To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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What is Atticus's opinion of the n-word in To Kill a Mockingbird? 

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Inuk Lee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a good question. In order to understand Atticus's point of view, we need to know something about his culture. 

We need to remember that Atticus is culturally situated in the south during a time when racism was common. Therefore, to expect Atticus to have our view of race now is to be anachronistic and unfair. That said, we can say that Atticus was far ahead of his time by defending Tom Robinson. 

Second, we can say that Atticus did not care for the word. When Scout used it in front of him, Atticus forbade her to use that word. The reason he gives is interesting though. He does not forbid her to use the word based on principle, but because it is "common." He feels as though he is "higher" or better than the people around him. 

This, of course, is not to say that Atticus was not noble; he was in many important ways. All I am saying is that Atticus was a product of his time. Here is the text:

Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem.

“What’d he mean sayin‘ that?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Jem said. “Ask Atticus, he’ll tell you.”

“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.

“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”

“From now on it’ll be everybody less one—”

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