AP English 11
Throughout life, many amazing individuals enter and leave, each having impact and influence on each person they have been around. These people can teach others so much about events or problems that occur in everyday life by both their words and actions. Atticus Finch is one man who any person no matter their age, race, or background, can learn from. If the definition of a “good man” were looked up online, the computer would probably suggest to visit a site about Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer with two kids, Jean Louis and Jem, from the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. After having read the novel and coming to learn about Atticus, his traits, and all that he does for his community and family, most people most likely have said to themselves, “Now that is the type of person I hope to be.” Atticus Finch had all around, strong values. Family always came first for him, and it is not easy for anyone to raise two children single handedly. He could have sent them away to live with a relative, but he was so devoted to his children. He loved them and all of their unique qualities. Jean Louis, who typically went by her nickname “Scout,” is a tomboy. She always chooses to hang out with her brother and their summer friend Dill and would much rather wear overalls instead of dresses. Atticus’ sister Alexandra does not approve of the way Scout is being raised, and wants to “feminize” her. Nonetheless, Atticus never criticized his daughter, and loves her just the way she is. Atticus always yearns to understand his children and this is why his relationships with his son and daughter are so strong. He isn’t the type of father to go to work in the morning and return home at night and pay no attention to his kids. He always makes time for them no matter how stressed out or busy he is. Atticus is the type of person to always fight for what he believes in, and although sometimes what he fought for wasn’t the popular choice, it definitely was the morally correct choice. Atticus performs a task that has to be done, but that other people are not willing to step up and do; he gets assigned to defend a black man named Tom Robinson who was accused of raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. African Americans at this time are looked at as if they are lesser than whites. They are treated poorly and Atticus doesn’t agree with it at all. He believes in complete equality of people no matter their sex or race. When the people of Maycomb find out that he is determined to actually fairly defend Tom as well as he can, anger, threats, and insults come pouring in, directed straight towards the Finch family. Nonetheless, Atticus takes the harsh criticism with his head held high and does not retaliate. “Atticus was willing to risk his social standing, professional reputation, and even his physical safety in order to defend a poor, black laborer falsely accused of raping a white woman. Serving for no fee, Atticus heard the call of justice” (Lubet). Atticus knows he doesn’t have a chance in his case to defend Tom Robinson, but he still puts all he has into it. "It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyways and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do" (112). Justice and the truth are two extremely important things to Atticus. “For Atticus, being a lawyer is not just a job, it’s a personal commitment to justice, and to solving problems through the law rather than through violence“ (Freedman). Although he knows he will lose the fight, he doesn’t just lie down and quit. He knows Tom Robinson is innocent and will do anything in his power to prove that to the jury as well as the people of Maycomb, no matter how ugly and hurtful their response is. Finally, Atticus serves as an incredible role model and teacher to both his children and the community. Atticus doesn’t just talk the talk, but he most definitely walks the walk. In Maycomb County, he is known as a person who was “the same in his house as he is on the public streets” (46). Atticus is no hypocrite. He acts the exact same way in both public and private places, and doesn’t hide anything. This quality makes Atticus a highly respected man, even after the case goes down. Atticus always finds a way to do the morally correct thing, even when the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. He is an exemplary father and teaches his children to judge people based on what’s inside, not on how they look or the color of their skin by always treating Calpurnia (the Finch’s black cook) as well as all other colored people with respect. In order to teach them to be understanding and compassionate towards all human-beings he tells them, “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" (30). Lastly, he teaches his kids to avoid fighting and to ignore verbal abuse when he walks away from Mayella’s father after he spit and cursed at him. All in all, Atticus always finds a way to see things from a more positive perspective. He yearns for equality and shows courage at all times, both things that all the citizens of Maycomb should work for as well as raises his children with strong principles and values. Atticus Finch is an extraordinary character that all readers of To Kill A Mockingbird can learn from. He is an understanding and active father, an honest lawyer, and good citizen. His actions are not only admired by his children and the people of Maycomb, but also real life parents, children, and lawyers today. “Atticus’s life is one that lawyers should emulate” (Phelps). Atticus symbolizes justice, courage, knowledge, and goodness; all things in which everyone should strive for.
Freedman, Monroe H. "Atticus Finch--Right and Wrong." Ala. L. Rev. 45 (1993): 473. Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Warner Books, 1982. Lubet, Steven. "I. CLASSICS REVISITED: RECONSTRUCTING ATTICUS FINCH ToKill a Mockingbird. By Harper Lee. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Company. 1960.Pp. 296." Mich. L. Rev. 97 (1999): 1339-2448. Phelps, Teresa Godwin. "Atticus, Thomas, and the Meaning of Justice." Notre Dame LawReview 77.3 (2002): 925-936.