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Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, is a father who loves his children more than anything else, but he is also a responsible father who wants his children to be able to live moral lives by teaching them how to live well, and be concerned for the good of others.
In Chapter Three, Atticus gives his children good advice in order to help them better understand and empathize with others. He tells them to put themselves in someone else's position before they judge that person.
You never really understand a person until you walk around in their skin...
Atticus also tells the children to never kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie explains his directive. She points out that mockingbirds offer joy in their music to everyone, and never cause any harm. He provided this example as a way for the children to learn to care about others—those who cannot protect themselves and never bring to harm to others, should be cared for. In this story, the two characters that symbolize mockingbirds are Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. Miss Maudie says...
Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
At the end of the story, when Heck Tate is ready to release Bob Ewell's cause of death, he intends to report that Bob Ewell fell on his knife while drunk. Atticus believes that Jem killed Ewell, and refuses to let Heck report anything but the truth, even in an attempt to protect Jem. Even though he believes his son will suffer with the public exposure and censure he may receive, Attcus believes everything must be done "according to the book." Otherwise, it will appear that Jem has been protected because of who his father his: a betrayal of all Atticus has tried to teach his children. (It is, actually, Boo Radley that Heck is trying to protect.) Atticus cannot live a lie, even to save his son; he refuses to set a bad example, and says...
Heck, can't you even try to see it my way? You've got children of your own, but I'm older than you. When mine are grown I'll be an old man if I'm still around, but right now I'm—if they don't trust me they won't trust anybody. Jem and Scout know what happened. If they hear of me saying downtown something different happened—Heck, I won't have them anymore. I can't live one way in town and another way in my home.
Atticus has many lessons he teaches his children, often by example. He is respected by the townspeople, but the two people he is most concerned about are his children.
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