The Character of Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in To Kill a Mockingbird.
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Atticus Finch is arguably the single most important character in To Kill a Mockingbird, as he is the epitome of what the entire novel teaches.
The reader knows that Atticus Finch grew up on Finch’s Landing with his family, but broke away from tradition and expectations to bcome a lawyer. Once he was successful in this he used his now more wealthy income to fund his brother – Jack Finch – in his quest to become a doctor.
Atticus then settled down with his wife and had two children – Jem and Scout – but his wife died just two years after Scout was born.
Atticus had hired Calpurnia and she now became the mother figure for the children and the voice of female reason keeping Atticus right when he needed a second opinion or help with the children. In many ways she played the role of a wife, although, of course, never in intimacy.
Atticus childhood shows that he had a strong moral character and determination in order to break the mould and become something that would make a difference rather than just staying on at Finch’s Landing as was expected. His compassion for Jack also shows the genuine generosity of Atticus’s nature, giving an early indication of a disposition of consideration and empathy.
Atticus’ role throughout the novel is to show the ultimate accomplishment. Atticus is the ideal moral man, having a very high moral belief system. Atticus has achieved in his career, his relationships, and his happiness, and this makes him a role model to the children and the reader.
Atticus’ main role is as teacher. It his job as a father to bring Jem and Scout up to be admirable, respectable young adults, and he does this thoroughly, making certain they understand that money and power is worthless unless they can respect themselves.
Atticus teaches them the main lessons they need for life, in particular to stand in another persons shoes.
His success, at the end of the novel, can be shown by the quote “I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.” Said by Scout and showing that once Atticus had succeeded in teaching them major moral lessons, Scout acknowledged that actual knowledge which can be learnt from school, such as maths, is important but not in the same sense as understanding that discrimination is inexcusable is important.
Atticus is the conscience of the novel – he is the voice of reason that makes Scout and Jem stop and think, and he is the one they fear if they know they have been immoral.
Atticus’ personality is fairly complex, as he has to deal with a lot of pressure from other people. Atticus is always very solid in his decisions and does not doubt he has done the right thing even if others do. However, this does mean he often has to live with society disapproving and disrespecting him, making his life hard. Atticus is not afraid of taking the hard option, and he does so in a gentlemanly manner.
Atticus also cares greatly for his children, wanting only to do what is right for them, and to bring them up so they become young people who he can be proud of for being true to themselves and true to others.
Atticus can be critisized of holding his moral decisions as his highest priority – he puts defending Tom Robinson over the welfare of his children – but he is always aware of this and suffers greatly for doing the “right” thing.
Atticus’ noble conscious can be summarised when he explains why he decides tp defend Tom Robinson: “For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold my head up in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again…simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is not a reason for us not to try and win”
This shows that Atticus has determination, hope, and self respect, enviable by anyone, in his quest to be a person he can live with.
Atticus’ influence on the other characters is very heavy. Notably, he makes the jury think about their verdict for a full hour in representing Tom Robinson fairly. He also affects Jem and Scout’s lives, simply by teaching the right from wrong. Atticus is a very influential member of society, not from wealth or power but from hard-earned respect.
The society view Atticus as the most moral man, and the best chance Tom Robinson will have. He is well regarded as an honest, decent man, and the society, no matter how prejudiced and ignorant, deeply respect that,
Atticus is a perfect gentleman, gaining respect from the ladies of Maycomb. He is a talented and intelligent man, earning respect from the men of Maycomb. He is fair and equal, therefore receiving respect from the black community. He is thoughtful and clever and this makes him respected by the poorer members of the white community such as the Cunninghams.