A school-librarian friend of mine recently made an excellent bracket tourney of literary characters, with heroes on one side and villains on the other. I filled out my picks, and my final matchup is Atticus Finch vs. Darth Vader. At first it may seem like these two could not be more opposite: A selfless icon of justice and good versus a megalomaniac whom they call the Dark Lord. But just like Boo Radley, this matchup has much more depth than there may seem to be at first. Both are fathers, each of an elder son and a daughter. Both are widowers. One wears black to hide himself, the other stands out for defending blacks. One went from book to movie, the other from movie to books. Both are from a long time ago, and, if you’re not in the deep south of the USA, from a galaxy far far away. It’s a beautiful matchup but only one can win, so lets dissect this like a freshly sliced Tauntaun…
EPISODE 1: OFFSPRING
Atticus: Jem and Scout
Vader: Luke and Leia
A heavyweight literary brother-sister tag-team throwdown if there ever was one. Luke is the protagonist in three movies, controls The Force, and in battle defeats Storm Troopers, Imperial Walkers, Jedi Masters, and the Death Star. Jem is not the protagonist, can’t control his little sister, and the one time he goes into battle he gets KO’d and gets his arm broken by the Maycomb town drunk. Big edge: Luke. The fairer sex gives us a fairer fight. Both Scout and Leia are feisty, reject all advances from men, and can hold their own in a fight. While both love to start trouble, only Scout also has the versatility to play the peacemaker, specifically when she thwarts Tom Robinson’s lynch mob on the courthouse steps. You would think that an intergalactic princess would have more diplomacy skills than a tomboy from Alabama. Clinching the battle is Scout’s role as first-person narrator and protagonist, while Leia is a supporting character. Big edge: Scout.
EPISODE 2: MORAL COMPASS
Atticus: Pure good right up until the end when he reveals a previously unseen mischievous streak by allowing Heck Tate to cover up Boo Radley’s role in the killing of Bob Ewell.
Vader: Pure evil right up until the end when he reveals a previously unseen compassionate streak by showing some love to his son, Luke.
EPISODE 3: PARENTAL STYLE
Atticus: Hard working single dad.
Vader: Deadbeat dad.
EPISODE 4: WEAPON OF CHOICE
The shotgun, though long past its prime as a weapon of warriors, has been a mainstay firearm in sport shooting and home defense for a couple hundred years. The Lightsaber was the weapon of choice for the most elite warriors of the galactic empire for thousands of years.
EPISODE 5: WHO WOULD WIN IN A ONE-ON-ONE BATTLE?
You have to respect Atticus’ incredible ability to be an expert marksman with a shotgun, which is arguably the second least accurate firearm of all-time. (Second only to, ironically, a Star Wars blaster. That thing only finds its target on maybe one in ten thousand shots.) Atticus is so sharp, he could give Jango Fett marksmanship lessons. In almost any battle, I would always take the skilled sniper over the skilled melee weapon guy because melee weapon guy is dead before he can get anywhere near the sniper. But this fight is different. We’ve all seen Jedi parrying hundreds of blaster shots per minute with their lightsabers by use of The Force, and I am confident that Vader could do the same against the spread of shot from Atticus’ shotgun. Even if a couple of pellets sneak through, the helmet and respirator protect critical areas from direct hits. Once the fight is in close quarters and Atticus has to resort to trying to reason with Vader, Vader will bust him up like Tom Robinson would a chiffarobe, no matter how old and wise Atticus is. Just ask Obi-Wan.
EPISODE 6: INVISIBLE SUPERPOWER
Vader: The Force.
The Force sounds cooler, looks cooler in action, and is much more useful if you need to rearrange the furniture in your house. But consider this: You can have a prosperous society without The Force. You cannot have a prosperous society without justice. Even the Jedi High Council had checks and balances in place to ensure justice amongst themselves and amongst their constituents.
EPISODE 7: PHYSICAL DISABILITY
Atticus: Nearly blind in his left eye
Vader: Missing his right hand, has to breathe with a respirator
Both men are formidable in spite of their challenges. Atticus, glasses off, shoots the rabid dog from a distance, while Vader wields his lightsaber righthanded with his prosthetic hand. If I had to choose one disability to live with, I would take the eye problem because corrective lenses seem to be much more readily available than fully-functional prosthetic limbs and portable respirators… Which means Vader is the one who perseveres through a more challenging disability, so:
And while we’re here, is the losing-a-limb motif in Star Wars actually an allusion to Tom Robinson?!
EPISODE 8: FATHERLY ADVICE
Atticus: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Vader: “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”
Classic differences embodied. Atticus says to focus on others, Vader says to focus on yourself. You must understand yourself before you can understand others… Or is it the other way around? Where’s Yoda when you need him?
EPISODE 9: MOMENT OF AWE
Atticus: The silent standing ovation from people in the balcony when he leaves the courtroom
Vader: When he blows up Alderaan
It’s better to be feared than to be loved.
EPISODE 10: RISE TO POWER
Atticus: Son of a poor farmer, he pulls himself up by the bootstraps and becomes a successful lawyer. Does it entirely himself but would still give away all the credit.
Vader: Son of a poor working woman, eventually gets taken under the wing of Qui-Gon Jinn because Jinn knows that the Force is in him. In other words, Vader was lucky to be born with it, gets a lot of help, and takes most of the credit for himself.
FINAL SCORE: Atticus 4, Vader 4. And two ties.
After 10 episodes, we have solved absolutely nothing. Nooooooooooooo! Guess you’ll just have to wait for the next sequel!