A deeply prejudiced society needs a person willing to fight against the norm to begin to exact fairness. In the transition to a more equal society following the Civil War, white people in the South resisted the end of the hierarchy that had existed between the whites and the blacks. The novel To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in the town of Maycomb, Alabama where racism features prominently in daily lifestyle. Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the town, decides to take up a case where a black man, Tom Robinson, stands accused of raping a white woman. This unprecedented action causes controversy in Maycomb because it disrupts the caste system.
In her novel, Harper Lee uses the characterization of Atticus Finch to show that a dynamic figure whose status as a leader in both his community and his family along with his strong personal beliefs is necessary to help better his misguided community. In the novel, Atticus serves as a father figure to his children by teaching them important moral values and by treating them in a straightforward fashion. After her first grade teacher, Miss Caroline, reprimands her for knowing too much about reading, Scout tells Atticus she wants to quit school.
Atticus responds to her, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. ” (pg. 39) Atticus tries to help Jem and Scout understand the importance of perspective. When Atticus takes Tom Robinson’s case, he warns his children that the other kids might harass them at school, but he urges them to take the moral high ground. He advises Scout that she should simply “Just hold your head high and keep those fists down.
No matter what anyone says to you, don’t let ‘em get your goat. ” (pg. 01) Atticus believes in teaching his children that if a person acts in accordance with what he considers the right thing to do, the opinions of others do not matter. Atticus’ brother, Jack, refuses to explain to Scout what a “whore-lady” is, and Atticus scolds Jack, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake, but don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. ” (pg. 116) Atticus believes in direct approach when dealing with children and encourages his brother to do the same.
In always treating his children with respect and authenticity, Atticus subtly passes on important moral values that will help them grow and learn to be better people. Atticus also acts as a father figure to the community by serving as an example of an ethical person who treats everyone equally. When Miss Maudie condemns other on the street for trying to hide their vices, she defends Atticus, asserting that “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets. ” (pg. 61)
Regarding all people on the same level gives him influence in the community because people respect his authenticity and moral character. o, how does the quote show you’re this understanding (this is what you need to explain). Atticus even extends his courtesy and respect to people who are considered unworthy of notice in the caste system. During the trial, Atticus treats Mayella Ewell with so much respect that she feels mocked, leading Scout to speculate, “I wondered if anybody had ever called her ‘ma’am,’ or ‘Miss Mayella’ in her life. ” (pg. 244) Mayella rarely receives such courteous treatment, due to her white trash status in Maycomb, so she cannot understand somebody being genuinely polite to her.
Atticus’ influence in the community becomes apparent in that the people of the county have entrusted him with the responsibility of representing them in the state legislature. When Scout asks Atticus why he chooses to defend Tom Robinson’s case, he explains to her that “If I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in the town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again. ” (pg. 100) Atticus strives to live up to the honor and respect that the members of his community have for him by remaining morally upstanding even in controversial situations.
By treating everybody equally, Atticus set the bar for other in Maycomb. Atticus makes a huge impact on Maycomb by opposing social inequality, especially by taking the case of Tom Robinson. Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus a nigger-lover when he takes on Tom’s case, and when Scout asks Atticus what the term means, he says “Scout, nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything… ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. (pg. 144) Atticus doesn’t let the harsh comments of others get to him, and treats their words as ones unworthy of his time.
Aunt Alexandra later attempts to convince Atticus to fire Calpurnia, but Atticus defends Cal, and says “Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to - you may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have got along without her all these years. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are. (pg. 182) Atticus blatantly counters Alexandra’s wish, showing the respect and appreciation he holds for Calpurnia, and even regard her as a member of the family. In addressing the jury in his final argument, Atticus states “You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women – black or white.
But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. (pg. 273) Atticus views Tom not as a black man, but simply as a man, showing his ability to see past the color of one’s skin. When Atticus views others like this, he sets an example for the other people in the town. Harper Lee’s novel shows that a community whose values are deluded requires a prominent figure in that area and who can accept judgment and criticism with an open heart and feels willing to help them change.
Atticus remains a well-respected man in Maycomb until he takes the case of Tom Robinson, which turns everyone against him. But Atticus waves off their judgment and treats them with kindness and respect anyway, subtly pushing the town in a new direction – one of acceptance of equality. Though it may seem difficult to endure the anger and denigration of an entire society, it is often necessary to do so in order to make a change in a stubborn group of people.