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Character Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

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Atticus Finch is one of the major characters in the novel who is held in high regard in the community of Maycomb. Atticus, as the father of Scout and Jem, is the role model and pillar of support for them as they develop through life. Harper Lee has deliberately created Atticus and given him certain characteristics to voice her own views and opinions on issues of prejudice and injustice. Atticus is a man with high morals and respects all people around him, regardless of what they think of him. He is the key character in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird that Harper Lee uses to present her own views and beliefs.

As the father of Jem and Scout, Atticus is a very understanding man. He attempts to teach Jem and Scout as they progress through life and through different events, and is the pillar of support for both children. Atticus is a very wise person, who respects all people around him regardless of what they think of him. He understands that people have their own views and opinions, and while they may be different from his or what he thinks is right, they still deserve to be respected and treated equally. He understands the value of empathy, and how it can be used to understand a person and how the person acts. This can be seen when he attempts to teach Scout about this value, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” p33.

Atticus, as a father, teaches Jem and Scout about moral values, and to respect other people no matter the circumstances. Atticus can be continually seen throughout the book attempting to divert Scout from her violent ways, and to never react to another person’s actions or words. He displays this quality later in the book when Bob Ewell spits on Atticus’ face, yet he calmly walks away from him. These qualities about Atticus develop the reader into feeling respect and admiration for Atticus himself, and tends to focus the reader more upon the words and messages that he conveys throughout the book.

By enhancing the reader’s feelings towards Atticus, Harper Lee uses this to her advantage by presenting messages and her own views through the character. As the issues of racism, prejudice and injustice would have been affecting Harper Lee’s personal context, she would have had strong opinions on these issues. Atticus Finch displays extraordinary strength of character throughout the book, and his acts of justice, anti-prejudice and equality send through messages to the reader of these themes. Harper Lee uses Atticus to show how she feels people in a society should be like, and uses him to display ideal characteristics and personality. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. Its when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” p124 shows Atticus informing Jem of what true courage really is, yet also presents this message to the reader about his courage in taking up the Tom Robinson case.

Such a situation is relevant, as Atticus shows courage by taking the defence of Robinson as his responsibility while knowing that inevitably society’s prejudice and injustice of blacks would rule over any evidence or hard facts. Atticus’ sense of justice and his unwavering principles pushes him to “begin anyway and … see it through no matter what”. Readers can understand the different views that Harper Lee feels about prejudice and injustice in society through Atticus, and further understand and take this view seriously due to his numerous admirable qualities.

It is through Atticus that Harper Lee develops the major idea of the ‘mockingbird’. At one point in the novel, when Jem and Scout receive air rifles, Atticus says to them “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can’t hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” p99. Ms Maudie Atkinson further develops this by informing to Jem and Scout that mockingbirds do nothing but provide pleasurable music for people to enjoy. Through this, Atticus teaches Jem and Scout more values, that it is a sin to kill things that are innocent.

However, for the reader this statement has a much deeper and profound meaning. The ‘mockingbirds’ refer to characters in the story, namely Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping a white girl, yet is innocent and has not done anything to the white community to spite their hatred. Boo Radley is also another character in the story who is pictured as a madman and a freak, who “dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch” p14. Society paints a horrid picture of him, yet he is found in the end of the book to be a quite average and harmless man. Atticus is constantly the one who stands up for both of these men; for Tom Robinson he defends his court case though destined to lose, and continually forces the children to abandon their teasing and provocations of Boo Radley.

Harper Lee builds up the profile of Atticus Finch through his words and actions. She develops him into a figure of personality and character, and portrays messages and subtexts through him. She develops ideas and themes of the novel, and shows the reader the moral values and beliefs of Harper Lee through Atticus. It is also through Atticus that Harper Lee explores the ideas of prejudice and injustice, and the symbolism of the mockingbird. Atticus Finch is the ideal character in the novel, and is extremely important in the delivery of views of Harper Lee to responders.

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