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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are three quotes that characterize Atticus Finch?

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These quotes show that Atticus is empathetic, courageous, and principled.

When choosing quotes to represent character traits, you should look for quotes about the character or important things the character says.  These will help you support characteristics of the character’s personality.  Page numbers vary, but these are all near the end of their chapters.

Atticus is well-known for his empathy.  He cares about a black man when most people consider it beneath them.  This is why he defends Tom Robinson in the trial, because he is able to put himself in other people’s shoes.  When Scout has some trouble with her new teacher on the first day of school, Atticus explains to her that if she can learn empathy, she will get along with people better.

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-”

“Sir?”

“-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Ch. 3, p.33)

Atticus is a good father because he sets an example for his children, but also because he listens to them.  When Scout had trouble with Miss Caroline, Atticus turned it into an important life lesson. He knew that empathy was going to be extra important for Scout during the trial.

Courage is another important trait of Atticus.  Atticus demonstrates both physical and moral courage throughout the events of the book.  He explains his definition of courage to his children.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. (Ch. 11, p. 128)

Atticus is brave because he does his best to defend Tom Robinson even though he knows that there is no way a Maycomb court will acquit his client.  He does it because it is the right thing to do.  Atticus compares moral courage to facing physical danger with a gun, but Atticus does that too. He shoots the mad dog to protect the town.  Atticus also shows courage when facing the angry mob.

Finally, Atticus is principled.  That means that he has a strong moral code that he believes in and he sticks to it no matter what.  Atticus defends his principles along with his client in his closing arguments on the Tom Robinson case.

“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. … (Ch. 21, p. 234)

In a town where racism is a way of life, Atticus tries to explain to the jury and the audience that justice should be colorblind.  A case must be decided based on the facts and not an immediate conviction of a person based on color.

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