Lubet 1999 Reconstructing

Title Information

Author: Steven Lubet

Title: Reconstructing Atticus Finch

Subtitle: -

Journal: Michigan Law Review

Volume: 97

Issue: 6

Year: May 1999

Pages: 1339-1362

ISSN: 0026-2234 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History | Representations: Literature / Harper Lee

Full Text

Link: HeinOnline [Restricted Access]

Link: JSTOR [Restricted Access]

Additional Information

Author: Steven Lubet, Law School, Northwestern University


»Reconstructing Atticus Finch' is a reexamination of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The essay takes another look at Atticus's tactics in the defense of Tom Robinson, particularly from the perspective of the alleged victim, Mayella Ewell. The essay considers a previously unasked question: What if Mayella was telling the truth?
Texts, especially literary texts, are always subject to reinterpretation. Notwithstanding the reaction of generations of readers, it turns out that To Kill a Mockingbird contains a submerged narrative in which Mayella's story of rape becomes credible.
Once we contemplate the possibility that Mayella might have been raped, we can no longer unquestioningly accept Atticus Finch as a paragon of lawyerly virtue. It may be that he was simply another working lawyer, using the tools at hand in his best effort to exonerate a client. And since the crime was rape, Atticus used the time-worn strategy of attacking the victim's character. That tactic has been roundly condemned in other contexts; on the other hand, it may be the only available defense in a prosecution corrupted by racism.
Viewing Mayella as a possible crime victim rather than as a conniving liar requires us to ask a series of uncomfortable questions. Do ethics depend on the guilt or innocence of one's client? Are some tactics simply impermissible? May stereotypes ever be exploited by trial counsel, even in defense of the innocent?« (Source: Social Science Research Network)


  I. Introduction
  II. Three Narratives
    A. Scout's Story
    B. Tom's Story
    C. Mayella's Story
  III. The Defense of Tom Robinson
    A. If Tom Robinson Told the Truth
    B. If Tom Robinson Lied
    C. If Atticus Didn't Care
  IV. Reconsidering the Rape Defense
  V. Reconsidering the Defense Lawyer
  VI. Race, Class, and Gender in Maycomb, Alabama
  VII. Conclusion


Althouse, Ann. »Reconstructing Atticus Finch? A Response to Professor Lubet.« Michigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1363-1369.

Atkinson, Rob. »Comment on Steven Lubet, Reconstructing Atticus FinchMichigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1370-1372.

Powell, Burnele V. »A Reaction: "Stand up, Your Father [A Lawyer] Is Passing".« Michigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1373-1375.

Simon, William H. »Moral Icons: A Comment on Steven Lubet's "Reconstructing Atticus Finch".« Michigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1376-1377.

Stone, Randolph N. »Atticus Finch, in Context.« Michigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1378-1381.

Lubet, Steven. »Reply to Comments on Reconstructing Atticus FinchMichigan Law Review 97 (1999): 1382-1384.

Wikipedia: Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Added: April, 26, 2014 | Last updated: July 26, 2014