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Atticus Finch

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The Intelligence of Atticus Finch
In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout, “‘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’” (Lee 39). Atticus is the most complex and multifaceted character in the novel.
While he is an established, connected, and respected member of the town, at the same time he is a unique oddity as far as the residents of Maycomb go. His personality and role in society are clearly affected by his surroundings, yet his morals and integrity remain separate from those commonly accepted in his community. This is reflected in the way he raises his children, Jem and Scout. Atticus uses the town of Maycomb to teach his children life lessons, but still views it as a potential source of corruption from which he must shield his children. He does not raise Jem and Scout in what would be considered a typical parenting style, especially in a small southern town in the 1930s. Atticus Finch is an example of an honest, principled man and father who provides his children with valuable instruction while also being a voice of reason and equality in a region touched by the dark hand of prejudice.
Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s would not have been an easy place for a level headed, unbiased lawyer to raise two kids, but nonetheless this is the exact feat Atticus accomplishes. Atticus is a man who is strictly bound to his own morals and ideas of what is right. He demonstrates this when he answers Scout’s question as to why he agreed to defend an African American man with, “‘...If I didn’t I couldn’t hold my head up in town...’” (Lee 100). He knows that he cannot change the minds of everyone in the town, he knows that prejudice is immoral, he knows that it is right to defend an innocent man, regardless of race, and he knows that “‘one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience’” (Lee 140). Atticus is not one for judging books by their covers, and he always

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wants truth and honesty, a lesson he practices by answering Scout and Jem’s questions with the utmost veracity. One of the most worthwhile lessons he tries to instill in his children, in a way characteristic of his distinctive parenting style, is what true courage is. Even though Atticus is the best shot in the county and could easily impress on his children the notion that courage is a man who fights with a gun, he hides this fact from Jem and Scout in favor of teaching them that courage is the strength of conviction. He does this by having them interact with Mrs. Dubose as she battles a morphine addiction and also by defending the case of Tom Robinson, although he knows that he has been beaten before he even begins.
As a result, Jem and Scout look up to and admire him for his personal strength over his marksmanship, and learn that courage has more to do with standing for one’s beliefs than with exploiting one’s talents.
Work Cited
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

Cited: Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.

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