Atticus Finch: Archetypal Hero
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In Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the character of Atticus Finch is an archetypal hero. He possesses all the major character traits of a true hero, among which the following three are most impressive and dominant: the instinct and ability to protect the weak, kindness and courage.
Firstly, Atticus consistently exhibits an important quality of a hero: protecting the weaker and the disadvantaged. This character trait is evident when Atticus is told that there was a mad dog heading down the main residential street and could potentially harm his children and the citizens of Maycomb. He rushes back from work (despite his busy schedule as a prominent lawyer of the town) and takes over the daunting task from the sheriff to shoot dead the dangerous dog in one shot. Another example of Atticus’ hero traits is apparent in his dealings with Arthur ‘Boo’ Radley, a social outcast. Although everyone else –including his children– regard ‘Boo’ as a malevolent phantom, Atticus asks his children to be slow to judge, and to “climb into a person’s skin and walk around in it” before judging him or her. Most of all, Atticus willingly defended Tom Robinson, a black man, against the word of a white person, during an era where coloured people were considered to be the lowest class and consequently suffered discrimination by the vast majority of the society.
Secondly, apart from protecting the weaker, Atticus is genuinely kind-hearted. As an example, Atticus graciously provides legal service for Walter Cunningham Sr., even though Mr. Cunningham is known to be very poor and cannot afford Atticus’ services. Atticus generously told Mr. Cunningham, “Let that be the least of your worries.”, demonstrating Atticus’ compassion and consideration for those less fortunate. Later on, when Scout and Jem invited Walter Cunningham Jr. over for lunch, Atticus treated Walter as an important guest, providing him with good food and hospitality, regardless of the fact that Walter was still a young child in a lower social class. Additionally, Atticus treats Calpurnia, his black servant, kindly and respectfully, like a family member.
Thirdly, Atticus clearly and consistently demonstrates the most significant quality of a hero by being courageous. First of all, Atticus boldly breaks generations upon generations of Finch family tradition by leaving Finch’s Landing to read law and become a lawyer. He is not afraid to pursue his dream and career and strives to help society with his intelligence and professional knowledge. Moreover, Atticus bravely broke the rigidly enforced social code of racial prejudice by legally representing Tom Robinson. Atticus unflinchingly faced the pressure and alienation from society. Lastly, Atticus fearlessly guards Tom Robinson bare-handedly against an armed mob of white men who wanted to kill Tom the night before his trial. Atticus put aside his own life and well-being, even though he was severely outnumbered by the horde of country men and reasoned with them calmly and firmly.
In conclusion, Atticus Finch truly embodies the most important characteristics of an archetypal hero. His deep courage, undiscriminating kindness, discipline and skill in protecting the weaker and the disadvantaged truly make him a timeless hero, whom people should learn from and model after in the quest to become better people. Atticus, an unforgettable character, is also an important reason why To Kill A Mockingbird has become a classical masterpiece.