In "To Kill a Mocking Bird," how does Atticus show that he cares for his family and respects other people?

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queenb22 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus is characterized quite differently from the other adults in the story. It seems the author purposely sets him apart for the purpose of making him seem more open minded to the social and cultural atmosphere of the time. Racial and cultural tensions are made obvious and Atticus is clearly the "reasoning mind" behind the madness. This proves to be an almost nurturing quality. He is able to be both patient and keep the peace because of this quality. Although their home life is not "conventional" of the time, being that Atticus works much of the time and there is no mother, the kids seem very well adjusted and obviously take on Atticus's open-minded ways. For example, when Scout is so intrigued by her recluse of a neighbor, although there is the possibility of danger, she is able to give this stranger the benefit of the doubt. This is a trait she received from Atticus. Atticus puts himself at odds from his friends and colleagues by choosing to represent a black man. He refuses to let that hostility stop him from defending someone he believes is innocent and would otherwise not get a fair trial simply because of the color of his skin. When tensions arise because of his decision to defend a black man, Atticus refuses to take the hostility personally, taking the problem in stride without getting offended and keeping patient with his narrow minded friends because he knows they are only acting the way they have been taught from a segregated society.

sfasdfas | Student

one example is the way he reads to scout every night, he shows that even through his busy life being a lawyer he still has the time to read and care for his kids.

another example is the way he teaches scout and jem lessons that an average child would not necessarly know about.

gp217 | Student

The reader sees Atticus care for his family in many instances throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. His first priority for his children is education, especially reading. The reader sees this when Scout is asked to not read at home with her father by her first grade teacher. Atticus's reaction to this is not one of anger but one of concern and he resolves this by providing an alternate solution to not reading by reading and not telling Scout's teacher. He even goes out of his way to explain to Scout why her teacher may be behaving this way. He also shows he cares by protecting his family from the prejudices of the town. He does not encourage his children to fight and doesn't discourage them from spending time with Calpurnia their black housekeeper. In fact, his allowing his children to be exposed to the different cultures within their town shows not only his care for his family as well as his respect for the black community.

Lee uses Atticus's character to show morality and in doing so Atticus's actions show respect and good values. He respects his family's disapproval but follows his moral judgement in providing the best legal services to Tom Robinson. Atticus not only does the best he can at defending his client; he also sits in front of the jail to prevent the Cunningham clan from lynching Tom Robinson. Atticus is also very polite to Mayella Ewell on the stand during questioning, to which she responds as his mocking her.

njfabris | Student

Atticus's actions in To Kill a Mockingbird (and I must say, well-played by Gregory Peck in the only movie that I have ever seen of a book that is worth its salt) clearly indicate that he is a man of integrity steeped so strongly in his ideals that every thing he does and every interaction that he has with others demonstrates his ethics.  He cares deeply for his children and wants them to have a childhood, but also balance their carefree childhood with the enormity of the life lesson presented to them.  He does not want his children at the trial for the former reason, but also we get a sense that he is proud of them for wanting to be there.  

 Although stoic, he tells his children stories and talks to them about the goings on in town with calm candor.  He embodies what it is, consequences and all, to stand up against a wrong, even when the wrong is the popular opinion.  Atticus Finch (via Harper Lee) provides a complex portrait of the difficult balance of protecting one's children and speaking up for what is right.     

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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