To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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How does Atticus stay true to himself in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus stays true to himself by doing as his moral conscience tells him to do. One thing his conscience tells him to do is to defend Tom Robinson, despite ridicule from the town and the inevitability of failure.

One spot in the book in which we see Atticus discuss his actions for being true to himself is in Chapter 11. In this chapter, Jem is driven to fury by Mrs. Dubose, who insults the children and their father by saying, "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" (Ch. 11). While Jem is away apologizing to Mrs. Dubose for whacking all the camellia flowers off of the bushes in her garden, Scout expresses sorrow and frustration at frequently hearing her father be ridiculed by saying, with respect to Robinson's case, "Atticus, you must be wrong ..." and further explaining that "folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong."

In response, Atticus expresses respect for the townspeople's opinion but firmly states his belief that he must do as his conscience tells him to do, not as other people tell him to do:

The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience. (Ch. 11)

In saying the above, he is asserting that there is no direct relationship between what is popularly believed to be right and what is actually right, and he will only let his conscience tell him what is right. In following his conscience, he is staying true to himself.

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