What does the last name Finch symbolize?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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One might also ask what the last name "Finch" means to Maycomb county. Aunt Alexandra raves about how important the Finches are to the county to the point of stressing over how Scout dresses, how the children behave in public, and how Atticus should be raising them. Even mean old Mrs. Dubose imposes the importance of the Finch family upon the children. When she is yelling at Scout one day, she says the following:

"And you. . . what are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole, young lady! You'll grow up waiting on tables if somebody doesn't change your ways--a Finch waiting on tables at the O.K. Cafe--hah!"

Mrs. Dubose is trying to tell Scout that a Finch woman should uphold her family's respectable name by wearing a dress, speaking properly, and acting properly according to a higher, more privileged upbringing. Atticus attempts to tell the children what Aunt Alexandra wants them to learn in the following passage:

"Your aunt has asked me to try to impress upon you and Jean Louise that you are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations' gentle breeding. . . and that you should try to live up to your name. . . She asked me to tell you you must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are. She wants to talk to you about the family and what it's meant to Maycomb County through the years, so you'll have some idea of who you are, so you might be moved to behave accordingly" (133).

The Finch name has generations of respect behind it, and Alexandra doesn't want it lost on the kids. Not only that, but Atticus carries the Finch name with pride as he valiantly defends Tom Robinson in court. No matter where a person comes from in Maycomb county, they respect Atticus Finch. Miss Maudie says it this way to Jem after the trial:

"I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them. . . We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us" (215).

Although a bird that is named "finch" is a songbird who doesn't hurt anyone, a Maycomb county Finch symbolizes not only a peaceful person, but a stalwart and strong one in the defense of the downtrodden and helpless. Atticus, Jem, and Scout all stand up for what is right in their own ways. They all would defend someone to their last breath, if necessary, in the name of what is right. Maycomb county is lucky to have the Finch clan in their midst. 



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