Tuesday, 16 November 2010

"In the name of God, do your duty" - A Tribute to Atticus Finch

I had the great fortune of studying English at A-level over 10 years ago. I didn't feel compelled to study it at University level, but all the same it opened me up to a series of wonderful novels that I may not otherwise have read.

Indeed, I've always loved reading and whilst I prefer a non-fiction to a fiction, I am often drawn back to a famous fictional novel that I read not during my A-levels, but in fact, during my GCSEs.

To Kill a Mockingbird is undoubtedly one of the most wide-read of novels in the history of literature. But then, that doesn't have to necessarily mean that it's any good.

But then, Harper Lee's only ever publication, isn't actually good. It's more than that. It's extraordinary. It's exceptional. Above all possibly, it is just incredibly endearing.

Atticus Finch - The Greatest Fictional Character in English Literature
The novel itself was published 50 years ago, in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize and has sold over 30m copies worldwide.

The 1962 film adaptation saw Gregory Peck take on the lead role of the father, Atticus Finch. He would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his efforts.

I class Atticus Finch as the greatest character in English literature. Through the wonderful, narrative writing style of Harper Lee, coupled with the wonderful delivery given by Gregory Peck in the film, this character manages to do what few others have done - given the legal profession a good name!

The fact that the novel was published right in the heart of the civil rights movement, meant that it's story had a particularly strong resonance in America at the time of its publication. Likewise, the film adaptation a few years later preceded Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech of August 1963 by a full year.

Atticus for me, embodies all that is good and noble in mankind. Fighting for justice, for the underdog, because it the right, correct and morally proper thing to do.

Atticus Finch - The Greatest Speech in Movie History
In the film, the character of Atticus Finch was taken to new levels by the Oscar-award winning performance of Gregory Peck.

The court scene speech, where Atticus spoke resolutely and admirably in favour of the 'black' Tom Robinson against the 'white' Ewells, is for me one of the most mesmorising and inspirational I have ever seen in a movie picture.

Here is the audio of that entire 7 minute speech, climaxing in Atticus' final, spine tingling plea to the jury, "In the name of God, do your duty".

As I mentioned, Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his performance. Here he is, collecting his award.

At this point, I should make a confession. When I studied the novel during my GCSEs, we sat 'open book' exams where we were allowed to bring the books in with us to the exams. Unfortunately, I had mislaid my copy some week before the exam but was too embarassed to admit so to my teachers Mrs Smith and Mr Childs. I therefore went into the exam 'blind' without it but still got a solid 'B' for my English Literature all the same!

A long time later, I found my errant copy somehow hiding in a cupboard in my home dining room. How it got there I don't know, but there it was. I always intended to take it back to Ysgol Dyffryn Taf, but never did get round to doing so. So I still have it here, 12 years later, and I may just read it again.

To get me in the mood, here is the wonderful opening theme to the movie, as composed by the legend that was Elmer Bernstein.

But to Harper Lee, thank you for writing such a wonderful work and to Gregory Peck, thank you for a wonderful performance.

Between them both, thank you to Atticus Finch for providing the best role model, anyone could desire.

For being a good father, a good citizien and a good human being, Atticus Finch, I salute you. 

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