Atticus Finch In To Kill A Mockingbird English Literature Essay
Atticus Finch is one of the most steadfastly honest and moral characters in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and his character remains, for the most part, unchanged throughout "To Kill a Mockingbird". As any character analysis of Atticus Finch should note in terms of the plot of "To Kill a Mockingbird" he begins as an upstanding citizen who is respected and admired by his peers and even though he loses some ground during the trial, by the end of To Kill a Mockingbird he is still looked up to, both by his children and the community as whole—with all class levels included.
As a lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch represents everything that someone working in the justice system should. He is fair, does not hold grudges, and looks at every situation from a multitude of angles. As Miss Maude quite correctly puts it in one of the important quotes from "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets” (87) and this could also be said of how he behaves in the courtroom. He is a skilled lawyer and without making outright accusations in a harsh tone he effectively points out that Bob Ewell is lying.
Even more importantly, the subject of this character analysis, Atticus Finch, is able to gracefully point out to the jury that there although there probably are a few black men who are capable of crimes, “this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men” (208). His understanding of equality and his colorblindness allow him to see clearly that the case has been motivated by racial hatred and he is strong enough, both as a person and a lawyer, to see that this is a wrong that needs to be discussed and pointed out to the community. In general in To Kill a Mockingbird, as a lawyer, he is much as he is as a father—focused on justice, equality, and imbued with the special talent of seeing a number of angles to every situation.
As a parent in To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus, although older than most of the other children’s parents, is very careful to offer his children careful moral guidance. Instead of trying to force principles of politeness or societal norms on them, however, he is careful to provide his instruction in a way that makes the children think about their actions. For example, he offers them complex lessons in life and tells them, “shoot all the blue jays that you want, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (103). This lesson is not to tell them that shooting things is good, but rather that there are some things that are living peacefully and have a purpose on the earth.
In addition to this, as a lawyer and a man of words, he recognizes the importance of having good verbal and reading skills and he teaches Scout to read from a very young age. As another example, when Mrs. Dubose dies he teaches his children an important lesson about courage and strength by telling them, . “I wanted you to see what real courage is…it’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through, no matter what” (116). The most important aspect of this in terms of the major themes in "To Kill a Mockingbird" presented via this character, it is that he does not just tell his children things he wants them to consider important, he actually follows through and lives according to such lessons. For example, as seen in To Kill a Mockingbird even though he knows he will not win the case and is “licked” he goes ahead and pursues it anyway. As a father his most important role seems to be as a teacher above all else and his children, much like the rest of the community respect him greatly for this.
In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus has a deceptively simple set of beliefs and values. For the most part, what he believes can be boiled down to his simple phrase, “I do my best to love everybody” (112). Unlike those in the community who are quite racist and obsessed with class and social position, Atticus tries to look at everyone as an individual—even those who are outcast by their society (including Boo and the blacks and poor of the community). He sees the good in everyone and is committed to making his children feel the same way he does. In every sense of the word he is a kind and just man, one who does not cause the reader of To Kill a Mockingbird to question his intentions or motivations.
Atticus believes in justice and the justice system. He doesn't like criminal law, yet he accepts the appointment to Tom Robinson's case. He knows before he begins that he's going to lose this case, but that doesn't stop him from giving Tom the strongest defense he possibly can. And, importantly, Atticus doesn't put so much effort into Tom's case because he's an African American, but because he is innocent. Atticus feels that the justice system should be color blind, and he defends Tom as an innocent man, not a man of color.
Atticus is the adult character least infected by prejudice in the novel. He has no problem with his children attending Calpurnia's church, or with a black woman essentially raising his children. He admonishes Scout not to use racial slurs, and is careful to always use the terms acceptable for his time and culture. He goes to Helen's home to tell her of Tom's death, which means a white man spending time in the black community. Other men in town would've sent a messenger and left it at that. His lack of prejudice doesn't apply only to other races, however. He is unaffected by Mrs. Dubose's caustic tongue, Miss Stephanie Crawford's catty gossip, and even Walter Cunningham's thinly veiled threat on his life. He doesn't retaliate when Bob Ewell spits in his face because he understands that he has wounded Ewell's pride — the only real possession this man has. Atticus accepts these people because he is an expert at "climb[ing] into [other people's] skin and walk[ing] around in it.”
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