Atticus is an individual who is one of the few who live by principle not on tradition. In the little town named Maycomb, tradition for most people meant prejudice, separation, and racism. Atticus Finch chose to fight against the old traditions of his own. "...several Maycomb townspeople who see through the fog of the past, and who act not on tradition but on principle." (Erisman 43). He beliefs that white or black should be treated with respect. He does not judge people by their beliefs because he understands that his beliefs are different than others. Atticus is not at typical man of Maycomb, even though he is a member of one of the oldest families in the area. "He is presented as a Southern version of Emersonian man, the individual who vibrates to his own iron sting, the one man in the town that the community trusts "to do right" as they deplore his peculiarities." (Erisman, 43) Through Atticus, Jem, and Scout, the children he is rearing according to his lights. These standards that are put on Atticus effect Jem and Scout's decisions and thinking. Atticus' freedom to live and work as an individual came at a price. He was faced with harassment and displeasure to gain it. " In this development of this habit he is aided by a strong regard for personal principle, even as he recognizes the difficulty that it brings to his life and the lives of his children." (Erisman 44) Being an individual in the town of Maycomb is difficult because the people try so hard to fit in as proper. Atticus being an individual is kind a disregarded but because of his honorable character people are known to give him give respect.
Atticus's love for his children makes him an exemplary parent. Atticus loves his children so much, but he makes sure they do not take advantage of this love. For instance "... it should be constant and unconditional-which means it always present, even when the child is acting in a unlovable manner. (Schaeter1) Atticus indicates his love towards his children all the time even when they disobey him. In one example, during Christmas dinner Scout starts cursing towards Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack is Atticus' brother. Atticus urges Jack to just not pay attention to her because she is trying to get it. (Lee 28) Atticus shows his style of discipline because he knows she will grow out of it. All she wants is attention and when she does not get it, she will gradually stop cursing. He showed loved towards her because disciplining her will only cause more attention towards her and that makes the situation makes even worse.
Atticus is open about a lot of things towards his kids especially showing love. "..parents should be open in expressing and showing love..." (Schaeter 1) Atticus is always been truthful with his kids. He always helps them out by giving them love even to touchy subjects. When Scout asks Atticus on what rape meant, he replied when a man takes advantage of a women. She is being regarded as an adult not a child.
Atticus's also disciplines constructively which sets him being an ideal parent. For example, when Scout went in to school, Cecil Jacobs makes fun of Atticus about him being a "nigger-lover" and she gets angry. " Atticus had promised me he would wear me out if he ever heard of me fighting anymore." (Lee 74) Atticus is saying that if he heard she was fighting, he would spank her. Scout did not punch him or harm him but kept her fists down. Scout had fought with kids earlier in school, and she had every right to be because she was sticking up for her father. But Atticus does not tolerate fighting or any violence in any circumstances. In respect, Scout heeds to his word as a sign of respect. This example shows Atticus' parenting skills in effect and another reason on why Atticus is an ideal parent.
Atticus believes discipline is necessary in raising children. "Discipline means setting and adhering to the standards of behavior" (Schaeter 1) Atticus never allowed Jem and Scout go when they have misbehaved. They both got their warnings and punishments. Mrs. Dubose makes fun of Atticus every time Jem and Scout go by her house. Mrs. Dubose is an old lady who has a sickness that causes her to behave crazy and she is also a neighbor. One day as Jem walked past her house, she started talking "trash" on Atticus because of the case he took to defend Tom Robinson, a black man charged of rape. Jem's aggravation boiled up inside of him and he hewed the tops of the flowers in her garden. Atticus told him to read to her every day for a month as a punishment for his conduct. (Lee 111,112) Atticus corrects Jem for his revengeful actions even though they were for good intentions at that time. Atticus cannot condemn Mrs. Dubose for speaking her mind because he would be opposing in what he believes in.
Atticus stresses the significance of giving clear directions and requires compliance with limits on his children. "Discipline is essential preparation for adjusting to the outside world; it makes a child better behaved and happier." (Schaeter 1) Atticus disciplines as well as teaches his kids by being up front and truthful about his values and morals. He is always truthful with them and treats them as adults rather than children.
Atticus also teaches many values to his children, one of them is to be non-violent. For example, when Atticus just killed the rabid dog that was running loose in Maycomb, Jem and Scout never knew he that he could do that. Therefore, they asked Miss Maudie about it. She starts talking to Jem about Atticus and how talented he was at shooting. "I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things I guess he decided he wouldn't shoot till he had to." (Lee 98) For this reason, Atticus, in the act of putting down his arms, shows his non-violent nature. In this way he can publicly living out these teachings has more of an impact on their lives. Atticus lives out his values on his talent of shooting.
In another incident, Scout had come from school and almost got into a fight with Cecil Jacobs but took Atticus' word and kept her fists down. Cecil Jacobs says to Scout that her father is a nigger-lover and Scout not understanding what it meant that replied no he is not. Therefore, when Atticus came home from work, Scout asks him. " ...Don't say nigger, Scout. That's common." "'s what everybody at school says." "From now on it'll be everybody less one." (Lee 75) Atticus is teaching Scout not to say nigger because it is perceived as a word degrading the African American people. He is trying to raise her up his way, not society's way.
Being an exemplary parent he also sets himself to teach his kids. Atticus shows respect towards the African Americans community by taking the case to defend Tom Robinson. Atticus heroism is a quality that Maycomb's black community fully recognize. As Atticus is leaving the courtroom after his defeat, simultaneously Scout realizes that all spectators in the balcony are standing as a sign of respect. It is the most carefully crafted and emotionally packed moment in the novel. (Johnson 72) Atticus was shown respect for his heroism. He is one of the great lawyers in Maycomb who is defending a poor black man. Mr. Green was supposed to get the case because he is an amateur lawyer who required the experience.
This incident relates to Atticus's teaching his children about how he looks at people beyond skin deep. Harper Lee starts talking about when Miss Maudie's house was on fire and how it was a sign of symbolism. " The snowman turning alternately white and black suggest how frail and skin deep is the color." (Dave 52). He knows that skin is just a shield to our own bodies in which there should not be any judgment because of that but rather judgments to their actions. Atticus shows the same compassion to the African American community as well as to the rest of Maycomb's misguided residents. Atticus not only shows but also teaches compassion his kids towards Mr. Cunningham. For instance, when Scout was discussing with Atticus about Mr. Cunningham. Scout said, " Mr. Cunningham's a basically a goodman... he just has some blind spots." (Lee 74) Atticus teaches his beliefs in compassion. For example, when Atticus was discussing with his kids about the incident with Mr. Ewell. " So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that I'll gladly take." (Harper 218) Atticus not only taught out the virtue of compassion but also lived it out to his children by excepting some one else's anger if it took abuse off of some one else.
Atticus's nonviolent encounters with the old Sarum Lynch mob was successful unlike Martin Luther King and his followers. "Ironically, it is with reciprocal violence, perpetrated entirely outside the law. A madman in darkness that the fictional children in To Kill a Mockingbird are saved while the real black offspring of disciples (Atticus) of the novel, Atticus higher law is an ineffective defense against Bob Ewell chaos, as useless as facing a maddog in the secret without a gun." (Johnson 77) The critic is just saying violence never resolves conflicts but it might spark another.
In addition to teaching his children values, Atticus also models propriety and dignity. Atticus recognizes that his culture is of the past and has bin changed every generation." He had no hostility towards his past... He does, though approach his past and its traditions with a tolerant skepticism. His attitude toward "old family" and "gentle breeding" has already been suggested. A similar skepticism is implied by his repeated observation that (Erisman 44) " you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." (Lee 134) Atticus models his understanding of his "old family." He does not blame his past generations of their mistakes. He puts himself into other people's point of view.
Atticus living out his beliefs shows his children that every bit of advice that he gives he also lives it out. The children see him as an individual who is more than a father but also a man of principle who is taking off the scales on people's eyes and exposing Maycombs disease into the light so all can see its hideous face. When Atticus is examined Mr. Ewell, he was not his usual self. Scout says, " I never heard Atticus raise his voice in my life, except to a deaf witness." Atticus models being a compassionate gentlemen.
Atticus's like benevolent qualities have impacted the lives around him. During the case, Atticus starts talking to Mayella Ewell when cross-examined. Atticus replies to her as Ma'am and Miss as formal respect but Mayella replies, "Mr. Finch are you mockin me." (Lee 167) Mayella was never treated with that much respect, and she didn't know how to react to it but take offense to it. Maybe her father might have said that but not in that kind of tone or gesture. Atticus's personality just reflects his good heart and he models compassion on Mayella but she instead of receiving it bit back. Jem and Scout seeing this is not a shock to them because they have always seen their father show compassion even on those who did not rightfully deserve it.
During Christmas time, Atticus starts to argue with Uncle Jack about the case and how he should or should not take it. " Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise." (Lee 58) Atticus is modeling his integrity by taking the case. Atticus is also showing a man of his word and honor. Atticus practices his values when he models them in front of the town. Miss Maudie tells Scout about how Atticus a man of principle and his word. " Atticus is the same in his house as he is on the public streets." (Lee 46) Scout just stood up for her father to her for what she said but Miss Maudie did not mean the comment. Miss Maudie is saying that he talks to people the same way he does to his family because he has no secrets to hide. Atticus has nothing to hide, he lives by his word and principles, and people like him because of that. Miss Maudie in one of the best lines in this book supports Atticus as a good model and as an exemplary parent. Miss Maudie is speaking to Scout about Atticus. "... If Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn't be as hard as some men are at their best." (Lee 45) She is saying that Atticus at his worst is better than most men at their best.
Atticus has proven himself an exemplary parent by his personal honesty, good ethics, and logical reasoning. He has shown and proven that the best ways to teach a child is by being a personal guide who walks with them through situations, rather than just explaining to them. Jem and Scout's characters have developed right into Atticus's. Atticus's morality and ethics have been revealed as the story has progressed. The children love and respect him because he is so trustworthy and so very real with them. The children will make a difference in their society because they have achieved the Atticus personality, which earns respect from everyone involved. They have the power to change the minds of other kids, which are the future. Harper's intent in writing this novel is that even in a dark misguided world one man can make a difference. It is a classic because this book deals with the struggle of an openhearted man who his world's views are so provincial.
Bibliography Dave, R.A.. Harper Lee's Tragic Vision, Modern Critical Interpretations: To Kill a Mockingbird. Ed. Harold Bloom. Phila: Chelsea House, 1999.49-59 Johnson, Claudia Durst. The Secret Courts of Men's hearts: Code and Law in Harper Lee's to Kill a mockingbird, Modern Critical Interpretations: To Kill a Mockingbird. Ed. Harold Bloom. Phila: Chelsea House, 1999.67,77 Erisman, Fred. The Romantic Regionalism of Harper Lee, Modern Critical Interpretations: To Kill a Mockingbird. Ed. Harold Bloom. Phila: Chelsea House, 1999.67,77 Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird, New York. Warner Books, 1960 Schaefer, Dr. Charles E. " Raising Children by old Fashion Sense," Children Today Nov.- Dec. 1978. National Institute of Mental Health, Ed. Ruth Kay, 1986 1-4