Spotlight on: Atticus

(I put all the giveaways in the mail this morning — look for them at the end of this week/beginning of next! And please let me know if yours doesn’t arrive!)

You’ve all likely heard the news by now, right? Beloved Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird — who actually had a whole bunch of babies named after him (name story given here, several noted in the comments here, and quite a few celeb babies who may or may not have been named for the character but there’s a high likelihood he was at least part of the inspiration) because of his goodness, and who inspired a baby name book (one of my faves: A is for Atticus: Baby Names from Great Books by Lorilee Craker) — has been shown, in Harper Lee’s new book released today, Go Set a Watchman, to not be the virtuous man we all thought him to be. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read the novel, so all my info is coming from what I read in various places, but mostly here: Review: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Gives Atticus Finch a Dark Side.)

What a devastation for so many parents! My husband and I ourselves even considered Atticus when naming our boys, in large part because of the reputation of goodness and justice it carries because of the Mockingbird character. For us, however, a literary character, no matter how beloved, couldn’t have been the only reason to choose a name, and so I had cause years ago to look up whether Atticus is a saint’s name, and therein lies the balm for the parents of little Atticus-es: Atticus the Saint!

Parents who named their children for a good man in Atticus Finch can rest assured that St. Atticus is even better a person to be named for: he was real, for one thing, and has already finished the race and won the crown. From CatholicSaints.Info:

Atticus supported the Macedonian heresy (i.e., the Holy Spirit is not God), opposed Saint John Chrysostom, and worked against him at the Council of Oak in 405. When John was exiled fromConstantinople, Atticus assumed the bishopric in 406. He eventually realized his error, repented his opposition, and submitted to Pope Innocent I‘s rulings. He remained as bishop, but a virtuous and orthodox one, and an opponent of heretics.”

His feast day is January 8. (I do believe he’s profiled in Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, Second Edition by Matthew Bunson, though I haven’t read it myself.) (It’s definitely on my wishlist!)

You know me — I have to have a good nickname figured out before deciding on a name — and Atticus confounded me for a while. I didn’t care for Atty because of its similarity to the feminine Addy (though I’ve seen some parents of Atticus-es saying they use Atty), but then in various places I’ve seen Ace, Gus, and Kit — all of which I think are great!

What do you all think of Atticus? Does the new Harper Lee novel tarnish it for you? If so, does its saintliness redeem it? Do you know anyone who named their son Atticus, and if so, what do they think of all this hubbub?

31 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Atticus

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. I have not read Go Set A Watchman, nor do I intend to read it. Perhaps there was no manipulation of an older woman, but it just seems so odd to me that after Harper Lee said repeatedly she would publish no more books that it was only once her sister (who was a lawyer) was gone and she had to go live in a nursing home that all of a sudden this book is being published…and now there is talk of a third one! I wish they had left this writer’s legacy alone. But I am glad that people who will have a hard time pretending that Go Set A Watchman doesn’t tarnish their child’s name will have another influence to look to…I didn’t know there was a St. Atticus.

    I don’t know anyone who named their child Atticus. I do know someone that named their son Finch. But that is a looser association.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I just went and picked up Go Set a Watchman. I wasn’t going to read it, but then curiosity about why Atticus became a racist took over, and I just had to read it.

    Honestly, I don’t think Go Set a Watchman can tarnish Atticus from TKaM. He’s too wonderful in it, and I don’t think as many people will read GSAW, because it’s not going to be curriculum in schools (everyone I know from all over the country read it in school).

    I know a few boys names Atticus, and I still think it’s adorable. I’m glad there’s a saint named Atticus 🙂 Maybe when parents are looking for a new association with Atticus they’ll stumble upon him.

    In the end, though, I totally think Harper is going to rise again this year. My guess is number 6 or 7.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Here’s an article from the NYT addressing this very question!:

    I must admit, I always felt a little bit of namer’s snark about the TKAM names. Was it really that everyone truly loved TKAM that much, or was it just that it happens to feature a number of on-trend names with a bonus literary connection? But I lean off-trend in my taste and I didn’t particularly love the book (though I only read it as a kid), so no one should ask me anyway. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • I always had a similar question as you about TKaM names. Mine has always kind of been do the parents really love the book or are they just trying to seem like they do/seem cool?

      Liked by 2 people

    • I get the same feel with Catcher in the Rye and I can definitely see it with The Great Gatsby although I’ll defend Gatsby as it’s one of my top-10 favorite books of all time. As far as naming goes, Gatsby was certainly very influential in one way: it was the first known use of the name Jordan as a female name. The other main characters—Nick, Jay, Daisy, and Tom—have not enjoyed so much naming influence.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Let me revise that: it might not have been the first known use of Jordan as a female name, but it is most likely the origin of the trend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting! I tried reading Gatsby once and had a hard time getting into so I abandoned the effort, but I’ve always thought I really should read it. I’ll try again! (Two books now on my “must read” list: Kristin and Gatsby)


      • Yes I think you’re probably right re: Gatsby being the beginning of the Jordan-for-girls trend … I did just read recently that Jordan has always been used for both boys and girls, which surprised me on the one hand (because it was always male to me until somewhat recently) but not on the other, since I guess returning crusaders brought water from the Jordan to baptize their children, boys and girls. I didn’t know Jordan was a character in Gatsby until now though, so interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A relatively new name on my like-list, but I love that it is a saint name with a literary connection and a hipster popularity. Definitely will continue to recommend it to others, but doubt it will ever be on our own short list, not for any particular reason though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, but I have to agree that as a classically educated homeschooler, I find cult classics annoying across the board, so the Harper+Scout+Atticus popularity all at once is a turnoff for me, since our generation all read the same 100 or whatever books in high school (except me).

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I think we can accept that Go Set a Watchman is NOT canon. It was more a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, before she decided where she wanted to go with it, and she really changed a lot of the characters. She NEVER intended to publish it and I definitely think there were shady dealings at play. So Atticus Finch should remain an unblemished literary figure in my opinion!

    The only people I know to name their child Atticus haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, either! They came across the name on a list and just liked it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When we named our son Atticus, it was solely because we had stumbled upon St Atticus. It wasn’t brought to our attention until we spilled the beans on his name prior to giving birth and folks would ask us if we came up with the name from Atticus Finch. I’m happy to say that it’s not! Although he’s a great character in the book, I had completely forgotten about him from when I read, ‘To kill a Mockingbird’ in school.

    Liked by 1 person

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