In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Miss Maudie mean by saying "Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets?"
In Chapter Five of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is having a conversation with Miss Maudie Atkinson, the Finch family’s neighbor and friend. Scout admires Miss Maudie, and looks to her for explanations and advice regarding the events that surround her, including her father’s place in the community. When the subject turns to the mysterious figure of Arthur “Boo” Radley, Scout asks whether Miss Maudie thinks he is crazy, and whether people present different fronts depending upon their surroundings. Boo Radley, of course, is a reclusive figure whose life is the subject of constant speculation among the town’s people. Replying to the young girl’s question regarding Boo Radley’s sanity, Miss Maudie states, “If he’s not [crazy] he should be by now. The things that happen to people we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets-”
Scout, then, observes that her father never presents different personalities or appearances to different people, prompting Maudie’s observation regarding Atticus:
“Atticus don’t ever do anything to Jem and me in the house that he don’t do in the yard,” I said, feeling it my duty to defend my parent.
“Gracious child, I was raveling a thread, wasn’t even thinking about your father, but now that I am I’ll say this: Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.”
Miss Maudie is saying that Atticus is the same person on the street as he is in the privacy of his home. He is not a hypocrite who says one thing to one set of people in one setting, and says something different to a different set of people in another setting. The man you see in private settings is the man you see in public. Atticus, she is stating, is a genuine individual who treats everyone the same. He is not two-faced, and you can take him at his word.
The quote means that Atticus Finch does not change his feelings, personality and moral when he is in his house and when he is in public. In a small town like Maycomb County, rumors tend to travel fast, and everyone knows each others business, but the one place where rumors never spread are behind the closed doors to a house. But these rules do not apply to Atticus Finch, because he has nothing to hide, and he is the same great, caring person that he is when he is in the town center. Atticus is the same man wherever he goes, unlike a lot of people