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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Explain how Harper Lee presents Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, referring closely to the text.

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Harper Lee presents Atticus as a complex man who cares about people and wants to think the best of them.

Atticus is an older man raising his young daughter and son on his own in the Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression.  I guess that would make anyone a philosopher!

Atticus has some unusual views on parenting.  His children call him Atticus instead of Dad or Father (although they do call him sir).  He does use corporal punishment, but constantly threatens to whip his children.  He does not teach them that they are better than others.  He does not want them to feel superior, even though they come from an old respectable family.

Atticus is of strong moral character.  He has a dense sense of personal responsibility, and the most important thing to him is raising his children this way.  He tells his children that God is “loving folks like you love yourself” (Chapter 5).  He encourages empathy in his children.

As Atticus had once advised me to do, I tried to climb into Jem’s skin and walk around in it. (chapter 7)

The entire town seems to look up to Atticus.  He proves his bravery when he shoots the rabid dog,  and the lynchmob.  Miss Maudie says:

“If Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best.” (chapter 5)

Atticus’s morals extend to him defending a black man even when it is very unpopular.  Atticus respect everyone, and is clearly not racist.  He also believes in justice.  When Scout asks Atticus why he chooses to defend Tom Robinson, he answers that he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t.

“The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.” (chapter 9)

So he takes a case he knows he is going to use, and does his best.  This shows that Atticus is strong as well as moral.


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How does Harper Lee present Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird? Refer closely to the text.

Initially she presents Boo as someone to fear. He  presents him through stories and myth.  Scout thinks he is

".... six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained....... There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time." (pg 13)

When the children asked Atticus about him, Atticus would just say to mind their own business and leave him alone.  So they had to get their information from Miss Stephanie Crawford. Supposedly, according to Ms. Crawford, Boo had been cutting articles from The Maycomb Tribune.  When his father walked by him, he stuck his scissors into his father's leg.  Then he went back to cutting out his articles. Boo was thirty-three years old then.  Boo is...

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presented a having mental problems and kept at home because they didn't want to jail him with the Negroes and the basement of the jail was too damp.

He is kept a secret throughout the book, but the children receive little presents left in a tree trunk and it is INFERRED that they came from him. 

At the end of the book, Boo kills Mr. Ewell when he attacks the children.  The sheriff believes he was a hero for doing that but doesn't want to let the rest of the town to know because

"If it were any other man, it'd be different.  But not this man, Mr. Finch" (pg 276)

At the end of the book, the reader sees Scout take Boo, or Arthur as he is really named, by the hand and lead him out to the porch. 

"Feeling slightly unreal, I led him to the chair farthest from ATticus and Mr. Tate.  I was in deep shadow.  Boo would feel more comforatble in the dark." (pg 273).

At the end of the book, Boo has transformed from his horrible myth the children had imagined to a meek, quiet man who protected the children and saved their lives.

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