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To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

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Primrose
English 1, Period 3

Triumph Through Adversity
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” (John Wooden). To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is primarily a novel about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The narrator, Scout Finch, lives with her older brother Jem and father ,Atticus, in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, where everyone knows each other. Atticus is a highly respected and responsible citizen of Maycomb County. He constantly tries to instill good values and a sense of moral decency in his children. As a widower, Atticus raises his two children on his own with the help of his kind neighbors and Calpurnia, his loyal housekeeper. Atticus, Maycomb’s best lawyer, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, who is a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. During the trial, Atticus balances what is morally right and what the local community desires. Tom Robinson is innocent, but he is proven guilty because he is black, and the girl he was accused of raping, Mayella Ewell, is white. Maycomb’s society turns a blind eye to the case and allows Mayella to win because of the inequality between whites and blacks. Tom is found guilty and is then placed in prison. While in prison, Tom attempts to flee, but is shot to death. Because of the trial, Atticus exposes himself and his family to the anger of the white community. Atticus is portrayed as a compassionate, wise, and courageous man who accepts everyone as they are.
Atticus is compassionate and hates to take advantage of vulnerable beings. One way Atticus Finch shows compassion in To Kill a Mockingbird is that he serves as Tom Robinson’s lawyer, defending him when nobody else would. Atticus risks his reputation by defending Tom Robinson. He is willing to do what is right regardless of the outcome. Atticus understands how vulnerable African Americans 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 challenging thing to do when society condemns him for his actions. A second way that Atticus shows compassion is how he treats his neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, and how he wants his children to treat her. Although Mrs. Dubose is rude and demanding, he still has the compassion to spend time with her. In addition, Atticus is compassionate because he respects his peers. Specifically, Atticus scolds Jem and Scout for bothering Arthur “Boo” Radley. Atticus states that, “If he wanted to stay inside his own house he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children” (49). Atticus teaches his children to respect others privacy. Every individual should have the freedom to do what he or she desires. Not only does Atticus respect others secrecy, but he is also a good shooter, the “deadest shot in Maycomb County” (99) according to Miss Maudie. When Atticus was young, he realized 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. Atticus is an individual who is one of few people who live by principle, not tradition. In Maycomb, tradition for most people meant prejudice, separation, and racism. He believes that no matter what your skin color is, everyone should be treated with respect. Atticus teaches his children not to hurt or hate anyone that has done nothing to provoke them. This quote, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy” (90) shows Atticus’ view on how unnecessary violence is, even for a bird, and that violence should not be used in any situation. Mockingbirds symbolize innocence because they do no harm. This metaphor illustrates that it is a sin to hurt anything that does not harm you. He encourages his children to be compassionate and think outside the box. Just because the majority of the town is racist, does not mean that they should be. Atticus defies what people think by doing what he thinks is right. Atticus shows his wisdom by considering before reacting. For example, when Bob Ewell spits into Atticus’s face, Atticus does not fight back. Instead, Atticus “just took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and stood there and let Mr. Ewell call him names” (217).He demonstrates value to his children in a time where these morals did not really exist. He teaches Jem and Scout valuable lessons to help the next generation break the cycle of discrimination. For example with the quote, “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). He teaches his children to not judge a person by the color of their skin or if they are rich or poor, until their situation is fully understood. His children see him as more than just a father, but he is also a man of principle who is trying to reveal the repulsive actions of Maycomb. Atticus’ wisdom is what makes him a great parent. When Atticus chooses to defend a black man accused of the rape of a white woman, he faces the abuse, scorn, and retaliation of the racist white community. His courage in attempting to teach his children tolerance and empathy, not only of the black community, but also in the ignorant white community, was what stands out the most. A great example of Atticus’ courage is when the children vandalize the roses of Mrs. Lafayette Dubose in retaliation and her hateful, racist words to the children because of their father is defending a black man. He teaches the children respect and compassion by making them repay their actions by reading to the bed-ridden elderly woman. Unknown to them, the children are helping Mrs. Dubose overcome a morphine addiction, so she can die free of drugs and with a clear mind. It is courageous of Atticus to make his children be responsible for their actions and to show kindness to a woman who seems to have so little in her own heart. Atticus Finch, a serene and fearless man is appointed a challenging case that tests his moral courage. Despite many troubles and difficulties, like being called a “nigger lover” by white people and nearly getting bashed up by a lynch mob led by Walter Cunningham, he still fights for Tom Robinson with desire and justice. Atticus wants justice for the man, despite the prejudice and ignorance that surrounds him. When Scout asks Atticus if he would win the case, Atticus responds, “simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win” (76). Atticus is determined to fight the racism and prejudice and at the same time, view the world from another person’s perspective. This is a controversial case in the history of Maycomb, and Atticus is a brave man to have taken the task of defending Tom. Atticus is courageous and stands up for what he believes in. Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird illustrates how one man can educate his children and other members of the community on showing sympathy towards others. Atticus Finch, the backbone of the novel, is able to encourage and influence others into displaying compassion by his own courage employed to battle and persevere against the existence of prejudice and racism in Maycomb County. Atticus proves to be a man of decency, compassion and fearlessness. Kind and understanding, yet strict but fair, Atticus Finch represents everything that a father should be. A man of strength and courage, he is Scout and Jem’s definition of a hero.

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