Who Is Atticus Finch and What Is His Importance to the Novel as a Whole?

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Atticus Finch is a skilled lawyer who defends an innocent black man, Tom Robinson, who was charged with the rape of a white girl. This was a controversial case in the history of Maycomb and Atticus was a brave man to have taken the task of defending Tom. Atticus is courageous and stands up for what he believes in. He is a compassionate man who is very morally conscious and believes in equality. He hates unfair advantages and, in particular, the unfair advantage that white people have over Negroes. Harper Lee uses Atticus to convey the central themes of this novel and to raise issues regarding racial discrimination.

Atticus is compassionate and hates to take advantage of vulnerable beings. He is a lawyer and accepts payments from his clients in the form of goods if they do not have money. He is also a good shooter, -the ‘deadest shoot in Maycomb' according to Miss Maudie (pg 99). But Atticus realised when he was young that, by having a gun and shooting animals, he had an unfair advantage over them and was taking the lives of innocent beings. Since then, Atticus gave up and vowed only to shoot when he had to. He teaches this moral to his children, saying that ‘it's a sin to kill a mockingbird' (pg 99). Mockingbirds symbolise innocence because they do no harm. This metaphor means that it's a sin to hurt anything that doesn't harm you. The main ‘mockingbird' of this novel is the Negro community and in particular, Tom Robinson. Atticus believes that ‘cheating a black man is ten times worse than cheating a white man' (pg 223) because of the black man's defencelessness. White men make the laws and those who serve in the courts are white. Thus, society favours white people because Negroes do not have equal rights. Atticus understands how vulnerable Negroes are and he hates the unfair advantage that the white community has over them. He treats Negroes as equals and stands up for them by taking Tom's case, a hard thing to do when society condemned him for his actions....
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