How does Atticus Finch demonstrate a theme of heroism throughout To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?I need to use quotes from the book, and I have a few, but can anyone tell me if I'm on the...

How does Atticus Finch demonstrate a theme of heroism throughout To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

I need to use quotes from the book, and I have a few, but can anyone tell me if I'm on the right track? I feel that Atticus is a hero because long before Scout and Jem were born, he was the best gun shooter in Maycomb, but he gave that up and realized that "Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand...." and after that I'm stuck. I need opinions on whether this answer has potential, or whether it's completely off.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I think you're on the right track.  Atticus as an adult is sheepish, even embarrassed about his shooting prowess, and only lets it become apparent when the sick dog is headed his way and he has no choice, but Miss Maudie tells Scout and Jem about his reputation as an excellent shooter when he was a young man.  This comes as a great surprise to Jem and Scout, who had determined early in life that their dad didn't have a whole lot to contribute to the world that was of any real value; sure, he could read and practice law, but he couldn't play football with other dads or do anything adventurous. 

Atticus's most heroic qualities are probably seen in the way he responds to other people; he insists to his children that one must try to see another's point of view when at all possible, to actually "stand in (his) shoes and walk around in them".  Atticus gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, always, and his faith in human nature is one of his strongest characteristics.  When he makes it clear that he is going to defend Tom Robinson to the best of his ability, despite the disapproval of many townspeople, he is well aware that Jem and Scout will be exposed to some ugly things.  However, he advises them to turn the other cheek and avoid throwing punches, a request that irks Scout, but with which she tries to comply because Atticus doesn't ask the kids for much.  

The esteem with which Atticus is held among the African-American community is truly moving.  When Atticus leaves the courtroom after the guilty verdict, the blacks in the balcony stand up in a show of respect; the next day, Atticus wakes up to a veritable smorgasboard of food and treats brought to the home from Tom Robinson's friends and family.  Calpurnia is worried that they may have overstepped some boundary, but Atticus, tears in his eyes, says simply that they must never do this again, "times are too hard". 

Atticus is a model of tolerance and respect for others, but his faith in human nature nearly costs his children their lives when Bob Ewell attempts to kill them one night as they return from a Halloween pageant.  It is then that Atticus makes perhaps his most heroic decision, going against everything he believes about the truth to protect Arthur Radley.  Arthur killed Ewell to save the kids, but Heck Tate insists that "Bob Ewell fell on his knife", and Atticus agrees to go along with the story to protect Arthur from an instant celebrity that he would be completely unable to deal with in his fragile state.  Atticus asks Scout if she understands why he must make this decision, and she says, "It'd be a little like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" 

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