What are quotes that describe Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, quotes that describe Atticus include the children’s comments on his parenting. These observations are often connected with quotes from Atticus on subjects such as empathy and courage. Other characters’ descriptions often refer to his abilities, such as sharpshooting, and his integrity, such as his reasons for not using that skill.

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Because To Kill a Mockingbird is told by Scout Finch, many descriptions of her father, Atticus, are from her perspective. She also provides comments about him from her brother, Jem. As the novel progresses, the children gain more opportunities to learn about their father from other townspeople. From the advice that he gives them as a parent, the reader learns the qualities he embodies and the values he wants to impart.

After a disastrous start to school, Scout complains to her father about the teacher having criticized her for knowing how to read. Scout’s view is that the teacher is wrong, but Atticus encourages her to consider the other person’s perspective. At numerous other points in the novel, he repeats this advice. This conversation describes him as a caring parent who listens to his daughter and especially as an empathetic person. Atticus tells Scout,

If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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.

Scout and Jem think their father—a lawyer who works in an office—is “old” and not strong. She says, “Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty.” When he kills a rabid dog, they learn that he is a sharpshooter. Conversations with adults reveal that he is not only talented but humble and fair. Sheriff Tate and their neighbor Miss Maudie reveal that his former nickname was “One-Shot Finch.” Miss Maudie also says that shooting was “a gift of God” and that he

put down his gun when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things.

Another quote describing Atticus shows him trying to teach the children about courage. Atticus had ordered Jem to spend time with their neighbor Mrs. Dubose after Jem behaved rudely. After she dies, Atticus explains to the children that she had been seriously ill and fighting dependency on pain medicine.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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