Atticus Finch has been described as a true American hero. Discuss the reasons for this description.

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus is often considered one of the greatest heroes in American literature, and Gregory Peck's portrayal is continually voted one of the top in film. Atticus appeals to all our better natures. He fights where no one else will, and stands resolute in the face of tradition, racism, violence, and ignorance.

Atticus represents the moral backbone of Maycomb in the novel, but he awakens the same sense of righteousness and justice in every reader. The audience cannot help but be moved by his passionate defense of Tom, his stoicism in the face of a lynch mob, and his tender yet mature relationships with his children. Atticus, refuses to change his attitudes at any point in the novel, although he does admit when he is wrong, and takes steps to remedy the situation. He takes on Tom Robinson’s case, determined to give the man a chance at a fair trial. In doing so, he brings his family under the public scrutiny, a scrutiny which directs disapproval on him and on his children. Despite this, Atticus is unwavering in his determination to stand up for his beliefs. He is able not just to oppose injustice, but to see good in the very people who despise him. He continues working with the Cunninghams after Mr. Cunningham has threatened him, and he holds no grudges, even against the Ewells.

As a father, Atticus is caring and compassionate, but also firm. He expects his children to be polite and considerate, but builds these qualities through guidance and example. He does not expect either less or more from his children than he expects of himself. His personality and actions always stand as representations of ideal character. For example, his ability to remain calm when cross-examining Bob Ewell sticks with Jem and Scout long after the trial is over. The lessons they learn from the incident with Mrs. Dubose, and from watching Atticus in the courtroom help them grow into adults very similar to Atticus himself.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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