In what ways does Atticus show self-control in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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Atticus Finch’s character is defined by the words, “self-control”.  It is probably one of the best descriptions of how Atticus handles all the situations in the novel.  Atticus shows self-control when dealing with his children, Scout and Jem.  He is almost undemonstrative in his discipline and the lessons he teaches Scout and Jem.  He is extremely patient with the children, and he tries to guide them firmly but logically.  This demeanor is seen when he teaches Scout about “living in another person’s skin” after she embarrasses Walter Cunningham when he pours syrup over his lunch.  Atticus is calm when he learns about Jem’s and Dill’s adventures to see Boo Radley and ask him out for ice cream.  He is even tempered and fair.  As a lawyer, he is also a listener who doesn’t jump to conclusions without seriously thinking through the problem.

Atticus shows the most self-control during the trial of Tom Robinson.  He knows what he is up against in the trial and feels he will lose the case due to the racism in Maycomb.  He, however, calmly questions Mayella Ewell trying to get to the truth without embarrassing her.  His closing statement to the jury is logical and purposeful laying out the evidence proving Tom is innocent.  He doesn’t resort to anger or character defamation.  It is not in his nature to be disrespectful.

Finally, Atticus shows self-control in the final scenes when Jem and Scout are attacked by Bob Ewell.  He does not panic, but is concerned and loving.  He also realizes that Boo Radley will be prosecuted for the murder until Heck Tate decides to claim that Ewell fell on his own knife.  He is thankful for that and shows his steady concern for what the future might hold for Boo.

Some other events that show Atticus’s self-control could include:

  • Shooting the rabid dog
  • Protecting Tom outside the jail from the lynching mob.
  • Telling Tom Robinson’s wife about Tom’s death.

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