Explain How Harper Lee presents Atticus in To Kill  a Mickingbird, referring closely to the text.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee presents Atticus as a complex man who cares about people and wants to think the best of them.

Atticus is an older man raising his young daughter and son on his own in the Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression.  I guess that would make anyone a philosopher!

Atticus has some unusual views on parenting.  His children call him Atticus instead of Dad or Father (although they do call him sir).  He does use corporal punishment, but constantly threatens to whip his children.  He does not teach them that they are better than others.  He does not want them to feel superior, even though they come from an old respectable family.

Atticus is of strong moral character.  He has a dense sense of personal responsibility, and the most important thing to him is raising his children this way.  He tells his children that God is “loving folks like you love yourself” (Chapter 5).  He encourages empathy in his children.

As Atticus had once advised me to do, I tried to climb into Jem’s skin and walk around in it. (chapter 7)

The entire town seems to look up to Atticus.  He proves his bravery when he shoots the rabid dog,  and the lynchmob.  Miss Maudie says:

“If Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best.” (chapter 5)

Atticus’s morals extend to him defending a black man even when it is very unpopular.  Atticus respect everyone, and is clearly not racist.  He also believes in justice.  When Scout asks Atticus why he chooses to defend Tom Robinson, he answers that he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t.

“The main one is, if I didn’t 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.” (chapter 9)

So he takes a case he knows he is going to use, and does his best.  This shows that Atticus is strong as well as moral.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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