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

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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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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