How is honesty and goodness presented through the character of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conscience of Maycomb, Atticus Finch is a Lincolnesque character: A tall, liberal-minded attorney who cannot tell a lie, Atticus believes in equality for all people--black or white--and he treats everyone he encounters with respect. When his children ask him a question, he always answers them in a truthful manner, even when the subjects are touchy ones about "rape" and being a "nigger-lover." He believes that cheating a black man is the worst possible offense a white man can make, and the respect shown to him by the black population is best shown when the entire assemblage in the "colored balcony" stands to honor him following the trial. When the people of the Quarters deliver food to his house as a way of saying thanks for his staunch defense of Tom Robinson, Atticus tells Calpurnia to

"--tell them they must never do this again. Times are too hard."

Following Bob Ewell's death, Atticus at first believes Jem to be the killer, and he realizes that his son must face the consequences:

"... nobody's hushing this up. I don't live that way."

Atticus does what he can to help his clients, taking trade when they cannot afford to pay him in cash. He defends Tom vigorously, angering some of the townspeople who know that he will try his best to win the case. He furiously attacks Mayella Ewell's story, though it goes against his nature to question the word of a woman. He serves as the town's representative to the Alabama legislature, running unopposed in each election. His humble nature does not allow him to brag about his marksmanship skills to Jem and Scout, and he treats Mrs. Dubose with the utmost respect, even though she claims that he is "no better than the niggers and trash he works for" behind his back. He refuses to believe that Bob Ewell will stoop to his method of revenge, and he even tries to explain Bob's motives to Jem following the trial. He provides no gossip about Boo Radley, keeping tight-lipped whenever his children show their curiosity, and he demands that Jem and Scout respect Boo's privacy. But Atticus doesn't forget Boo following Bob's attack:

"Thank you for my children, Arthur," he said.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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