkner leaves no question about her being a witch:
"Mrs. Downs: an old white woman who lived alone in a small filthy shoebox of a
house that smelled like a foxden on the edge of town in a settlement of Negro
houses ... who ... didn't merely tell fortunes and cure hexes but found things
...." Id.; see also William Faulkner, Sanctuary 200 (First Vintage Int'l ed. 1993)
(1931) ("The ramshackle house of an old half-crazed white woman who was believed to
manufacture spells for negroes. It was on the edge of town ....").
n312. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 68-69.
n313. Id. at 70-71 ("Only this was no obscure valueless little ring exchanged twenty years ago
between two young girls but the death by shameful violence of a man who would
die not because he was a murderer but because his skin was black.").
n314. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 286 ("Charles Mallison would, of course, have been unable to perform his mission
without the aid of Miss Habersham. He had to have ... her pickup truck, but he
needs even more than that her counsel and her moral backing."). Gavin himself puts the matter more bluntly:
"You might have gone out there without her to drag you by the hand but Aleck
Sander wouldn't and I'm still not so sure you would when you came right down to
it." Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 104-05.
n315. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 86-87.
n316. See id. at 89.
n317. Id. at 88. This is remarkably close to the
"careful attention," Plato, Euthyphro, in Euthyphro, Apology, Crito 1, 16 (F.J. Church
& Robert J. Cumming trans., MacMillan 1948) (n.d.), to which Socrates, on the
eve of his execution, calls back his frantic friend Crito for their final
dialogue. See Plato, Crito, in Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, supra, at 51, 59. It
is also reminiscent of Milton's mature reflection on his blindness:
"They also serve who only stand and wait." Milton, supra note 57, at 190. This latter position, as we have seen, see
supra notes 55-57 and accompanying text, is precisely the position in which
Chick finds himself vis-a-vis Lucas at the novel's beginning.
n318. See id. at 88, 116.
n319. See id. at 100, 127.
n320. Id. at 110.
n321. See id. at 116.
n322. Miss Habersham's time is emphatically not the enforced idleness of southern
lady time, the ritualized, formalistic, numbingly boring time of Aunt
Alexandra's missionary circle in Mockingbird. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note
1, at 241 (depicting Scout's impressions of a dull meeting of the missionary
circle). From Scout's innocent perspective, the excitement of men's time is
vastly preferable. See id. at 246-47. The wiser Miss Habersham knows better
than both; she carries her mending to the jail. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra
note 4, at 116.
n323. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 97.
n324. See supra notes 150-51 and accompanying text.
n325. This is her exchange with Chick, when he realizes
"the simple inert unwieldy impossible physical vastness of what he faced":
"We cant possibly do it."
"No," Miss Habersham said.
Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 89.
n326. See id. at 228 ("I know Lucas Beauchamp.").
n327. See id. at 235-36.
n328. See supra notes 215-18 and accompanying text.
n329. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 268.
n330. See id. at 267.
n331. Id. at 44.
n332. Id. at 112. Miss Maudie dismisses rumors about Boo Radley as
"three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford." Id. at 52.
n333. To make matters worse, he steals from his own business partners, who were his
younger brother and his handicapped uncle. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note
4, at 217-18.
n334. The town
"repudiated" Crawford Gowrie upon learning of his fratricide, thereby doing their worst to
"depriving him to the full extent of their capacity of his citizenship in man." Id. at 198.
n335. Miss Habersham pronounces the final judgment here:
""He [Crawford] put him [his brother Vinson] in quicksand,' she said with calm
and implacable finality ...." Id. at 226.
n336. Atticus proves at trial that Mr. Ewell beats Mayella, and Tom's testimony
strongly implies incest. According to Tom, she told him she had never been
kissed by a grown man, since
"what her papa do to her don't count." Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 206; see also Johnson, supra note 12, at 7
(resolving ambiguities in the direction of incest).
n337. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 35 (describing Beat Four's violence
and turmoil); Johnson, supra note 12, at 66 ("Old Sarum ... is a place where violence always threatens to spill over into the
more restrained town of Maycomb."); Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 155-66 (providing an account of a lynch
mob from Old Sarum).
n338. See Frank H. Lyell, One Taxi Town, N.Y. Times Book Rev., July 10, 1960, at 5 ("Miss Lee has not tried to satisfy the current lust for morbid, grotesque tales
of Southern depravity."). But cf. Johnson, supra note 12, at 41 ("Virtually every external feature of the Gothic can be located in To
Kill a Mockingbird ...."). For a discussion of the frequent recourse to such stereotypes in fiction
about the South, and their recurrent popularity, see Brooks, supra note 141, at
10-11. In Intruder itself, Chick is well aware of the appeal of southern
stereotypes, especially to northern audiences:
"[A] volitionless, almost helpless capacity and eagerness to believe anything
about the South not even provided it be derogatory but merely bizarre enough
and strange enough ...." Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 150. The classic work of southern
stereotypes, if the term classic can indeed be applied to this genre, is
Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road (1932). See also James Goodman, Stories of
Scottsboro 148 (1994) (noting a defense counsel's explanation of how the jury
could reach a guilty verdict:
"If you ever saw those creatures, those bigots whose mouths are slits in their
faces, whose eyes popped out at you like frogs, whose chins dripped tobacco
juice, bewhiskered and filthy, you would not ask how they could do it.").
n339. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 11 (noting that although Faulkner was aware of
the comic possibilities in poor white characters, he
"frequently reveals his sympathies with the characters who come of poor-white
stock, seeing in them an integrity, dignity, and sense of values which is not
commensurate with their inadequacies in speaking or writing formal English").
n340. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 214 (suggesting that the Gowries [a
family of lower-class whites] refrained from lynching Lucas because they know
from the outset that he is innocent); Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 164-65
(describing how a lynch mob disperses after Scout strikes up a conversation
with Walter Cunningham, Sr., a member of the mob who is also the father of one
of her schoolmates).
n341. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 105:
He [Sheriff Hampton] was a countryman, a farmer and son of farmers when he was
first elected and now owned himself the farm and house where he had been born,
living in the rented one in town during his term of office then returning to
the farm which was his actual home at each expiration, to live there until he
could run for - and be elected - sheriff again.
Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 288 ("Mr. Tate's [stubbornness] was unschooled and blunt, but it was equal to my
n342. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 51-53 (describing the steadfastness
of the jailer and deputy in guarding Lucas); Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at
162 (alluding to the sheriff and his deputies' pursuit of a suspected lynch mob
deep into the woods); see also Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 227 ("[Sheriff Hampton] has a way of carrying right along with him into all
situations maybe not peace, maybe not abatement of the base emotions but at
least a temporary stalemate of crude and violent behavior just by moving slow
and breathing hard.").
n343. In Mockingbird, Atticus continues to think of his fellow community members as
friends, despite the hostility they express toward him. See Lee, Mockingbird,
supra note 1, at 84. Atticus's faith in his fellow citizens is not shaken, even
when those citizens threaten him with violence. The morning after a lynch mob
threatens Atticus and Tom, Atticus describes one of the mob's members as still
a friend and
"basically a good man." Id. at 168. Likewise, in Intruder, Gavin sees himself as no better than the
citizens who condemn him, and he refuses to share in Chick's sense of moral
superiority to their community. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 205.
n344. Mrs. Merriweather,
"the most devout lady in Maycomb" and a peer of Aunt Alexandra, suggests that black servants will stop grumbling
"if we just let them know we forgive 'em, that we've forgotten it, then this
whole thing will blow over." Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 243-44.
n345. Cleanth Brooks emphasizes this in William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country.
See Brooks, supra note 141, at 281-82; see also Faulkner, Intruder, supra note
4, at 214 (demonstrating Nub Gowrie's readiness to kill his older son for the
murder of his brother).
n346. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 192. Chick observes that
"they ran.... They reached the point where there was nothing left for them to do
but admit that they were wrong. So they ran home." Id.
n347. See id. at 100.
n348. Indeed, the grief that Chick sees Gowrie experience over the defilement of his
son's body reminds him of the grief he saw in Lucas over the death of his wife,
"where in a sense a heart capable of breaking had no business being." Id. at 158; see also Brooks, supra note 141, at 288 ("The enlargement of the boy's sympathies thus works in two directions to include
the chief of the lynchers-to-be as well as the man in danger of being lynched.").
n349. See Jolly, supra note 17, at 224 (speculating that Gavin would have opposed
"massive integration" phase of the civil rights movement because of its reliance on heavy federal
involvement). Atticus, in rejecting the epithet of radical, says
"I'm about as radical as Cotton Tom Heflin," a notorious segregationist. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 264; see also
Goodman, supra note 338, at 220 (quoting Heflin, a former U.S. Senator, as
warning that anything less than a conviction in the Scottsboro case would put
"wicked thoughts in the minds of the lawless Negro men").
n350. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 143-44.
n351. Id. at 140.
n353. Id. at 143.
n354. See id. at 143-45.
n355. See id. at 237-40.
n356. Id. at 239.
n357. Id. at 240.
n358. Id. On Jem's alienation from the white community, see id. at 223-24
(describing Jem's immediate reaction to Tom's conviction); id. at 227-29
(depicting Jem's discussion of the conviction with Miss Maudie Atkinson); id.
at 260-61 (depicting Atticus's explanation of Jem's confusion to Scout).
n359. See supra note 239 and accompanying text.
n360. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 249-50.
n361. Id. at 233. Earlier, Scout had observed that, according to Atticus,
"cheatin' a colored man" is
"the worst thing you can do." Id. at 214.
n362. He forbids Scout to use the word
"nigger" on the grounds that it is
"common," id. at 82, and he explains use of the expression
"nigger-lover" this way:
"ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over
and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves,
when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody," id. at 117.
n363. Id. at 143.
n364. Id. at 233. As Thomas Shaffer notes:
"The judgment Atticus hands down to his children regarding people who are trash
seems to contradict the ethic he otherwise announces to them, namely, the ethic
of climbing into the other person's skin." Shaffer, Growing Up Good, supra note 5, at 555. Indeed, the one time Atticus
suggests that this approach be applied to Bob Ewell, it is not to understand
the source of Ewell's wickedness, but to explain a particular outburst -
spitting in Atticus's face - in terms of that wickedness. See Lee, Mockingbird,
supra note 1, at 231.
n365. Id. at 250.
n366. Id. at 239.
n367. Id. at 228. Miss Maudie juxtaposes
"people like us" and Atticus's
"colored friends." Id.
n368. Miss Maudie dismisses rumors about Boo Radley as
"three-fourths colored folks." Id. at 52.
n369. Scout uses
"nigger" to describe a muddy snowman, without malice and to what the author apparently
intended to be taken as humorous effect. See id. at 74. Dolphus Raymond
comments on the corruption of children after overhearing Scout's observation to
Dill that Tom Robinson was
"after all ... just a Negro." Id. at 211-14.
n370. See supra note 356 and accompanying text.
n371. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 228.
n372. Id. at 141.
n373. Id. Early in the novel, Scout provides a comic description of North Alabama as
"full of Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors,
and other persons of no background." Id. at 23.
n374. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 60 ("Jem is probably not far from correct in supposing that education makes the
crucial difference between white social classes.").
n375. See id. at 107-11 (discussing the importance of literacy to the virtuous
characters in Mockingbird, and the novel's tendency to symbolize virtue itself
n376. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 23, 98; see also Johnson, supra note
12, at 110 ("The most civilized, the most humane, the wisest character is the one who reads
obsessively."); Radway, supra note 13, at 338 ("In my mind there was more than a chance connection between the endless scenes
of Atticus reading at night in the halo of light and his quiet determination to
"the Negro,' Tom Robinson ....").
n377. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 23-25.
n378. Id. at 135-36. Janice Radway observes that
"it is essential to note that the extension of literacy and recognition of
[Calpurnia's] individuality that seem to follow from it are conferred by
authoritative, white men." Radway, supra note 13, at 341.
n379. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 135-36.
n380. See id. at 131-32. Zeebo does make one other appearance, in his capacity as
garbage collector, to remove the corpse of a mad dog Atticus has slain. See id.
n381. See id. at 39 ("No tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books.").
n382. Id. at 49.
n383. Id. at 51, 170. The literacy of Maycomb's better sorts is reflected in their
language as well. Scout reports that
"[Maudie's] speech was crisp for a Maycomb County inhabitant," id. at 49, and that, although Calpurnia's grammar lapses unconsciously when
she is excited, see id. at 31, and intentionally when she is among other
blacks, see id. at 136,
"when in tranquility, her grammar was as good as anybody's in Maycomb," id. at 31, because, as Atticus has explained,
"Calpurnia had more education than most colored folks," id.
n384. See supra notes 58-63 and accompanying text.
n385. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 27.
n386. Id. at 261.
n387. Id. at 25.
n388. Id. at 33.
n389. Aunt Alexandra, predictably, misses this distinction, dismissing the
"trash" and insisting that their visits be strictly business, never social. See id. at
n390. See, e.g., Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years 71 (1926):
The farmboys in their evenings at Jones's store in Gentryville talked about how
Abe Lincoln was always reading, digging into books, stretching out flat on his
stomach in front of the fireplace, studying till midnight and past midnight,
picking a piece of charcoal to write on the fire shovel, shaving off what he
wrote, and then writing more - till midnight and past midnight. The next thing
Abe would be reading books between the plow handles, it seemed to them.
n391. Id. at 240.
n392. See id. at 33-34.
n393. Cf. Shaffer, Growing Up Good, supra note 5, at 547-51 (stating the view that,
in the implicit theology of Atticus and his family, their community is already
n394. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 264.
n395. Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle is Methodist; her guests are Presbyterian
and Baptist. See id. at 242. Atticus cannot remember any Roman Catholics in
Maycomb, but there is at least one Jewish family, the Levys, who are in the dry
goods business. See id. at 157.
n396. See id. at 240-51.
n397. See id. at 228 (recounting Miss Maudie's explanation to Jem that
"we're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like
Atticus to go for us").
n398. See id. at 51-53.
n399. Id. at 52.
n400. See id. at 132 ("Again, as I had often met it in my own church, I was confronted with the
Impurity of Women doctrine that seemed to preoccupy all clergymen.").
n401. Miss Lula says to Calpurnia:
"I wants to know why you bringin' white chillun to nigger church." Id. at 129.
n402. See id. at 128.
n403. See id. at 224.
n404. Id. at 133.
n405. Id. at 172.
n406. Id. at 216.
n407. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 148.
n408. See id.
n409. Watson, supra note 15, at 127. For Gavin's own survey of the same terrain and
history, see Faulkner, The Town, supra note 286, at 621-24.
n410. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 145; see also Faulkner, The Town,
supra note 286, at 623 (providing Gavin's own account).
n411. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 146.
n412. See Faulkner, The Town, supra note 286, at 623.
n413. See Faulkner, Intruder at 146; see also William Faulkner, Monk, in Knight's
Gambit, supra note 295, at 39, 41; cf. Lee, Mockingbird, supranote 1, at 16
(describing the Cunninghams as
"an enormous and confusing tribe"); id. at 176 (recounting a Dickensian lawsuit in which the son testified that
"his mother spelled it Cunningham on deeds and things, but she was really a
Coningham, she was an uncertain speller, a seldom reader, and was given to
looking far away sometimes when she sat on the front gallery in the evenings").
n414. There are, indeed, Ewells in Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. See, e.g., Faulkner,
The Mansion, supra note 19, at 706 (describing Walter Ewell and Ike McCaslin,
Lucas's white cousin, as
"the best hunters in the county").
n415. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 98.
n416. Cf. Johnson, supra note 12, at 98 ("The villainy of Mayella's father, Bob Ewell, arises from his unwillingness to
be governed by any law, either internal or external ....").
n417. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 33 ("[They] were waiting ... simply because it would be Sunday in three hours now
and they didn't want to have to hurry, bolt through the business in order to
finish it by midnight and not violate the Sabbath ...."); id. at 47 (referring to keeping the Sabbath holy). When Tom Robinson is
returned to Maycomb on the Sunday before his trial is to begin, Atticus
observes that the Old Sarum crowd
"don't usually drink on Sunday, they go to church most of the day." Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 156. But
"someone" ominously points out that
"this a special occasion," id. at 157, and the lynch mob arrives at the jail shortly after Atticus's
children's bedtime, id. at 159-66.
n418. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 153-54.
n420. See Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 254 (recording Lucius Quintus Carothers
McCaslin's birth in
"Callina" in 1772 and death in
"Missippy" in 1837).
n421. See supra notes 300-27 and accompanying text.
n422. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 206.
n424. Johnson, supra note 12, at 99.
n425. See id. at 102.
n426. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 99.
n427. See id.
n428. See Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 864-65.
n429. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 67.
n430. See MacIntyre, After Virtue, supra note 30, at 124 (observing that, in a
"if someone kills you, my friend or brother, I owe you their death and when I
have paid my debt to you their friend or brother owes them my death").
n431. For Nietzsche's initial comparison of his heroes to the
"blond beast," see Nietzsche, supra note 144, at 40. See also id. at 40-41 n.3 (summarizing
position of Walter Kaufman and Arthur Danto that problematic
"blondness" refers to the heroes' prototype, the lion, not to racial features of the
n432. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 146.
n433. See id. at 46-47, 143.
n434. Id. at 146.
n435. See id. at 146-47, 153.
n436. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 421 ("In calling a people homogeneous Gavin can only mean that they have a community
of values that is rooted in some kind of lived experience.").
n437. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 151 ("Only from homogeneity comes anything of a people or for a people of durable and
lasting value ....").
n438. See id. at 150-51.
n439. Id. at 152.
n441. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 421 ("We may feel that Gavin's rhetorical device is strained or in bad taste, but we
misread if we say that he uses Sambo in order to deprecate Lucas Beauchamp and
the race he represents.").
n442. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 144.
n443. See id. at 145.
n444. Id. at 145.
n445. Id. at 95.
n447. Id. at 143.
n448. See id. at 198, 209.
n449. Gavin reserves some of his sharpest scorn for these urbanized rustics, whom he
characterizes as having brought along all the prejudices of their parochial
backgrounds without any of the compensating virtues. See id. at 46-48.
n450. Id. at 209; see also Watson, supra note 15, at 129 ("The volatility first assigned to the mob alone now extends to the whole town,
and the passage makes clear that all levels of white male society are
implicated in Beauchamp's fate.") Bassett is thus wrong to suggest that
"no Jefferson bourgeoisie, only the scruffier elements, are involved." Bassett, supra note 19, at 216.
n451. See supra notes 372-74 and accompanying text.
n452. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 148.
n453. Id. at 149.
n455. See id. at 92.
n456. See id. at 48. After a conversation with a white shopkeeper whose sympathies
lie with the lynch mob, Gavin explains to Chick:
"Now the white people will take him out and burn him, all regular and in order
and themselves acting exactly as [the shopkeeper] is convinced Lucas would wish
them to act: like white folks; both of them observing implicitly the rules ...."
n458. See id. at 53.
n459. Id. at 153.
n460. See id. at 151-52.
n461. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 422-24. Gavin's gradualism nicely reflects that
of southern liberals generally, as analyzed in David Potter, A Minority Within
a Minority, 46 Yale Rev. 264-65 (1957).
n462. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 152, 211.
n463. Id. at 151 (referring to lynching).
n465. See id. at 152, 199, 210-11; see also Frank Freidel, F.D.R. and the South
83-89 (1965) (describing successful opposition of southern congressmen to
federal anti-lynching legislation early in the New Deal era).
n466. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 199, 210-11.
n467. Id. at 211. In a previous passage, Gavin says almost identically:
"We must expiate and abolish it ourselves, alone and without help nor even (with
thanks) advice." Id. at 199.
n468. See infra notes 646-48 and accompanying text.
n469. Id. at 151.
n470. Id. at 194-95.
n471. See id. at 209.
n472. See infra notes 646-48 and accompanying text.
n473. See infra notes 493-97, 551-55 and accompanying text.
n474. See supra notes 465-69 and accompanying text.
n475. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 84.
n476. Id. at 167.
n477. See id. at 181; see also Johnson, supra note 12, at 49 ("It is probably no accident that the most racist character in the novel is given
a name associated with old South gentility - Robert E. Lee Ewell.").
n478. Johnson, supra note 12, at 49.
n479. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 247 ("People up there set 'em free, but you don't see 'em settin' at the table with
'em. At least we don't have the deceit to say to 'em yes you're as good as we
are but stay away from us.").
n480. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 48 ("Mrs. Lafayette Dubose ... is in many ways the epitome of the worn-out, old
southern past."); supra notes 265-81 and accompanying text.
n481. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 84. Implicitly, of course, as we shall see
below, the tables are even more dramatically turned: the Yankees are Atticus's
silent partners. See infra notes 653-58 and accompanying text.
n482. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 156.
n483. See Woodward, supra note 122, at 145 (documenting Grady's industrialist ideas,
the messianic tone of his message, and its popularity in the post-Civil War
n484. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 172.
n485. Id. at 88.
n487. Id. at 10. Scout also recounts Halloween pranks played on two elderly deaf
"the Barber ladies," reported Republicans who moved to Maycomb from northern Alabama with
"Yankee ways," such as their insistence that their house have a cellar. Id. at 265.
n488. Id. at 8.
n489. See id.
n490. Id. at 217; see Freidel, supra note 465, at 84-87 (describing Eleanor
Roosevelt's intervention with FDR on behalf of civil rights leaders, especially
in support of federal anti-lynching legislation).
n491. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 247.
n492. See supra note 394 and accompanying text.
n493. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 54. For Faulkner's history of the jail,
see Faulkner, Requiem, supra note 120, at 183-225.
n494. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 149.
n495. See, e.g., id. at 210.
n496. Nor is this feminine source of animosity historically unlikely. See Eric L.
McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction 39-40 (1960) ("The women, far from performing for their people any of the gentler rites of
peace, were the bitterest of all," even after Confederate veterans themselves were reconciled). Faulkner makes
this explicitly a theme in one of his more historically rooted works, Requiem
for a Nun. See supra note 120.
n497. See infra notes 520-60 and accompanying text.
n498. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 97-99.
n499. See id. at 109.
n500. See id. at 84.
n501. Id. at 36. Atticus later applies this maxim to Bob Ewell, see id. at 231, and
Boo Radley, see id. at 290-91.
n502. See id. at 98. Instructing Jem on the proper use of an air rifle, Atticus
"I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after
birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a
kill a mockingbird." Id.
n503. See Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism 172-73 (1939) ("We know that the great majority of people have a strong need for authority
which they can admire, to which they can submit .... It is the longing for the
father that lives in each of us from his childhood days ...."); see also Thurman W. Arnold, The Symbols of Government 59-71 (1935) (applying
Freud's dynamics to the justice system, with the law in the place of the
father); cf. Johnson, supra note 12, at 99 (observing that, in the Finch
"the saintly Atticus, Christ-like in his code of honor, bestows a system of
n504. See Johnson, supra note 12, at 38 ("What keeps these two children from practicing the same cruelty as the other
children is a father, a supreme adult, who speaks to them as adults.").
n505. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 97.
n506. Id. Claudia Durst Johnson speaks with obvious approval of this
Of all the societies that the children will ever encounter, their familial one
is the most whole, and therefore, the most sane. Heart and head rule in
harmony, inner and outer laws work in tandem, for there are no hidden agendas,
no double standards, no dark secrets in their home.
Johnson, supra note 12, at 101. Even she, however, points to an oddly stifling
element. After describing in detail the subversive, indeed patricidal, aspects
of children's games, especially playacting, as evidenced in Jem and Scout's
dramatizing of what they imagine to be the Radley family story, id. at 77-82,
Johnson concludes with this pregnant observation:
"In light of this view of the ritual, it is interesting that it is Atticus who
calls a halt to the little drama." Id. at 82-83. In light of Johnson's psychoanalytic account, surely at least a
"hmm" is in order here.
n507. Luke 23:34 (Revised Standard Version). Illustrating the lesson, Atticus
describes Walter Cunningham, Sr., on the day after his joining a lynch mob as
"basically a good man" with
"his blind spots along with the rest of us." Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 168.
n508. See David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference 59-61 (1986) (recounting Dr. King's
conciliatory message immediately after the bombing of his home in Montgomery
during the Bus Boycott).
n509. Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 291.
n512. See id. at 47, 56 (forbidding Scout and Jem to dramatize Boo's rumored
condition in their games).
n513. See id. at 240; Johnson, supra note 12, at 59 (noting Jem's association of
"acrimony between social classes" and Boo's alienation).
n514. See Lee, Mockingbird, supra note 1, at 293.
n517. Id. at 295.
n518. Id. at 296.
n519. See id.; Johnson, supra note 12, at 92 ("As Atticus puts Scout to bed, she summarizes the Tom Swift tale for him,
finding herself merging the fiction of one of their favorite books with their
experience with Arthur Boo Radley and the inner and outer terrors with which
they have become friendly.").
n520. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 49.
n521. See id. at 233-34 (disputing Gavin's disquisition on men, women, and the
n522. Id. at 70; see also Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 13 (conveying the same
essential message, from Lucas's father, Tomey's Turl, in a somewhat comic
n523. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 68.
n524. Id. at 70.
n525. See King, supra note 6, at 236 (analyzing Lucas as Faulkner's failed effort to
create an autonomous black man, resulting in
"a backwoods Nietzschean superman, serene in his indifference to most
recognizable human motivations").
n526. See Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity 10-13 (1990); see also
Richard A. Posner, Law and Literature 299-300 (1988) (characterizing ours as an
age of relativism and observing that many of the values and virtues of literary
heroes are reprehensible by modern standards).
n527. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 8, 12, 24. Chick understands quite
clearly that it is his southernness that enabled him to respond to Lucas:
the earth which had bred his bones and those of his fathers for six generations
and was still shaping him into not just a man but a specific man ... even among
a kind and race specific and unique ... since it had also integrated into him
whatever it was that had compelled him to stop and listen to a damned highnosed
Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 148.
n528. See infra note 665 and accompanying text.
n529. See Watson, supra note 15, at 136-38 (analyzing the metaphor and explaining
Chick's role as healer in
"a community that cannot or will not heal itself").
n530. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 134.
n531. See id. at 177-90.
n532. See id. at 206-07.
n533. See id. at 208.
n534. Id. at 209-10.
n535. See id. at 204.
n536. See id. at 205, 210.
n537. Id. at 205-06.
n538. See Olga W. Vickery, The Novels of William Faulkner 142-44 (rev. ed. 1964)
(analyzing the dialogue between Gavin and Chick); Bassett, supra note 19, at
208, 212 (discussing the relationship between Gavin and Chick as dialectical).
n539. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 292 ("In Intruder in the Dust the meaning of the community is uppermost in the minds
of Gavin and Charles and constitutes the chief topic of their speculation and
n540. See James Boyd White, The Ethics of Argument: Plato's Gorgias and the Modern
50 U. Chi. L. Rev. 849, 851, 861-71 (1983) (demonstrating that dialectic expresses and shapes a person's character, life,
n541. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 206.
n542. See Brooks, supra note 141, at 288 ("The tension ... is between a boy's ties with his community - his almost fierce
identification with it - and his revulsion from what the community seems
committed to do.").
n543. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 207; supra notes 529-32 and
n544. See id. at 229-33.
n545. See id. at 235.
n546. Id. at 231.
n547. Id. at 235. Although this analysis differs with Cleanth Brooks on precisely
who is indebted to whom, and how, Brooks is certainly right that
"people who understand and feel affection for each other can turn the most
serious matter into a joke, and may prefer the affectionate joke for
expressing, without embarrassing sentimentality, the deepest kind of
understanding." Brooks, supra note 141, at 294.
n548. See Mark 10:15.
n549. See supra notes 213-18 and accompanying text.
n550. See Minrose Gwin, The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (Beyond) Sexual
Difference 93 (1990) (arguing that Lucas
"demonstrates to Chick the invalidity of his desire for mastery").
n551. Jay Watson has identified these incidents and analyzed their importance in
detail. See Watson, supra note 15, at 121-28.
n552. Brooks, supra note 141, at 288. Jay Watson makes much the same point:
"All in all, Gavin's spoken stories and anecdotes instruct Chick in communal
values and assumptions even as they sometimes kindle in him an urge to
challenge these values and assumptions." Watson, supra note 15, at 127; see also Bassett, supra note 19, at 210 ("Chick, driven by guilt more than by liberalism, is not simply an open-minded
youth: to the extent he acts commendably, he is a disciple of Gavin.").
n553. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 234.
n556. See Shaffer, American Lawyers, supra note 25, at 86-97 (showing that the
gentleman's legal ethic ultimately fails by attempting to
"protect the weak who are not weak").
n557. See id. at 93, 95 (discussing Atticus's moral failures). Shaffer himself fails
to sharply distinguish between Gavin and Atticus, treating them both as prime
examples of the southern gentleman ethic but giving greater attention to
n558. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 206.
n559. For a summary of these early critics, see Brooks, supra note 141, at 280-81;
Watson, supra note 15, at 111; Weisberg, supra note 14, at 82-83.
n560. This is especially true of both Jay Watson, see Watson, supra note 15, at 112 ("To do justice to the novel demands doing justice to all sides of [Gavin's]
character."), and Richard Weisberg, see Weisberg, supra note 14, at 84 (arguing that, for
all his faults, Gavin ultimately develops a willingness to take risks in the
service of what he considers right), although on some important matters they
differ with both the preceding analysis and each other. Cleanth Brooks, as we
have seen, was an important early precursor of Gavin's recent defenders. See
supra note 552 and accompanying text.
n561. Faulkner, The Mansion, supra note 19, at 884.
n562. The sheriff seems to have let him kill himself in jail with his own pistol,
the same one with which he killed his brother. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra
note 4, at 231.
n563. See supra notes 154-57 and accompanying text.
n564. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 70. Chick later recalls the words of old
Ephraim. See id. at 110.
n565. On the split between law and equity, or between rule and act consequentialism,
see Posner, supra note 526, at 108-10, 122-26 (2d ed. 1998) (contrasting
"non-legalistic" conceptions of law, noting that all systems involve elements of both, and
refusing to identify either as
n566. Richard Weisberg argues that
"Gavin Stevens becomes the first major literary lawyer to develop positively as
a human being in the direction of, and not in rebellion against, his
professional strengths." Weisberg, supra note 14, at 84. This, of course, runs counter to the critique
of busyness that Faulkner is making in Intruder, where even Weisberg admits
Gavin has not reached his full maturity. That maturity comes, in Weisberg's
view, in The Town. See id. at 86-92. Contrary to Weisberg's suggestion,
however, see id. at 85, Gavin is not younger in Intruder and Knight's Gambit.
In the title story of Knight's Gambit, Gavin gets married; in the Snopes
trilogy, his marriage comes in The Mansion, which follows The Town. Though the
precise internal dating in Intruder is uncertain, see supra note 19, both of
the two plausible time frames have to fall after the events of The Town. Chick
is 12 when his encounter with Lucas begins in Intruder; The Town opens with
Chick's saying of the story he is about to relate,
"I wasn't born yet ...." Faulkner, The Town, supra note 286, at 353.
n567. See Bassett, supra note 19, at 209 (noting that Gavin
"shows a capacity to question his own assumptions").
n568. Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 105.
n569. See id.; accord Matthew 21:15-16.
n570. See Paul Ricouer, Listening to the Parables of Jesus, in The Philosophy of
Paul Ricouer 239, 245 (Charles E. Reagan
& David Stewart eds., 1978) (analyzing Jesus's parables of the kingdom as calls
for openness toward the radical reorientation of one's being in the world).
n571. See Faulkner, Moses, supra note 3, at 46-47.
n572. See Faulkner, Intruder, supra note 4, at 88.
n573. See id. at 78-79.
Prepared: June 16, 2003 - 5:02:29 PM
Edited and Updated, June 17, 2003
Philosophy of Law