How does Atticus change throughout To Kill a Mockingbird? Is it a dramatic change or very little change?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I find Atticus Finch the most unchanging character in all of To Kill a Mockingbird . His moral character is unwavering, and he never backs down to a challenge. He is the conscience of Maycomb from beginning to end, and everyone--from his children to his neighbors--seek him for guidance. Despite...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

I find Atticus Finch the most unchanging character in all of To Kill a Mockingbird. His moral character is unwavering, and he never backs down to a challenge. He is the conscience of Maycomb from beginning to end, and everyone--from his children to his neighbors--seek him for guidance. Despite the town's disapproval of Atticus taking on the Tom Robinson case, he never considers backing down from his obligation to defend Tom. He risks his life defending Tom from the lynch mob at the jail, and the Negroes of Maycomb love him for his determined courtroom defense of Tom, even after the jury brings back a guilty verdict. Threats are made against him by Bob Ewell afterward, but Atticus tries to calm his family's fears and hopes that all will be well instead of taking action against Bob. The father in Atticus always has time for his children, and he never changes his expectations of them from beginning to end. 

Only twice do I see faulty reasoning in Atticus' thinking. One comes when he claims that the Ku Klux Klan is no longer in existence around Maycomb. It is historically obvious that the Klan never went away during the 1930s, especially in rural Alabama. It may have been that he was only trying to ease his family's worries about the upcoming trial. Atticus also seems confused following the death of Bob Ewell when he thinks that Jem has killed Bob. It takes some serious explaining of the actual facts from Heck Tate to convince Atticus that it was actually Boo Radley who killed Bob. But aside from these two minor flaws, Atticus is the same Atticus throughout To Kill a Mockingbird.     

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus is optimistic about human nature almost to the point of naivete, and honest to his very core.  He believes deeply that a man is only as good as his word, and he takes his role as a father very seriously.  When he makes it clear he plans to do his best to defend Tom Robinson, one of the reasons he gives is that he couldn't look his children in the eye if he felt he hadn't done the right thing.  However, at the end of the novel, when it becomes apparent that disclosing who killed Bob Ewell would mean placing Arthur (Boo) Radley in the path of more psychological harm, he acquiesces to Heck Tate.  Heck says that Bob Ewell fell on the knife that killed him; at first Atticus is adamant that the truth will be told, because he thinks that Jem killed Bob, and he will not be part of a coverup, even if it involves his own son.  However, when Tate makes him understand that it was actually Boo who killed Ewell and saved the children's lives, Atticus gives in, thanking Boo for his children's lives. He asks Scout if she can possibly understand, and she says she can, that it would be kind of like shooting a mockingbird. 

These last pages of "Mockingbird" always make me cry.  That has nothing to do with the question you answered, but I believe this is quite possibly the loveliest story I have ever read.

Posted on