Is Atticus Finch Maycomb's conscience?

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Yes. Atticus Finch is a morally upright individual and could be considered the conscience of the county. Throughout the novel, Atticus represents Maycomb County in the state legislature, and Scout mentions that each time he was elected without an opponent. Evidently, Atticus is respected enough by his community to make important decisions in the state legislature. Judge Taylor chooses Atticus, a seasoned lawyer, to defend Tom Robinson. Despite the blatant racist backlash from the community, Atticus valiantly defends Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury and community. Following the trial, Miss Maudie has a conversation with Jem and informs him that Atticus is one of those rare men born to do unpleasant jobs for others. She says,

"We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us" (Lee, 132).

Maudie then continues to explain to Jem how specific members of the community, such as Judge Taylor and Heck Tate, supported Atticus throughout the trial. She also mentions that the jury took a significant time to deliberate, which provides evidence of social change. Maudie's argument illustrates that Atticus is indeed the conscience of Maycomb. They not only look to Atticus to represent them in the state legislature but also to defend an innocent black man in front of their prejudiced community.

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iandavidclark3's profile pic

iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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I would say that Atticus is not only the conscience of the town of Maycomb, but that he is also the conscience of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus is one of the few white people in the novel who openly and publicly stands up to Maycomb's prejudice and points out the absurdity of the Tom Robinson case. Without exception, Atticus adheres to a strict moral code, one that values education and the inherent dignity of all people. More importantly, Atticus is committed to living the same life at home that he lives in the public sphere, meaning that he cannot decry racism in the safety of his home without also voicing his opinions in the much more perilous world of Maycomb. Additionally, Atticus is also a proponent of viewing life from other people's points of view and avoiding judgment until taking a look at things from diverse perspectives. This habit allows Atticus to see the complex humanity of each individual, even someone as reprehensible as Mr. Ewell. Therefore, based on his strong moral presence, I would certainly say that Atticus is the conscience of both Maycomb and the novel. 

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