In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, what are Atticus Finch's methods of resistance and are they effective?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus displayed a repeated sense of passive resistance during the several altercations he faced during the chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird. (Atticus may have been familiar with the non-violent teachings of India's Mohandas Gandhi, though there is no mention of the Mahatma in the story. Author Harper Lee may have even had Dr. Martin Luther King in mind when she created Atticus, since King--who was a well-known civil rights leader active in Alabama while she was writing TKAM--followed Gandhi's methods of non-violent resistance.) When Atticus faces the lynch mob at the jail, he remains calm and cool, never leaving his chair as the men surround him. "In obedience" to Atticus, the mob even lowered their voices to "near-whispers" so their conversation would not awaken the sleeping Tom Robinson. When one of the men suggested that with Sheriff Tate away on a "snipe hunt,"

"... that changes things, doesn't it?"

But Atticus responded,

"Do you really think so?"

Although the arrival of the children eventually shamed the men into giving up their evil intentions, Atticus would probably not have attempted to put up a fight against the two carloads of men. He would have continued to try and reason with them, just as Scout did during her talk with Mr. Cunningham.

Atticus used the same passive resistance when Bob Ewell attempted to draw him into a fight shortly after the trial. When Bob spat in his face, Atticus merely wiped the spittle away with a handkerchief. And when Bob tried to coerce him with his intended fighting words

"Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin' bastard?" Miss Stephanie said Atticus said, "No, too old," put his hands in his pockets and strolled on.


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