Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Dolphus Raymond tells Scout,"Your pa is not a run-of-the-mill man," in To Kill a Mockingbird. Explain what you think he means by this. Also, give detailed references to Atticus's words and actions to show that it is true.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Dolphus Raymond tells Scout that Atticus is not a "run-of-the-mill man" because he recognizes and admires her father's integrity and willingness to follow his conscience by challenging racial inequality. Throughout the novel, Atticus continually displays his courage, tolerance, and integrity by defending vulnerable individuals, confronting racial prejudice, and valiantly standing up for what he believes in.

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Atticus is certainly not a "run-of-the-mill" man, which is something that Dolphus Raymond recognizes and shares with Scout outside of the courthouse. Atticus possesses several distinct qualities that make him different from his prejudiced neighbors and peers. Primarily, Dolphus is referencing Atticus's integrity and courage to defend a black man in a court of law. Unlike the majority of Maycomb's population, Atticus is not prejudiced and believes in racial equality. Atticus not only believes in racial equality, but is willing to challenge racial injustice by valiantly defending Tom Robinson and exposing Bob and Mayella as liars. Although Atticus is a composed, tolerant man, he has no sympathy for anyone willing to cheat a black person. In chapter 23, Atticus tells Jem,

As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash (224).

Atticus's integrity and willingness to remain true to himself is another admirable, distinct quality he possesses. Atticus's decision to defend Tom despite the community's negative reaction illustrates his integrity. Atticus attempts to teach Scout the importance of following her conscience in chapter 11 by saying,

Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience (108).

In addition to exercising integrity and demonstrating courage in the face of adversity, Atticus is also a tolerant, sympathetic individual. Rather than argue or challenge those who disagree with him, Atticus keeps his composure and treats his neighbors with respect. For example, Atticus encourages Jem to not get upset with Mrs. Dubose and tells him,

She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad (103).

Atticus also forgives Walter Cunningham for leading a hostile lynch mob that threatened Tom's life and his family's safety. In chapter 16, Atticus tells the children,

Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man...he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us (159).

Overall, Dolphus Raymond acknowledges that Atticus is not a "run-of-the-mill man" and admires his honesty, integrity, and courage in the face of adversity.

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Primarily, Mr. Raymond refers to the integrity of Atticus Finch, who despite the "disease of Maycomb," its racial prejudice, accepts the assignment of defending Tom Robinson against the accusations of a white woman.  He does this knowing that he will be personally subjected to ridicule while realizing that his children will be subject to insults and ridicule, as well.

In all his actions, Atticus displays a sterling character.  Even though Mrs. Dubose insults Atticus, calling him a "n-lover," he is a gentleman to her, speaking to her daily.  He...

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makes Jem repay the old woman for cutting her flowers by reading to her after school and on Saturdays.  When, in anger against Miss Caroline, Scout suggests that she could not attend school just as the Ewell children do, rather than disparage the Ewells, Atticus diplomatically explains that the

Ewells were members of an exclusive society made up of Ewells. In certain circumstances the common folk judiciously allowed them certain privileges by the simple method of becoming clean to some of the Ewells' activities.

Then, Atticus explains that Scout is "of the common folk," and "must obey the law."  Then, the wise and judicious Atticus applies this "agreement reached by mutual concessions" to Scout's situation.  He tells her,

'If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have.  Is it a bargain?'

That he is judicious with his own family is evidenced after the "disaster" that occurs when Scout's relatives come for Christmas dinner.  When her cousin Francis hurls invectives at her and about Atticus, Scouts retaliates and is spanked by her uncle Jack.  Scout tells her uncle,

'You never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it--you just lit right into me.  When Jem an' I fuss Atticus doesn't ever just listen to Jem's side of it, er hears mine, too'....

Atticus Finch proves repeatedly that he is a Christian in the true sense of the word, not like the sanctimonious fundamentalists who quote scripture to Miss Maudie outside her house.  He is a model of tolerance and understanding. He charitably tells the children not to bother the Radleys and metaphorically explains that "it is a sin to kill a mockingbird."    When Tom Robinson, one of the "mockingbirds" of the novel is in prison and the angry mob wants to serve their "justice" upon him, Atticus places himself between the mob and Tom's jail cell, insisting that Tom have a fair trial.  Of course, at the actual trial, Atticus does everything that he can to service justice.  The crowd in the balcony realizes this and everyone stands when Atticus leaves the courtroom.

At the end of the novel, the sheriff, Heck Tate, says, "Mister Finch, hold on...Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell."  To this, Atticus replies,

'Heck it's mighty kind of you and I know you're doing it from that good heart of yours, but don't start anything like that.'

Again, with this sense of fairness, Atticus here asks for no favors for his son, believing that Jem has committed a serious act. He tells the sheriff.

'I don't want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don't want anybody saying, 'Jem Finch ...his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that.'  Sooner we get this over with the better....Heck, I can't live one way in town and another way in my home.

Truly, Atticus Finch is a man committed to his principles.

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