In "To Kill a Mockingbird" Atticus says that Mr. Cunningham is basically good but has blind spots like everyone else. What does Atticus mean? How is Atticus different from the men at the jail at night?
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Mr. Cunningham, a hard-working man who struggles each day to feed his family without using government assistance, typically leads a good life. However, he is one of the men that shows up at the jail, with violent intents towards Tom Robinson. He is one of many men from the town, who, if you see them in their everyday lives, seem normal, kind and decent. They are upstanding citizens. The "blind spots" that Atticus refers to is the fact that Mr. Cunningham, like many of the men with him, is blind to the fact that black people are their equals. They are racist, and their racism makes them blind to any sort of rational thought when it comes to black people. The blind spots that Mr. Cunningham has, leads him to the jail, to enact violence upon an innocent black man, just because he is black. Cunningham would never do this to a white man--he is blind to white man's cruelty, and overly sensitive to any possible scandal involving a black man. So, these men, who live normal lives of decency, turn into irrational violent men when it comes to race.
Atticus is different because he does not have these blind spots--he tends to see people based upon the "content of their characters," not upon the color of their skins, or the social circles that they fit into. He knows Tom is innocent, and so will protect and defend him--it doesn't matter if he's black. His blackness does not factor into the equation, whereas for the mob that shows up at the jail, the fact that Tom is black is the ONLY factor in the equation. I hope that those thoughts help--good luck!
Can't really add much to Mrs. C's excellent commentary. At least Cunningham and his gang are not white-robed with flaming crosses; they are, indeed, regular citizens--racist and bigoted--but not so different from many lower middle class white men of the era. Atticus hoped he would be able to dissuade any unwanted visitors himself, but he needed an added boost of Finch decency on this night.
As I recall, Cunningham and the others in the mob at the jail were country people from Old Sarum. One of the differences between Cunningham and Atticus is that Atticus had had the benefit of an education outside of Maycomb and believed deeply in the principles of equality and justice. Cunningham was a product of Maycomb, growing up solely under the social influence of what Atticus called Maycomb's "usual disease," prejudice and racism. Atticus was ahead of his time in his convictions.
In addition to all the other comments about Atticus is that he, unlike almost everybody else in Maycomb, does not follow mob mentality. This enables him to raise his children differently from almost everybody else and not back down when his defending Tom Robinson is unpopular and dangerous. Atticus seeks to eliminate the blind spots from his neighbors and constituents but realistically realizes that traditions of prejudice do not change quickly.
Cunningham and the others in the mob at the jail were country people from Old Sarum. One of the differences between Cunningham and Atticus is that Atticus had had the benefit of an education outside of Maycomb and believed deeply in the principles of equality and justice.
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