Atticus Finch is presented as a paragon of empathy throughout this novel. Empathy is a trait he exhibits at all times, and he constantly strives to teach it to his two children. There are numerous quotations from To Kill a Mockingbirdin which Atticus displays empathy.
Atticus sums up his...
Atticus Finch is presented as a paragon of empathy throughout this novel. Empathy is a trait he exhibits at all times, and he constantly strives to teach it to his two children. There are numerous quotations from To Kill a Mockingbird in which Atticus displays empathy.
Atticus sums up his position on empathy succinctly when he tells Scout that,
First of all, if you 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. (Chapter 3)
Atticus is adept at understanding other people, even people with vastly different life experiences. The key to this is empathy. To empathetically understand other people, Atticus suggests to Scout that she imagine herself as if she actually was that other person.
Atticus is even able to empathize with people who would insult and disparage him and his family. Mrs. Dubose, his crotchety ill-tempered neighbor has few kind words for Atticus and his children. However, Atticus urges Jem and Scout to always be respectful to her despite the abusive words that she hurls at them. Scout asks her father if the things that Mrs. Dubose and others call him are true. She asks if he really is a "n*****-lover". Atticus's response speaks volumes to his efforts to be empathetic:
I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody … I'm hard put sometimes—baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you. (Chapter 11)
Even the very last thing Atticus says in the book speaks to his feelings of the power of empathy. Scout is describing the events of the story that Atticus has been reading to her. Scout tells her dad that the main character of the story had not done anything bad even though the other characters thought he had. Instead, "he was real nice." To this, Atticus responds,
Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them. (Chapter 31)
This short line illustrates how Atticus strives to truly see people as they really are, not according to the judgments and prejudices of others.