What is a physical description of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Atticus Finch is physically described as a tall, bespectacled man, with black hair that is turning grey and features that are "square-cut."

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Not much is said in To Kill a Mockingbird about Atticus Finch’s appearance. I would argue that the author would far rather that we focus on Atticus’s brave, wise, compassionate, and fair nature than on what he looks like.

However, we do get a couple of visual cues in chapter fifteen, where Atticus is described as having “graying black hair and square-cut features.” The reason for Scout providing a description of her father here is to draw attention to the vast differences between Atticus and his son, Jem. Later, in chapter 29, Atticus is described as having “gray patches growing at his temples.” Here, we are also told that Atticus was starting to show his age, with the “strong line of his jaw” being slightly less pronounced than before.

Prior to this, in chapter 10, we learn that Atticus wore glasses, and that he had almost no vision in his left eye. Atticus was therefore regularly to be seen turning his head, because if he wanted to look at something or somebody intently, he needed to do so using his right eye. Just before we learn that Atticus wears glasses, Scout describes her father as being “feeble.” While “feeble” is not a word that creates a vivid description, it helps to create an image of an older-than-average parent who, at least physically, is no longer in the prime of his life.

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In chapter 14, Scout notes that Atticus is a big guy but is agile for his size:

For a big man, Atticus could get up and down from a chair faster than anyone I ever knew. He was on his feet.

Atticus wears glasses. This is noted many times. It is mentioned when he shoots Tim Johnson (the dog) and his glasses slip off. At the end of chapter 13, his glasses slip again. In chapter 18, the glasses are mentioned again:

Atticus’s glasses had slipped a little, and he pushed them up on his nose.

His glasses are mentioned a few more times in this chapter. This frequent attention to his glasses suggests a few things. The image of glasses suggests, or in this case reinforces, his studious nature. They also suggest his age. And given his uncanny wisdom, fairness, and sense of justice, the glasses symbolize his ability to "see" the truth more clearly or more willingly.

Atticus's glasses might be the most frequently cited aspect of his physical appearance. In this case, they are a symbol of how truthfully and honestly he "sees" things.

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Oddly enough, little is revealed about the physical appearance of Atticus Finch. Perhaps Harper Lee has done this purposely so that the reader will focus on this man's character.

In some chapters, however, there are a few brief descriptions. For instance, in chapter 10, Scout states that Atticus is "feeble" because he is nearly fifty years old. He is much older than the parents of his children's classmates, and Atticus does not want to participate in such things as football. "I'm too old for that, son," he says when Jem wants Atticus to tackle him. Because he is nearly blind in his left eye, Atticus also wears glasses. Nevertheless, he is an accurate marksman.

It is in chapter 15 that a more detailed description of Atticus's face is provided. When the children show up at the mob scene, Atticus tells Jem to go home, but Jem does not budge. As they face each other, Scout narrates that she can see no resemblance between him and her father other than their resolute natures. 

Jem's soft brown hair and eyes, his oval face and snug-fitting ears were our mother's, contrasting oddly with Atticus's graying black hair and square-cut features (Ch.15).

Atticus is tall because when he and Sheriff Tate arrive, Scout states that Mr. Heck Tate "was as tall as Atticus, but thinner." Scout goes on to say that Sheriff Tate has a long nose, implying that Atticus's nose is much shorter.

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Although he is the most important character in To Kill a Mockingbird (aside from the narrator, Scout), Atticus is never described in great detail. As the previous post mentioned, Atticus is rather tall (probably over six feet), has black hair that is turning grey, and wears glasses because of an inherited family eye problem.

He was nearly blind in his left eye, and said left eyes were the tribal curse of the Finch family. Whenever he wanted to see something well, he turned his head and looked from his right eye.

Despite his age, which was older than most of Scout's fellow students' fathers, Atticus must have been in relatively good shape, since he rarely drove his car, preferring to walk each day to his office. During the trial, Scout tells the reader that Atticus never perspired, but now his face "was shining tan." Normally, Atticus never "loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime." But just prior to his final summation,

... he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat... this was the equivalent of him standing before us stark naked.


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