Perhaps the most memorable quote of Atticus Finch is his statement about how it is a sin to kill a mockingbird; afterall, the title itself comes from this statement. In Chapter 10, the seventh paragraph, Atticus gives his children air-rifles, but he does not teach them to shoot:
Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn't interested in guns. Atticus said to Jem one day, 'I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you wnat, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird'
Of course, Atticus implies that the children should never harm an innocent creature. Symbolically, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are like mockingbirds, the children realize later. And, the irony of Atticus's not teaching the children to shoot is that he himself is a superb shot as he proves on the day he shoots a rabid dog on their street.
Another example of the honorable man that Atticus is comes prior to his remarks in Chapter 10. At the end of chapeter 9, Atticus talks with his brother Jack about the forthcoming trial in which he has been assigned to defend Tom Robinson. Atticus explains how difficult such a defense will be, but he has to accept the job:
'You know I'd hoped to get through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me...'
'Let this cup pass from you, eh?' [Jack remarks.]
'Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what's going to happen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb's usual disease.' [racial bias]
Then, Atticus calls out to Scout as he knows that she has listened. He wants her to hear. Scout recounts this realization as she reflects, "...many years later ...I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said."
Earlier in this same chapter, Scout has already asked Atticus why he takes Tom Robinson's case. Atticus replies in paragraph 16,
'For a number of reasons...The mainone is, if I didn't I couln't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again.'
Scout asks him why they would not have to mind him; Atticus replies,
Because I could never ask you to mind me again. Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer get at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but doo one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change...It's a good one, even if it does resist learning.'
When Mrs. DuBois calls Atticus a "n---lover," Jem cuts the blooms from her camellias in retaliation and anger. Always the charitable man, Atticus insists that Bub repair the damage by reading to her each day. He explains to Scout and Jem to not let Mrs. DuBois "get you down in paragraph 108 of Chapter 11:
"It's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you."
After the verdict is given at the trial, Jem and Scout are distraught with the outcome. They ask their father how the jurors could vote as they have done. He replies,
'I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it--seems that only children weep. Good night.
This remark in paragraph 18 of Chapter 22 is one that the children will better understand when they are older, yet it making such a remark is another example of Atticus's timely wisdom and the integrity that he demonstrates in the above passages and throughout "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.
As little Scout drifts off to sleep on the night of her harrowing encounter with Bob Ewell, she tells her father that Boo Radley was "real nice." Atticus remarks, "Most people are, Scout , when you finally see them" (second paragraph from the last). And, thus, ends the novel with one of its motifs reiterated by Mr. Finch.