Since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, Atticus Finch has become one of the most admired characters in American fiction. In his compassion, integrity, and moral courage, he embodies the personal traits to which human beings should aspire. Although Atticus is the central character in the novel, he is not alone in possessing these fine qualities. As if to emphasize their importance, Harper Lee ascribes the same traits to several minor characters, as well, including Dolphus Raymond and Link Deas. The lives of Dolphus and Link are very different from Atticus’s, but they demonstrate many of the personal traits that make Atticus such a decent man.
To most of the people of Maycomb, Dolphus Raymond is a man to be scorned. The gentler and more forgiving among them see him as an object of pity, a white man from a “good” family who chose to live with a black woman, father children with her, and become the town drunk separated from respectable society. A cursory glance at Dolphus’s character makes it seem unlikely that he would have anything in common with Atticus, yet he does. Like Atticus, Dolphus deplores the cruelty of racism, and his compassion, integrity, and moral courage are as true as Atticus’s, even though they are evidenced differently.
Dolphus loves the woman he cannot by law marry, and he will not leave her and their children, despite being ostracized for remaining with them. He also will not condemn the people of Maycomb who condemn him, choosing instead to pretend to drink so that they will have a way to explain his shocking behavior. As Dolphus explains to Scout and Dill, he refuses to say “the hell with ‘em.” Dolphus lives the lie because “it’s mighty helpful to folks,” and he continues to live “the way I want to live” with the family he loves. It is in his encounter with Scout and Dill that Dolphus Raymond’s compassion becomes obvious. Realizing that watching Tom Robinson’s trial has reduced Dill to tears and made him physically sick, Dolphus intervenes. “Come on round here, son,” he tells Dill, “I got something that’ll settle your stomach.” He then shares with Dill the Coca-Cola he carries in a paper sack to maintain his comforting image as Maycomb’s hopeless drunk.
In contrast to Dolphus Raymond, Link Deas is respected in Maycomb. Link has the reputation of being honest and fair, as does Atticus, and like Atticus, Link is not infected with racism, “Maycomb’s usual disease.” He grows cotton on land he owns, he owns a store in town, and he does not take advantage of his black employees, including Tom Robinson. Link knows the quality of Tom’s character and provides him with work all through the year so that Tom can provide for his wife and three children.
Link is in court during Tom’s trial, watching as Bob Ewell and Mayella testify against Tom, telling lie after lie, and he watches as Tom takes the witness stand. Tom’s fear is palpable as Atticus leads him through his testimony, but Tom tells the truth, despite being terrified. When Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor, rises to cross-examine Tom, Link can’t bear the injustice of Tom’s terrible circumstances any longer. Risking the ire of Judge Taylor and the contempt of friends and neighbors, customers at his store, Link disrupts the proceedings and throws the courtroom into a frenzy by offering some unsolicited testimony of his own. He rises to his feet, his anger obvious, and declares, “I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now.” Link then defends Tom’s character and gets himself thrown out of court. Speaking for Tom and indicating his disdain for what is happening in the courtroom could put Link's reputation in Maycomb and perhaps his livelihood in jeopardy, but he cannot remain silent. Everything in him demands that he speak.
After Tom Robinson is convicted and then shot to death in prison, Link doesn’t forget him or Tom’s family. According to Scout, Link said “he felt right bad about the way things turned out,” an understatement, to be sure, considering Link's actions at Tom's trial and how he protects Helen Robinson after her husband’s death. When no one in Maycomb will hire Helen, Link gives her a job as his cook, even though he doesn’t need the help. When Bob Ewell begins to harass Helen as she walks to work, forcing her to walk almost two miles out of her way each day, Link learns what Ewell is doing and intends to put a stop to it. Helen begs him to “let it be,” but Link won’t hear of it. “The hell I will,” he tells Helen. Link closes his store, walks Helen home past Bob Ewell’s house, and stops at Ewell’s place on the way back to town. Knowing Bob is hiding in the house, Link calls out to him, threatening to “have [him] in jail before sundown” if he continues to harass Helen.
Link assumes Helen will no longer be bothered, but Ewell persists. Link confronts him again, this time in front of Link’s house. He tells Ewell to get his “stinkin’ carcass” off the property and to stay away from Helen. Forcefully, Link explains the law to Ewell and guarantees he can get him locked up. “[S]o get outa my sight!” he tells Ewell. “If you don’t think I mean it, just bother that girl again!” Scout reports that Bob Ewell apparently believed him, because Helen was no longer harassed.
Link cannot right the reprehensible injustice that had been done to Tom and that had cost Tom his life, but he can provide for Tom’s family and ensure Helen’s safety and peace of mind. A man of moral courage, compassion, and integrity, Link lives by the principles he believes in, as does Atticus. Miss Maudie once observed of Atticus’s character that “[h]e’s the same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets.” Her description of Atticus applies to Link Deas, as well.