I have a writing prompt "Describe the importance of reputation using Atticus Finch." Please help as I simply do not know where to go with this. Thanks.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is little doubt that having a solid reputation instills respect and faith in the hearts of others. Much of the disillusionment in state as well as federal governments stems from the history of crony capitalism, bureaucrats and political candidates who bargain with special interest groups and other factions, lack of integrity in politicians and those in high office, misuse of taxpayers money as proven in the IRS with its extravagant conferences, etc. For, when integrity is missing, mistrust grows. 

In Harper Lee's moving tale of the maturation of two children living in the post-Depression era in the financially and spiritually impoverished town of Maycomb, it is the principled and stalwart Atticus Finch who instills faith and respect in nearly all the citizens, qualities which hold together a community. Indeed, the reputation of Atticus Finch acts as a bulwark against forces that would deride the integrity of the judicial system and the human rights of certain people. In Chapter 24, for instance, Miss Maudie alludes to the importance of Atticus Finch's reputation after the Tom Robinson trial and the gossiping about him. Alexandra asks,

"What else do they want from him?....They're perfectly willing to let him do what they're too afraid to do themselves...."

In reply, Miss Maudie alludes to Atticus Finch's reputation,

Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we're paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It's that simple.

In the rabid dog scene, Sheriff Tate trusts Atticus to shoot the dog before it reaches them because of his reputation for being an excellent shot in his younger years.  In the mob scene at the jail, Mr. Cunningham pulled the Old Sarum bunch out after seeing Scout and being reminded of the integrity and generosity of Mr. Finch; in this same scene, Mr. Underwood trusts the reputation of Atticus Finch for fairness, that he is willing to defend him against the Old Sarum bunch, pointing his rifle out the window of his office.

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Here, then, are some thoughts on reputation for you and some examples that you can use to support these ideas. If you are writing an essay, beginning with a comment about and a defining of reputation can introduce the thesis that it is because of Atticus Finch's sterling reputation that people trust him. In fact, it seems that Tom Robinson has trusted Atticus because he does not attempt to escape until his case is lost. Then, for supporting details, demonstrate how people respect Atticus Finch by allowing him to decide the course of action in several scenes such as those expressed above. 

Good luck!

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