To Kill a Mockingbird: the Character Analysis of Harper Lee’s Novel
While most people in society strive to have moral attributes, not everyone understands what traits are important in achieving this goal. Often, people attempt to model themselves after another’s example. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch is a single father who lives with his two children, Jem and Scout, in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. His young children constantly find themselves trying to keep occupied during the years that pass. One summer, Atticus, who is a lawyer, finds himself in the middle of a controversial case, involving a black man, Tom Robinson, and a white woman. Scout and Jem observe how Atticus responds to the changes the case brings to their small town which makes the children want to follow in his footsteps. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a static character who is continually understanding, just, and honest.
Someone cannot truly call themselves a noble person if they are not able to understand others. Atticus is a character who proves noble throughout the story, leading many to respect him. Because of Atticus’ nobility, Jem and Scout are better able to comprehend the transformations in the community with unbiased eyes. “‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’” (Lee 30). Atticus gives this advice to Scout after she has a terrible first day of school; Scout is not fond of her new teacher and is therefore refusing to go back. Atticus, who is calm and collected, tells Scout that maybe her teacher did not have a very good day either, and that Scout should put herself in Miss Caroline’s shoes before making any rash decisions. In situations like these, it is sometimes easier to learn only one side of the story, but Atticus decides to take a wider perspective. His ability to step back from situations and consider all angles of it shows how wise Atticus can truly be. Furthermore, Atticus shows his discernment when a mad dog enters into the neighborhood. “Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus” (Lee 95). The dog is approaching when Mr. Tate, the sheriff, asks Atticus to shoot it for him. Atticus is reluctant but, instead of refusing, he swallows his pride and kills the dog for the safety of his family and friends. He recognizes that through slaying this dog, he will be keeping everyone out of harm’s way.Whether it is encouraging Scout to go back to school or shooting a rabid dog, Atticus keeps his strong sense of insightfulness and understanding throughout the novel.
A man who is just is said to be guided by reality, logic, and sprite. All of these traits apply to Atticus, especially during the time of Tom Robinson’s trial. “‘But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal…That institution, gentlemen, is a court’” (Lee 205). During his closing argument, Atticus reminds the court of how the Judicial System is supposed to work: all men, whether they are intelligent, dim-witted, legendary, or black, have the right to a fair trial. Atticus is highly aware that the court is not perfect, but all he asks of the jury is that Tom Robinson may have a fair trial. Without a fair trial, no accurate resolution can be reached. Atticus shows his fairness when he addresses the jury about why he believes Mayella is telling the story the way she is. “‘She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with’” (Lee 203). Atticus’ perception pierces through the façade of Mayella’s story and recognizes the reason behind Mayella’s ways. He has reason to believe that her father beat her, and this is the reason she accuses Tom of rape. However, in spite of knowing this, Atticus does not think it is fair to punish Mayella—she was doing what she had to do to save herself. Mayella is only a victim and Atticus does not believe it is just to censure her for this. Atticus proves that he is just in To Kill a Mockingbird by trying to live his life truthfully, reasonably, and fairly.
Atticus’ candidness throughout the story is what keeps the surrounding characters grounded and connected to reality. “…why didn’t Atticus just say yes, you’ll go free, and leave it at that— seemed like that’d be a big comfort to Tom” (Lee 254). As a lawyer, it is Atticus’ job to defend his client, but he also must be honest with him. Miss Rachel’s cook did not comprehend why Atticus did not tell Tom they would win Tom’s case, but Atticus did not want to make a promise that he could not keep. Atticus was the only man Tom could truly trust. If Atticus made him a pledge he could not uphold, it would not only break the trust between the pair, but also Tom’s hope in becoming a free man. “‘I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance’” (Lee 235). Atticus has only been sincere with Tom Robinson and does not sugar-coat anything for his client. He understands that during this stressful time, lies will only make the situation worse. Without the outlook of reality, the ignorance that would certainly ensue would only lead to madness. Atticus’ sincerity is what leads others to trust and respect him in To Kill a Mockingbird.
In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus is an important character who helps readers understand how to look through unprejudiced eyes. This is apparent when Atticus has the children become more sympathetic of the world around them. He is a man who does not see wrong were it does not exist. He is sincere, causing readers to not only trust what he says, but also trust his actions and advice. To be a good person, a man must have respectable characteristics even when others disapprove of them. Atticus Finch proves that even lawyers, can establish themselves to be upright and decent people.
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