May 14, 2013
Atticus Finch: An Ideal Role Model in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
No matter which conditions they grow up in, almost all children and adolescents have someone that they want to be like. They have someone that inspires them and pushes them to do their best all the time so that one day; those children can achieve their dreams about becoming like their role model. In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is an ideal role model to his children, Jem and Scout Finch. He is someone who shows them how to stand up for what you believe in, someone who teaches valuable lessons, and someone who treats everyone equally.
To show that he wants his children to stand up for what’s right, he leads by example. After finding out that Atticus is going to defend Tom Robinson; a black man, a ruckus is caused in the neighbourhood. Almost everyone is against Atticus standing up for Tom Robinson and a lot of the white community calls him a “nigger-lover.” (83) When Scout questions her father about why he has to defend a black man when the whole county is against it, he says that it was his ethical duty to defend Tom Robinson. It was the right thing to do because Atticus knew that Tom Robinson was wrongly convicted and even though it was almost certain that he would lose the case, it was important to try. “…If I didn’t I couldn’t hold my head up in town (…) or represent this county in the legislature. I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something
again” (75). By this, Atticus is saying that he would be a hypocrite is he didn’t take the case. He had to set an example for his children to show them how to stand up for what they believed in and what they thought was right, no matter what anyone else thought. He said, “No matter what anybody says to you, don’t let them get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change” (76). When he says this to Scout, he is telling her that violence isn’t the answer to solving all her problems. She had to stop, think, and then act with words to show everyone that she wouldn’t back down. Another reason Atticus Finch is an ideal role model is because he teaches his children valuable life lessons. One of his main lessons is not to judge people based on idle gossip. He told them that what other people did was their own business. This lesson specifically applied to the Radley family. Atticus told them that “Even though what Mr. Radley did might seem peculiar to the children, it did not seem peculiar to him (Atticus)” (49). He always told the children to stop playing their Boo Radley game where they re-enacted the town gossip about the family. He always stressed the importance of needing proof when you wanted information about someone. Atticus never let the children get away with playing their Boo Radley game for too long before he found out and made them stop. “We were not to play an asinine game he had seen us playing or make fun of anybody on this street or in this town” (49). Atticus also made sure that his children would see things from a different point of view before finally deciding their opinion on things. He always said to 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” (30). Atticus firmly believes that if you don’t see the other person’s point of view, you can never really be sure about how they understand things and how they see the world. Scout has applied this lesson
many times throughout the book with many different characters. After doing this, she has a better understanding of why the person acted the way they did. She can put herself in that position and think about how she would’ve reacted to the situation. One other main lesson Atticus was trying to teach the children throughout the novel was true courage. One of the biggest examples of this lesson revolves around Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose. After Jem ruined this sick old lady’s garden, she made him come and read to her for 2 hours each day for a month. Throughout this time, we learn that Mrs. Dubose is a morphine addict. Right after she died, Jem was presented with a pure, white flower. It was her way of telling Jem that everyone was alright now, that all was forgiven. She had showed a softer and sincere side of her. Atticus said, “She was a great lady. She had her own views about things, a lot different than mine. I wanted you to see what real courage is. (…) It’s when you get licked before you begin but you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but (…) Mrs. Dubose won. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew” (112). When this is said, Atticus means that when Mrs. Dubose had become a true addict, she knew she was going to die without loved ones with her. She developed a shell around herself to protect her from all things and people she feared were going to hurt her again. Within the last few months of her life, she tried to come out of that shell and turn her life around once and for all. She proved she did this when Jem was given the flower. Its colour and smooth texture represented the purity of Mrs. Dubose. She had finally come out of her shell and been sincere so she could die in peace with a clear conscience. Mrs. Dubose had shown true courage because even though she knew she was going to get hurt along the way and probably lose the battle, she stuck it out and she won.
The last reason Atticus is a good role model is because he treats everyone equally. He doesn’t care about their race, economic status, or age and handicap. In the court room, Atticus says to the jury “She did something in our society that is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. No code mattered to her before she broke it” (204). Also, he says, “You know some Negros lie, some Negros are immoral, and some Negro men are not to be trusted around women-black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person here that has not done and immoral thing (…) because all men are created equal” (204-205). When Atticus says this, the readers know that in Maycomb County, almost everyone walks around thinking that they are superior to all coloured people. No one will give the time of day to any Negro. It was unheard of when Mayella kissed Tom Robinson because in their society, two people of a different race should never be associated with each other. It is an unwritten code that is set in stone. Atticus is one of the few people in the neighbourhood who doesn’t act like he is of a higher-grade than a Negro. While everyone else treats the coloured folks like trash, Atticus thinks of them as equals to himself and the rest of the town. When doing such things, Atticus is defying the means of the society. While he may be ridiculed for showing equality, he is never stopped because he presents himself in a very dignified and graceful manner. He is very articulate when he defends Tom Robinson in court and shows a great deal of respect and civility. He knows that Tom Robinson is an honest, kind-hearted gentleman. Atticus Finch is a kind-hearted, generous, and respectful man who with these characteristics makes an ideal role model. He stands up for what he believes is right, teaches valuable life
lessons to his children, and treats everyone equally no matter race, economic status, etc. When Atticus defies the means of society, he is very dignified and articulate. He shows a great deal of respect and grace when he conquers these types of challenges. If I were to walk around in the shoes of Jem or Scout Finch when having an excellent role model such as Atticus, I too would see the world in a different light. I think that my perspective on equality, judgmentality, courageousness, and standing up for what’s right would be different. This is why I think that in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is an ideal role model.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York, N.Y: First Warner Books Printing, 1982. Print