Cameron University to examine differences in portrayal of Atticus Finch between “To Kill A Mockingbird” novel and film

The Cameron University Department of Communication, English and Foreign Languages will present an in-depth examination of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel which spawned an Academy Award winning film. Dr. Richmond B. Adams, Assistant Professor of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, will present “About as Radical as Cotton Tom Heflin: Atticus Finch, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Post-1945 American Life.” The lecture, slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, in the CETES Conference Center, is open to the public at no charge.

Adams will examine a number of differences between the 1960 novel and the 1962 film in the presentation of Atticus Finch. Horton Foote’s Academy Award winning screenplay eliminates the novel’s subtle portrayal of Finch as a typical white Southerner of the 1930s who quietly accepts and approves of Jim Crow segregation. However, in spite of Finch's acceptance and approval of segregation, he takes seriously his appointment to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman because he also believes in justice.

Harper Lee’s first draft of the classic novel, set in the 1950s, offered a less sympathetic depiction of Finch, portraying him as a member of a white citizen’s group protesting the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education that the concept of “separate but equal” schools was unconstitutional. The 2015 release of that draft, titled “Go Set A Watchman,” drew much criticism regarding the portrayal of Atticus Finch.

The 192 film eliminates numerous references and subtly changes some actions in creating a more positive view of the Civil Rights movement, with Finch positioned as a champion of that favorable view.

Adams earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Memphis and earned a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. With a lifelong interest in history and its relationship with literature, Adams maintained his scholastic interests through 11 years in pastoral ministry, most of which he spent in Oklahoma. Between 2001 and 2003, he was a part-time student of English and American literature at Cameron University. He earned a doctorate in 2011 from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

A faculty member at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva since Fall 2014, Adams has continued his scholastic efforts with conference presentations, journal articles, and periodic lectures. He has also facilitated discussions within the “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” and other locally sponsored programs.

Adams’ lecture is made possible by the Holmes, Morris and Newell Endowed Lectureship in Classic Film.



March 14, 2019