Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How is Atticus portrayed as a good father in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As described through the eyes of his daughter, Atticus is an exemplary father.

Atticus is a good father, first, because he raises his children to behave with commonsense and integrity rather than slavishly following social convention. For example, when Aunt Alexandra arrives, she is shocked that Atticus has not instilled in his children a respect for their Southern family heritage and pedigree. Atticus, however, believes that people should be judged on their own merits, not on the basis of the deeds of their ancestors, and passes that wisdom on to his children. He is also quiet about his own inborn talents, teaching his children it is wrong to flaunt them.

Atticus is a good father, too, in that he teaches his children to respect other people. He insists that the children obey Calpurnia, even though she is a black woman in a racist society. This is a contrast to Alexandra, who wants Calpurnia put in her place as a servant. Atticus also insists that the children interact with the hateful and difficult Mrs. Dubose so that they can learn what it is like to walk in other people's shoes and understand that difficult people can be courageous.

Atticus also sets firm boundaries for his children, for instance, forbidding them to harass Boo Radley. Atticus, however, is not a hovering, helicopter parent. He allows his children space to play, explore, and grow on their own.

Atticus teaches Jem and Scout to get along with other people in their society, but also to value who they are as individuals. For instance, he does not, as Aunt Alexandra would like, require that Scout dress and behave as a little lady. He has the wisdom to know his daughter needs to be herself and grow up in her own tomboyish way.

Finally, Atticus spends less time telling his children what is right than he does showing them how to live with integrity through the example of his own life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus has many qualities that make him a good father. Some of those qualities are:

  • He teaches his children to be fair and treat others, even those they dislike, with respect.
  • He is a good role model. He is a good man and well respected in Macomb. 
  • He educates his children not only by reading to them, but also by encouraging them to think for themselves. In this way he does not tell them what to think, but he teaches them how to think.
  • He is kind and respectful to his kids. While not an overly affectionate man, he is also not stern with Jem and Scout, nor critical. He gives them the respect he would give fellow adults.

Not only is Atticus Finch a good father, but throughout the novel he shows that he is a good man.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus Finch is a good father in many ways. He truly cares about his children and strives to be a good role model to them. He teaches them responsibility and morality by modeling the very behaviors they should strive for. For instance, he takes on Tom's case because it's the right thing to do. He defends Tom both in and out of the courtroom, which goes beyond his job as attorney. For instance, he sits in front of the jail to protect Tom, showing that it's important to help people—especially innocent people (mockingbirds) who haven't hurt anyone. Scout and Jem note their father's actions and recognize the lessons he attempts to teach them.

In addition to modeling behavior, Atticus actually talks to his children and is honest with them. When they ask questions, they are assured he will tell them the truth. He speaks to them, not at them, which is why they feel comfortable discussing difficult topics such as the trial, discrimination in the community, or the poverty of their neighbors. When Scout asks questions about Boo Radley, Atticus answers them. He corrects the children's misconceptions about the man, gently reminding them that his name is Arthur, not Boo, and deserves privacy and consideration. Also, when they question Mrs. Dubose's odd behavior and complain about how mean she is, Atticus tells them the truth about her morphine addiction. He does not treat them as simple children, but as young adults with reason and compassion.

While Atticus is always busy working, whatever time he spends with his children is quality time. For example, he sits at night reading with Scout or makes time for important discussions. He cares greatly about Jem and Scout, relying heavily on Calpurnia, and even Alexandra at times, to help him to raise them properly. He knows Calpurnia shares his morals and can be there for them in his absence. Although Atticus is not comfortable dealing with the day-to-day tasks of child rearing, he makes up for that in tackling difficult situations with them.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is a good father. He is a perfect example of a father who is an honest man, a father who is determined to teach his children the value of respecting all people, no matter the differences in mankind. Atticus Finch chooses to represent a black man who is accused of a crime he didn’t do.

 In the 1960s, in the deep South of Alabama, racism was widespread. The Civil Rights movement was forming during this time. Harper Lee introduces Atticus Finch to the world of literature, and today he still “…reigns as the most noble parent ever brought to life….” Truly, Atticus put himself into a dangerous situation. He chose to do the right thing in the face of a hostile community. As Atticus represents a black man accused of raping a white girl, many in the community assumed the black man was guilty solely because he was black. Atticus knew this mentality was wrong. Atticus proved that the black man was innocent, even though he knew that the jury would probably find the black man guilty, simply based on his skin color.

Throughout the trial, Scout and Jem observe their father and notice that he is in a dangerous situation. Atticus displays courage and integrity throughout the trial. His children learn about their father’s good character and his honorable qualities. Atticus chooses to represent an innocent black man even though he knows he will probably lose the trial. Nevertheless, he knows he has to try and change the way society views black people based only on skin color. Atticus is an exceptional parent and role model. He chooses to put himself at risk along side of his children. He knows this is the right thing to do. He teaches his children that life involves making difficult decisions. He does not cower in the face of trouble. He holds his head high in the community because he knows he is doing the right thing. This lesson becomes evident in front of his children. They learn courage. They learn to respect all people. They learn that doing the right thing is not easy but it has to be done.

Surely, Atticus is an exemplary father. He realizes that he must choose to do the right thing so that his children will learn that having integrity is not always easy, but it is more important than hiding behind closed doors while innocent people suffer. Atticus makes a stand, and his children follow in his footsteps. They become children who see the value in all people regardless skin color or social class status. The lesson that Atticus’ children learn will go with them through life. Jem and Scout will learn the importance of esteeming others as worthy regardless of differences.

Atticus has a difficult task as a father. He chooses to represent an innocent black man while knowing he is putting himself and his own children at risk. Atticus hates no one, not even the cruel Bob Ewell. He realizes that Ewell is product of his environment; however, Atticus chooses to do the right thing by shredding Ewell’s credibility at the trial. When Ewell spits in Atticus face and threatens his very life, Atticus chooses to walk away rather than fight. Again his children learn bravery through their father’s self control. Atticus teaches real-life lessons that his children need to learn—lessons that his children will never forget--valuable, scrupulous teachings from a truly wise and loving father.       

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus is shaping his children, with the aid of Calpurnia, with great aplomb. His most consistent message involves the development of empathy in his children. He shapes them to take the perspective of life from the other, especially the downtrodden and weak. He allows his children to make mistakes and corrects them sternly and fairly. Scout is especially shown to grow out of her sense of ego-centrism. She is guided to view the Cunningham's with respect, Calpurnia with pride, Boo Radley with empathy and the Ewells with understanding.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Atticus Finch show good parenting in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Atticus was an effective parent because he lead by example. Where many parents can "tell" their children how to behave and to treat others equally, Atticus "practiced what he preached." He was a kind and giving man, who encouraged his children to view human beings equally and to treat them as such. Good parenting is also portrayed in Atticus's dedication to his children as a single parent. During a time period where the parenting often fell to either the mother or to a member of hired help, Atticus had as active a role as possible in the raising of his children. His career dominated his time (by necessity), but where he was able, he gave of himself and his time freely and unconditionally to his children.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Atticus Finch show good parenting in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Atticus makes do as well as he can as a single parent in To Kill a Mockingbird. His honest, sincere approach to rearing his children have made him one of the most admired fathers in American Literature. Without a female influence in the family, he is sensible enough to employ Calpurnia, and disregard his sister's advice to fire her. Calpurnia offers the children a firm feminine side, and they gain respect for the African-American community of Maycomb in the process. Atticus teaches his children the importance of education (even though he did not go to school himself); of the need for tolerance when dealing with other people; and that a humble and peaceful nature is preferable to physical violence. He teaches Scout not to use the "N" word, and teaches Jem about true courage. His humility is never more evident than when the children discover that he was once the "deadest shot" in the county, but that he never bragged about it. Above all, he teaches by example, and Jem and Scout bear witness to the good aspects of their father even when they think he is "feeble."

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why is Atticus such a good father in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Atticus, as a single father, has a difficult job, especially since there are so many undesirable influences on Jem and Scout in the community. However, he excels at parenting and, with the help of Calpurnia, is raising wise and honorable children.

At first, Atticus seems distant, allowing his children free-reign for much of the time. Calpurnia seems to bear the brunt of being the disciplinarian. She is responsible for the daily tasks, while Atticus seems just to show up to deal with the larger issues.

Yet it is in these larger issues that Atticus shines forth. Atticus is developing their character and their moral worldview. Rather than focusing on surface issues, Atticus delves to the foundation, the moral basis for decisions to be made. Rather than dealing with the "irritation" factor of the children's bothering Boo Radley, he teaches them to see the dignity of Boo, rather than his strangeness that makes him such a butt of all the jokes. He teaches them the inherent value of all people--Boo, Tom Robinson, etc. He develops empathy, so that Jem and Scout are able to draw themselves out of their self-centeredness and view people in light of the battles they have fought, won, and at times lost.

Atticus treats each child as an individual, meeting them on their own terms. He treats Jen differently from Scout, not because he is a boy, but because he is Jem and is different from Scout. He has the ability to see deep into his children's character, tap into their strengths to allow them to shine forth, as well as dealing with their weaknesses.

Atticus is an excellent parent because he is realizes he is not raising children, he is raising potential adults.  The joys of childhood are a preparation for being a responsible, honorable grown-up, and it is their later lives, not the passing whims of childhood, that Atticus is concerned with developing. He views childhood as a time for learning, and play is for learning's sake, not just for play's sake. Everything is a lesson. Therefore, it can be said that it is not so much that Atticus is an excellent father, but that he is an excellent teacher. But perhaps that's what parenting is all about after all.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is Atticus Finch a good person?

Atticus Finch, Harper Lee's creation in her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is one of the quintessential good guys in all of literature. Based on the author's own father, Atticus, though a single parent, is a superb dad to Jem and Scout (though his sister, Alexandra, may disagree). He allows his children enough independence to discover the realities of life and make decisions on their own. As an attorney, he is peerless. Real-life lawyers actually use Finch as a standard for the profession. His innate honesty and fairness in all aspects of work and life are recognized by all around him. He seems to be color-blind, treating all races and classes alike. The ideas that he passes on to his children, especially the famed quotes from the story--that "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" and to "climb into his skin and walk around in it"--have become a part of the American vernacular.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How is Atticus Finch a good person?

Atticus Finch is a very good person.  He is so much more humane and fair minded than most of the other people in Maycomb.  He is trying to teach his kids how to be the same way.  In a society that was full of racism and arrogance based on who their ancestors were, Atticus lacks either of those bad characteristics.

Contrast him with Aunt Alexandra, for example.  She is so snobby -- she thinks she's better than everyone because of her family name.  Atticus doesn't feel that way.

Look at all the other people, even Mr. Cunningham -- they are ready to lynch Tom.  Atticus stands up for him.

So Atticus treats people like people and he teaches his kids to do the same.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What makes Atticus Finch such a good father?

Atticus is just and fair.  He doesn't judge people based on race, gender, or other aspect of their being.  What's more, he teaches his children to be the same way.

He is also an excellent role model in society--not just for his own kids, but for adults as well.  This is to be respected and honored since it took immense courage to be this way in the time period of history in which this story is set.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What makes Atticus Finch such a good father?

Atticus is a good father for several reasons.  First, he is honest with his children.  He treats them as equals and doesn't really try to shelter them.  Instead of sugar coating the trail, he is honest with Jem and Scout about it.  One of my favorite examples of this is when he explain to the children how he had to take the Robinson case because if he didn't, he couldn't expect them to ever mind him again.  He always practices what he preaches.

Second, he is empathetic.  He always reminds the children to not judge someone until they have tried to see things from another person's point of view.  Look at how Atticus handled Jem's run in with Mrs. Dubose.  Or how he calmly reacts to Bob Ewell spitting in his face.  He is always trying to set a good example for his kids.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What do you consider the qualities in Atticus that makes him such a good father to Jem and Scout?

There are two other qualities that make him not only a "good father" but a great father.  He is honest with his kids.  He never sugar-coats anything to them.  When Scout asks what "rape" was, rather than getting flustered like Uncle Jack did, he gave her the clinical definition of it.  He told Jack that when a child asks you a question, you answer it.  It's that simple.  He treated them with respect by being completely honest.  He told them what they needed to know, and didn't make a "production" of it.

The second and perhaps the more important of the two qualities was teaching them courage.  He didn't want the children to think that "a man with a gun in his hand" was courage.  He was referring to when he had to shoot the dog.  That wasn't necessarily courage.  He told them that true courage was

"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. Mrs. Dubose won, all 98 pounds of her."

Both of those qualities make Atticus a wonderful father and a teacher at the same time.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What do you consider the qualities in Atticus that makes him such a good father to Jem and Scout?

There are several reasons why Atticus is a good father to Jem and Scout.  The one that stands out the most to me is his conversation with Scout about walking in other's shoes and how you never get a total feel for someone until you look at things from another's perspective.  He gives his children wise, sage advice.  He's not your traditional father in the sense that he doesn't play football with the other dads at his church; but he teaches them through example.  He could have turned down the Tom Robinson case but he didn't -- he didn't want to set that example for his children.  He reads with Scout every night.  When she comes home from kindergarten upset that she could no longer read because she would get into trouble, he didn't tell her that she was being foolish -- he listened to her and responded accordingly -- making a compromise.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What made Atticus Finch a good father in To Kill a Mockingbird?I need three examples.

Atticus is a wise, intelligent single parent who tries to lead by example when it comes to raising and educating his children. During a talk with his brother, Jack (which Atticus allows Scout to deliberately overhear), Atticus tells him that

"I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town... I just hope they trust me enough..."

Although he is a busy man with his law practice and frequent visits to Montgomery for legislative sessions, he spends as much time as possible with his kids. He reads to Scout every night, even after her teacher, Miss Caroline, suggests they stop this practice. He stresses the importance of education (teaching Scout to read at a very early age) even though he did not attend school himself. He employs Calpurnia to watch over them while he is at work. He pays attention to their outside activities even when the children do not realize he is watching. He gives them a great deal of independence, hoping that they will learn about life through experience. And he teaches them not to pre-judge people, suggesting that they "climb into his skin and walk around in it" first in order to understand differing ideas and opinions.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some examples in To Kill a Mockingbird as to what makes Atticus a good father?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus teaches by words and example. In Chapter 23, when Jem is worried about Bob Ewell exacting revenge, Atticus teaches him to think from Bob Ewell's perspective. "So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take." Rather than retaliate, Atticus considers how his pacifism might benefit Mayella. Atticus always considers things objectively and he always considers how others might think and/or be affected by what he says and does. 

Atticus does the same thing with Mrs. Dubose in Chapter 11. Even though Mrs. Dubose makes hateful and racist comments about him and is generally an unpleasant person, Atticus is still able to consider her position. At the end of the chapter, after Atticus tells Jem she's died, he calls her "the bravest person I ever knew" because she chose to break her addiction to morphine even though she knew she was going to die. 

This is a consistent theme in the book, one largely portrayed and described by Atticus. That is to consider the perspective of others despite what you may think of them. Atticus is also the moral backbone in town and this is why he's chosen to represent Tom. He is a good father because he never contradicts himself; he never says things like "do as I say, not as I do" because his words and actions are consistently guided by logic and morality. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on