In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Miss Maudie explain Atticus' role in the community?

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In To Kill a MockingbirdMiss Maudie explains that Atticus Finch is the moral compass for the community.

The day after the trial, Miss Maudie calls to Jem because she is aware of his reaction to the verdict in the trial of Tom Robinson. She invites him, along with Scout and Dill, to have some cake. After cutting a piece for Jem from the large cake meant for adults, Miss Maudie reassures him that "things are never as bad as they seem." Then, she further addresses Jem,

"I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them.... We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we've got men like Atticus to go for us." (Ch. 22)

In other words, Atticus is the spiritual advocate for the community. After all, Miss Maudie points out, it was no accident that Judge Taylor selected Atticus to be the defense attorney for Tom Robinson. Surely, Miss Maudie suggests, the judge knew who would fight for moral justice for the wrongly accused Tom.

Further, when Atticus interrupts the Missionary Tea because he comes home to ask Calpurnia to accompany him to the Robinsons' house in order to inform Helen of Tom's death, Miss Maudie comforts Alexandra in her frustration with the Maycomb community. Miss Maudie asks Alexandra,

"Have you ever thought of it this way? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we're paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right." (Ch. 24)

Clearly, then, Atticus sets an example for the Maycomb community.

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The morning following the trial, Miss Maudie invites the children over to her house for some cake. She tells Jem not to fret because she can sense that Jem is still upset at Tom Robinson's conviction. Miss Maudie goes on to tell Jem that some men in this world have difficult jobs and that Atticus Finch happens to be one of them. Miss Maudie explains to Jem that he's not old enough to appreciate it yet, but his father occupies a very important role in the community. She says that the people of Maycomb are rarely called upon to be Christians, and when they are, they've got men like Atticus to uphold those Christian values. Miss Maudie is essentially telling Jem that Atticus is the moral figurehead of the Maycomb community. Atticus represents pure Christian values and is the "go-to-man" when those values are challenged. When the community is forced to confront their prejudice beliefs and refuses to do so, Atticus is the man who stands up and represents equality, justice, and love in the face of the majority. Atticus is not swayed by popular opinion, as most men are in Maycomb. Atticus' job is difficult because when all others disagree and choose tradition over true Christian values, he stands firm and defends the moral choice.

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