How does Atticus Finch display honesty in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples of Atticus's remarkable honesty in To Kill a Mockingbird. He is, after all, a fundamentally honest man. His honesty colors both his personal and his professional life in his roles as a father and a lawyer. There's one particular example in the book, which combines both of these roles and shows us just what kind of a man Atticus really is.

In Chapter 28, Scout and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell. Thankfully, they manage to get away from him, but in the next chapter we discover that Bob Ewell is dead, lying under a tree with a kitchen knife stuck in his ribs. After getting Scout's side of the story, it appears absolutely certain to Atticus that Jem killed Bob Ewell, albeit in self-defense. But Sheriff Tate doesn't seem to think so; at least that's how it appears. Atticus is convinced that the Sheriff's just trying to do him a favor, covering up the killing of a man universally despised in town:

"Heck, it’s mighty kind of you and I know you’re doing it from that good heart of yours, but don’t start anything like that."

Atticus doesn't want anyone in town to think that he pulled strings to get Jem off a charge of homicide. He just wants to get everything out in the open. If the case goes to court, so be it; he'll defend Jem himself just as he defended Tom Robinson. And it's the right thing to do; the honest thing to do. If Atticus didn't show respect for the law, he'd never be able to look his children in the eye again; he'd be going back on the principles he's worked so hard to instil in them.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus Finch is an honest man because he acts on his conscience rather than what others expect.

Throughout the story, Atticus Finch catches a lot of grief for following his conscience rather than acting for convenience.  He not only represents Tom Robinson, he actually tries to mount a defense.  Most lawyers would simply put in time but not really try, either because they did not want to represent a black man or because they knew they would lose.  Atticus actually tried to win.

Atticus explained to his daughter Scout why he could not give up, even though he knew he would lose before he started.

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said. (ch 9)

Atticus tells her he could not hold his head up if he did not do his best.  He could not tell his kids how to behave or go to church if he did not try. 

Atticus is respected by the community, even some of the whites, because of this trait.  The people know what Atticus is a stand-up guy.  He will do what is right, no matter the cost.  Another example is when he shot the rabid dog, even though he had not shot a gun in years.  Atticus is a good man, and everyone knows it.  Some people disagree with his choice to defend Tom Robinson, but this is partially because they know that he will actually try.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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