What are Atticus's motivations, values, and reactions to situations in To Kill a Mockingbird?
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."