Harper Lee shows readers all of the characters in Maycomb through the eyes of a young child, Scout Finch. Readers see how characters interact with Scout; we share in what Scout sees, hears, and experiences. Early in the novel, Scout describes Atticus as a reserved older man. Her relationship with her father seems distant in some ways; this is particularly demonstrated by the fact that both Scout and Jem call their father by his first name: Atticus.
Scout begins chapter 10 with the exaggerated lines,
"Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty. . . . Our father didn't do anything. . . . Besides that, he wore glasses. He did not do the things our schoolmates' fathers did: he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke. He sat in the living room and read."
Scout thought that her father was a very old, boring, and weak individual at the start of the story. Though Atticus is far from actually being feeble, Scout recognizes that he is older than many of her friends' fathers. Additionally, Atticus considers himself too old to play football, a very common southern past time. He tells her he would "break his neck if he did, he was too old for that sort of thing" (ch. 10).
Scout does not appreciate her father's differences from the rest of his community at the start of the novel. She wishes he demonstrated his strength and bravery by going hunting and playing football. Scout summarizes her early thoughts about her father in a conversation with Miss Maudie:
"Atticus can't do anything." (ch. 10)
Atticus seems to doubt his own strength and abilities at times. For instance, when Mr. Heck Tate asks Atticus to shoot the rabid dog (Tim Johnson), Atticus responds,
"I haven't shot a gun in thirty years—" (ch. 10)
Like Scout, Atticus seems to doubt his own strength in this scene. However, soon later he shows great confidence in defending Tom Robinson. Unlike the film version, which shows Atticus reluctantly accepting the case, Atticus boldly decides to defend Tom Robinson, despite the town's dislike of his decision. He explains to Scout:
"I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man. . . . The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." (ch. 11)
While Scout may not understand or appreciate her father's differences early on, she begins to see his boldness and moral strength throughout the rest of the novel. Atticus shows Scout that it isn't a person's physical strength but his/her moral strength that matters most. By the end of the story, after seeing her dad defend Tom Robinson despite popular opinions, Scout learns to appreciate her father's moral strength. Additionally, readers see more and more moments that show the closeness between Atticus, Scout, and Jem. Though the children call their father by his first name, which is unusual, they clearly have a close relationship. One scene where this is seen is in chapter 26 when Scout tries to climb into her father's lap when she needs comfort:
I wanted Atticus . . . I went to him and tried to get in his lap. Atticus smiled. "You're getting so big now, I'll just have to hold a part of you." He held me close.
Both Scout and Jem go to their father to discuss their questions and to be comforted as they face several hard experiences. As the novel progresses, both children learn to respect their father all the more. As Atticus resists the popular opinions of Maycomb to defend Tom Robinson, the children learn to admire Atticus's great strength of character.