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Scout and Jem's father may be one of the most likeable, inspiring characters in literature. He is a liberal, tolerant, educated man in a community that is still rooted, in many ways, in the traditions and prejudices of the Old South. The wisdom found in his words have led him to be one of the most oft-quoted characters in literature. Although he is a widow, his parenting is generally strong, consistent, and always with an eye toward developing Scout and Jem's consciences and a strong sense of justice.
Atticus's definition of true courage is one that readers tend to remember when deconstructing his character; he tells his children on one occasion that courage means "knowing you're licked before you begin, but you see it through no matter what". He insisted that both kids learn this lesson when he assigned them to read to the morphine addicted Mrs. Dubose; when she died, he commented that "She was a great lady", to Scout and Jem's mortification, explaining that she was adamant about dying morphine-free.
Commensurate with Atticus's strong sense of conscience and courage is his determination to see the other side of every situation, telling his children that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view". He mentions this to them several times throughout the novel, and the only time this advice doesn't serve him well is when he assumes that Bob Ewell will get over the humiliation he endured at the hands of Atticus in the courtroom; Atticus was not able to successfully put himself fully in Bob Ewell's shoes, because, of course, if he had, he would have foreseen that Ewell might try to harm his family.
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