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What lessons does Atticus teach throughout To Kill a Mockingbird to his family,...

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chronchristine | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 12, 2008 at 12:21 AM via web

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What lessons does Atticus teach throughout To Kill a Mockingbird to his family, neighbors, and community?

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Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 12, 2008 at 1:31 AM (Answer #1)

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Primarily, Atticus teaches his children about tolerance, and he is an example of this to his neighbors and community through his interactions.  Although Atticus is assigned Tom Robinson's case, Atticus does his utmost to give Tom the best defense possible.  Color does not matter to Atticus Finch, and he tries to instill this in Scout and Jem.  He also teaches them to respect their elders, even if the elderly people are cranky and sometimes mean (such as Mrs. DeBose).  When Jem disrespects Mrs. DeBose by ripping  up her flowers (even though he was angry because she'd made a nasty remark about Atticus), Atticus makes Jem spend time reading to her.  It is only through this that Jem learns that the old woman suffers from terrible pain and is fighting a drug addiction.  By being forced to spend time with her, Jem learns to respect a woman in pain.  When the children are being busybodies about Boo Radley, Atticus sternly instructs them to leave Boo in peace and not to believe the rumors that are spread about the recluse.  Additionally, Atticus teaches the children not to judge those who do not have money.  When Walter Cunningham eats lunch with the Finch family and pours syrup on his dinner, Scout makes fun of him.  Atticus teaches her not to judge others and to try "walking around in their skin", or to put herself in their place.  Through this, Atticus is a model of respect, and the Cunningham family realizes this.

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jess72590 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 19, 2008 at 9:45 PM (Answer #3)

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Atticus teaches his family that one cannot prejudge people. Just because they may be Cunningham's, or Mr. Raymond, doesn't mean the assumptions that people hear are true.They learn to not fear and hate Mrs. Dubose, when Atticus forces Jem to read to her.Their assumption that she was a mean old lady does not let them see why, until she passed and Atticus explains that she was fighting a drug addiction and was constantly in. When Scout punishes Walter because the teacher did not understand about the Cunningham's ways, he is invited to come to dinner at the Finch's house. After her teasing him about her ways, she is quickly discipline by both Atticus and Cal about her manners towards others.Atticus especially teaches tolerance when he receives the Robinson case and decides to take action, despite the ways of his neighbors and community.He pushes his family to stand by him without violence towards the people that disagree with him protecting Tom.In essence he teaches his children to tolerate those from other races and do what is right regardless of ones color, even if it may be received poorly by ones community. Atticus also uses the children's obsession with Boo Radley to teach them to tolerate those who are different.The childrens biggest assumption is found to be false, because Boo Radley, the man that ate squirrels saved them. Thus Atticus teaches everyone how to tolerate others and how to stand up for what is right even if it may be unpopular.

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smithy-smithy | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 8, 2008 at 11:52 AM (Answer #5)

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<p>1) always stand up for your beliefs. Atticus is a man of with a strong sense of equality and fairness. it is through defending black man Tom Robinson that he teaches Jem and Scout the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Atticus knew that there was little chance of acquitting Tom but he believed that he could some how make a difference in the way that black people were prosecuted. Atticus knows that helping Tom is the right thing to do and thus, carries out the job he accepted.</p><p>2) don’t harm the harmless. The children are taught this through Atticus' most famous quote..&quot;shoot all the bluejays you want...but remember, its a sin to kill a mockingbird.&quot; the mockingbird relates to different characters in the book including Boo radley and Tom Robinson. The mockingbird is compared to Boo radley as at the end of the novel when he resuces the children from Bob Ewell, Heck Tate tries to convince Atticus that it was not Jem who stabbed Bob but Boo. Boo is extremley timid and frightened and thus, Heck sees no point in prosecuting him as it would bring him into the limelight and he would have to testity infront of many people.  ; Heck feels that the dead and dealt with the dead and strongly believes that no further negotition is needed. </p><p>3)  seeing things from other points of view. </p><p>4) COURAGE. courage is the most important lesson taught to the children =]</p>

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nmonroig6 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:34 PM (Reply #1)

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really?!? you just spoiled the book for everyone who hasn't finished it 

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jlcannad | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted March 12, 2008 at 1:50 AM (Answer #2)

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Atticus teaches his children many lessons, but the lesson on tolerance is already well explained.  He also taught the children about seeing beyond the obvious with people when he makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose.  During that process, Jem learned to respect the old woman and understand that for all her faults that she also has strengths. When Mrs. Dubose dies, Jem truly wishes he had not known her because her death is more painful because he has learned to truly see her. Jem understands that message because at the end of the chapter, he is "fingering the wide petals" of the flower from Mrs. Dubose's garden, which indicates a level of respect he certainly didn't have for her before.

Most famously,  Atticus teaches his children about courage.  He doesn't ever tell them to act a certain way or that he sees courage in specific terms, but he does act courageously.  He puts himself in the middle of the conflict with Tom Robinson, an act so courageous that his brother compares him to Christ by making the comment "let this cup pass from you, eh?" (Chapter 9).  The children see this, and when their father is standing between the mob and Tom Robinson, the children stand with their father.  Certainly Jem would have understood the danger, and Scout understood enough to know something was wrong, and yet the children have learned from their father to act courageously.

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ace0811 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 25, 2010 at 6:16 AM (Answer #6)

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There are many lessons that Atticus teaches throughout to kill a mockingbird: Firstly not to judge someone unless you look at it from their point of view - this could have been applied to Boo Radley who is actually a good person and also to Mrs. Dubose who is extremely ill. Atticus also teaches Scout and Jem that all people are the same such as the Cunninghams (which is why scout shoudn't treat Walter any differently) and also all black people (which is why Atticus feels Tom Robinson should have a fair court case and which is the reason that Atticus takes the case which many other lawyers wouldn't). Another important aspect of life that she learns is not to believe in unfounded rumours such as the ones about Boo Radley unless there is evidence for the case. She and Jem also learn the meaning of true bravery - not someone who carries a gun around with them but true bravery they learn is "when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what" - This is what Mrs. Dubose did as she knew she was going to die but she didn't take the easy route out by getting a quick painless drug to kill her or to carry on taking morphine to kill the pain but she took the hard way out as she didn't want to be dependent on a drug and this is also like Atticus who knows he is going to lose the Tom Robinson case but goes through with it anyway. But one of the most important lessons that Scout and jem learn is that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. A mockingbird is described as a creature that does nothing but sing its heart out for everyone and that is why it would be wrong to kill a mockingbird. The mockingbird symbolises both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson as Boo Radley has done nothing but help and give presents to Jem and Scout and that is why at the end Scout realises that it would be wrong to take Boo Radley to court for murdering Bob Ewell because all Boo was trying to do was protect Jem and Scout. Tom Robinson is also a mockingbird as he did nothing but help the Ewell family but still he got taken to court for a crime he didn't even commit and shouldn't have been imprisoned for. These are the main things scout and jem learn from Atticus

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trillofs | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 8, 2008 at 4:02 AM (Answer #4)

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Behind Mrs Dubose's rudness, cruelty and scowling comments lies courage, by disattaching herself to the world and all the things she once loved and embraced before her expected death she had exemplified true strength which Atticus wanted Jem to truly understand, that strength doesnt come from holding a gun.

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mickey-daly | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 4, 2012 at 7:22 PM (Answer #7)

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Atticus teaches his children any lessons in To Kill a Mocking-bird. The main lesson is not to judge someone unless you look at it from their point of view. When Walter Cunningham eats lunch with the Finch family and pours syrup on his dinner, Scout laughs at him.  Atticus tells her to try "walking around in their skin", or to put herself in their place.

In chapter 9 Atticus purposely talks aloud to jack, about hoping that they learn to keep respecting, and trusting him, and to come to him with their questions, instead of the rest of the town. He pushes his family to stand by him without violence towards the people that disagree with him protecting Tom.

He teaches them to respect other people. He firstly sets this example by respecting them, treating them as adults. And also by respecting other people’s opinions about the court case. He calls Mrs Dubose a great lady, even though she had very strong, different views about Atticus, and his court case

Atticus is always trying to teach the children courage and bravery. He tries to get scout to stand up for herself, without fighting other people, which she finds very difficult. He uses Mrs Dubose to teach Jem that courage is not a man with a gun in his hand, but that even when you know you don’t stand a high chance in something, you try anyway, and you see through it no matter what. This is what Mrs Dubose did as she did not want to die painlessly, dependant on a drug, but Instead dies with bravery and dignity

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atticus-finch | Student | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted March 20, 2013 at 1:58 AM (Answer #8)

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Mostly Atticus tries to teach "Scout" and Jem to not judge until you know what the person has/had to go through in his/her life. Also, he tries to teach them how to know and respect people and their ways, no matter how quaint or curious.

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marinifern | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:37 AM (Answer #9)

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Atticus gives guidance to his children, and he treats them with fairness and honesty. He tries to bring them up best, as a single parent. Atticus has a close relationship with his children, probably reinforced by his being their only parent. He treats his children like equals, this is apparent from the beginning, especially as they call him Atticus and not father.

Atticus is advices to his children, so that they will become more kindhearted people. He gave a good example for the children when Mr. Ewell challenges him. Even though he is provoked and insulted, Atticus simply has a “peaceful reaction”. This shows the example to his children never to get into fights with people when they are upset about something and when they are aggressive. Atticus shows children about courage and all the forms it appears in.

Atticus also role models his sense of bravery by refusing to carry a gun to protect Tom Robinson from angry farmers and refusing to carry a gun to protect himself after Bob Ewell threatens guns. Atticus shows bravery when he takes Tom's case despite knowing that his town would turn against him and his children. Throughout the book Atticus tries to teach his children bravery, he struggles to make Scout realize that it is, in actual fact, braver to turn away from people who antagonize her, than to fight; something that she would have to face a lot during her father's involvement in Tom Robinson's case.

When Jem is told to read for Ms. Dubose and she dies, Atticus explains to Jem about her morphine addiction, and how she died “free”. This shows Jem that courage isn’t always where you expect to find it, and how to get to know about people who they really are. The one of the most important piece of advice he gives his children is that “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.” This is important for the children to know, and helps them to be more caring about people, and get more understanding about others. Atticus also teaches his children to abide by their own morals and not to judge something right just because a powerful or 'respectable' person says it is.

Atticus treats everyone with fairness and honesty. He always hears both sides of the story before taking action and decision. He does this after Scout has gotten into a fight with Francis Hancock. After a time Atticus hears Scout’s side of the story and realizes that it wasn’t totally Scout’s fault.

When he is confronted by awkward issues Atticus never tries to hide or cover up the truth. He tells Uncle Jack at Finches landing that when a child asks you something, “answer him, for goodness sake.” After Atticus is confronted by the mob outside the county jail, he doesn’t try to pretend that they weren’t there to hurt him. He admits that Mr. Cunningham might have “hurt me a little.” When Scout asks Atticus if they are poor, the usual response would be to say no, so as not to scare Scout. But Atticus believes honesty is the best policy, so he says, “we are indeed.” Atticus considers lying horribly dishonest, so he tries to be truthful at all times with his children.

Atticus can be seen as the epitome of moral character, he lives by his ethics and in doing so teaches his children and the town alike how to stand up for one's beliefs; this is particularly evident when he takes on the Tom Robinson case. Education is important to Atticus, he believes that education is the key to unlocking the ignorance that causes prejudice, this is noticeable during the Tom Robinson case where Atticus says, 'confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their calibre' . Consequently, he teaches his children from an early age, although he does not employ the conventional methods used to tutor children. Scout was taught to read by following whatever Atticus was reading in the evenings; again, Atticus did not treat her as inferior but allowed her to read from newspapers etc like an adult.

Atticus is a good model parent. He loves his children more than anything in the world, and he does as much as he can to bring them up as respectable people. He may not be able to “play football” with all the other fathers, but he has all the qualities a good parent could hope to have.

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