What Atticusisms are used at the end of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and why?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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

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In the final chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird alone, you can find the following "Atticusisms":

  • "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." -- This refers directly to Stoner's Boy in The Grey Ghost (the book Atticus is reading to Scout), but it alludes to Boo's character as well--always being blamed for things that were untrue. (Chapter 31)
  • Scout uses one herself when she tells her father that arresting Boo would "be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" (Chapter 30)
  • "I can't live one way in town and another way at home." -- Atticus to Sheriff Tate. (Chapter 30)
  • Additionally, during Scout's narration in the final chapter, she said that "Atticus was right... you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them." Harper Lee's reutterance of many of Atticus' favorite sayings is meant to show that Scout has learned from his advice and many lessons.
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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 30, Heck Tate makes an indirect allusion to one of Atticus Finches proverbs of To Kill a Mockingbird: He tells Atticus,

taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight--to me, that's a sin.  

This statement is a rewording of Atticus's advice to his children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.

In this same chapter, Scout imitates her father in speaking to Boo as though he is just an average neighbor, one whom she converses with regularly, a lesson she has learned and used with Mr. Cunningham earlier in Chapter 15.  There Scout approaches Mr. Cunningham and speaks to him in order to diffuse the tension of the mob that has formed at the jail.  Scout narrates,

Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.  Mr. Cunningham displayed no interest in his son, so I tackled his entailment once more in a last-ditch effort to make him feel at home.

Of course, Scout's actions have a more important result that she has considered:  it diffuses the anger and anonymity of the mob. Later, in Chapter 31, after Scout has Boo Radley escort her to his porch, she stands there after he has gone inside.  Turning to go home, Scout remarks, "I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle."  After looking around, Scout reflects,

Atticus was right.  One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.  Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

These "Atticcusims" have now become a part of Scout, indicating her maturation, for when the child incorporates the lessons of the parent, she is truly, then, an adult.  Harper Lee's novel is a bildungsroman.

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