In To Kill a Mockingbird, what level of moral development does Atticus demonstrate?
Atticus Finch is widely seen as a thoroughly moral figure, demonstrating patience, courage, bravery and maturity. However, he is also prone to severe judgment, repeatedly castigating people who he sees as "trash".
Atticus is clearly intended to be an exemplary moral figure. He accepts the challenge of defending Tom Robinson (defending him against a lynch mob, against public opinion, and in a court of law). Readers and critics often point to the words and actions of Atticus Finch as great examples of moral maturity.
...his behavior throughout embodies values of dignity, integrity, determination, and tolerance.
Atticus also attempts to live always by his principles, never wavering or relaxing his values, even when he believes that his son may have to go to jail for murder.
The notion that Atticus is an example of tolerance is rather difficult to defend given the absolute nature of Atticus' judgments. In all value-related areas, Atticus Finch is an absolutist, unwilling to compromise or forgive on certain points.
He makes statements to his children regarding people who are "trash". The nature of these statements contradicts the idea that Atticus is a good example of moral tolerance. Rather, he is a strict moral figure, aligned with what he sees as "right" and unwilling to allow those who do "wrong" to share his moral ground.
This is true of Bob Ewell and of anyone else who mistreats an African American, in terms of Atticus' perspective.
Atticus tells his children that any white man who takes advantage of a black man's ignorance is "trash."
The judgments of Atticus Finch are generated by high and unyielding moral standards, which demonstrate a considerable degree of moral development. He stands as an example to his children of moral behavior, moral perspective, and of courage.
He is not wiithout his own sense of caste, however, and his humanitarianism is not universal, but, rather, is dictated by an absolute moral code.