Who is Atticus Finch, and what is his job in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus Finch is a prestigious attorney in Maycomb, a man from one of the "old families" who is the father of two very bright children, Jem and Scout.

The character of Atticus Finch is modeled after the author's father, Amasa Coleman Lee, a man similar in disposition to Atticus. Mr. Lee defended two African American men, a father and son, who were accused of killing a white storekeeper. Much as in the novel, this defense of the men was controversial, and the case was lost and the men were hanged.

Atticus Finch is a virtuous man who puts into practice his words and beliefs. He always practices what he tells Scout early in the novel:

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--" (Ch.3)

Throughout the narrative Atticus practices this precept. He allows Mr. Cunningham to pay for services with produce from his farm, he is gracious to Mrs. Dubose despite her vilification of him to his children because he understands that she is a morphine addict, and he is polite to Mayella Ewell, who lies about the innocent Tom Robinson, because he understands her moral and social deprivation.

Ever the gentleman, Atticus does not want to shoot anything because he knows he has an unfair advantage, nor does he react when Bob Ewell spits tobacco juice in his face. Atticus is even too ethical to allow Jem to be excused from possibly causing the death of Bob Ewell.

Atticus lives by his conscience, as well. He feels himself morally obligated to defend Tom Robinson. He tells his daughter,

"I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again." (Ch.9)

Atticus is a loving father who talks to his children as though they, too, are reasonable adults. He is humble, also, and in the end thanks Boo Radley for saving his children from the despicable Bob Ewell. Indeed, the words of Marc Antony in Julius Caesar befit Atticus Finch:

He, only in a general honest thought...
His life [is] gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This [is] a man!" (5.5.71-75)

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Not only is Atticus the wise and humble lawyer who defends Tom Robinson against the charge of rape in the Mayella Ewell case, Atticus is also a state representative for Maycomb County and has to make trips to the state capitol to help govern the state of Alabama.  Aunt Alexandra comes to stay with Scout and Jem when Atticus is in Montgomery and also to help with the children during the trial.  Atticus needs Aunt Alexandra to watch the children because he will be working long hours, and he is concerned for the safety of the children due to possible backlash from the town people for defending Tom Robinson.  The fact that Atticus is a politician and public servant elected by people in his county shows just how much respect he has earned as a lawyer and as a man.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Atticus Finch is a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama. A single father, he is the father of Jem, his twelve year old son, and seven year old Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. He takes on a case of advert racism in his hometown, defending a black man against the injust charges of rape against a local white woman.

blerii's profile pic

blerii | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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He is the father of Scout and Jem Finch. He is the one who defends Tom Robinson in the trail.

damini's profile pic

damini | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 3) eNoter

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Atticus Finch is Scout's father and he is a lawyer.

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