What are Atticus's values in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Atticus has a number of values that reflect his characteristics of being a nearly perfect symbol of virtue. He values justice, compassion, and respect for his fellow man. Most of all, however, Atticus places a high value on empathy, always making the effort to walk a mile in other people's...

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Atticus has a number of values that reflect his characteristics of being a nearly perfect symbol of virtue. He values justice, compassion, and respect for his fellow man. Most of all, however, Atticus places a high value on empathy, always making the effort to walk a mile in other people's shoes before casting judgement. He even does this when it is extraordinarily inconvenient for him, such as in the case of the Ewells or the citizens of Maycomb who condemn him.

Atticus is beset on all sides by characters who are quick to cast judgement, even the characters in the book that are better examples of morality. It is for this reason that while he understands his children's curiosity in regard to Boo Radley, he soon has little patience for their tendency to mythologize the man. More than anything, Atticus attempts to impress upon his children the value of communication and understanding over judgement and presumption.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is able to pass on his beliefs and wisdom to Scout and Jem.  Primarily, Atticus believes in justice, respect, and empathy for others.  We see that Atticus believes in justice when he fervently defends Tom Robinson for the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell.  Atticus also protects Tom at the jail when a mob comes to lynch him.  As a lawyer, Atticus has taken an oath to defend anyone who needs help. 

Atticus also teaches Jem and Scout about respecting other people and empathizing with people who are different or live in different circumstances than them.  This is seen in the episode with Scout making fun of Walter Cunningham for pouring syrup all over his lunch.  Atticus tries to explain the poverty Walter lives in by having Scout imagine what it is like to walk around in another’s skin.  Scout learns a valuable lesson about empathizing with others, and she takes this lesson to the end of the novel with her acceptance of Boo.  Jem also learns this lesson when he agrees to read to Mrs. DuBose as she battles her addiction to opiates.  Both children become more respectful and more intuitive of other's situations.

Atticus can be seen as a literary hero who is also a moral compass for his family as well as his readers.  His unflinching character and values are in opposition to someone like Bob Ewell whose ignorance Atticus attempts to defeat.

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Atticus is an intelligent, compassionate and fair-minded man, and he generally bases all of his decision-making from these personal traits. His long family history is one motivation that makes him want the best for Maycomb. He serves as the local representative to the Alabama legislature, but certainly not out of a need for power or wealth--the prime motivations of most politicians today. He runs unopposed each term, probably in part because the community knows he is the best man for the job; the fact that no one else decides to run probably leaves him believing that has no choice but to fulfill the wishes of Maycomb's population. Honesty and justice are two traits in which Atticus believes strongly. He talks to his children in an open manner and answers all of their questions forthrightly. He believes that all men--black and white--should be treated equally and fairly, and that a courtroom is the ultimate setting for unbiased judgment. He does not react to situations reflexibly, but instead considers the implications of the act and the person before making a decision. His advice to Scout in Chapter 3 follows this ideology.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

 

 

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