This sample paper on What Makes Atticus A Good Father offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.
In this essay I am going to address the way in which Atticus Finch is portrayed as a character, but also as a symbol for humanity and a way for the authors possibly radical ideas to be conveyed in Harper Lee’s novel “To kill a Mockingbird”.
Atticus is one of the main characters in the play and novel and is also the strongest and most complex figure to study. As a father, lawyer and member of the community, Atticus plays many roles, all very similar, yet all different.
As a father Atticus is truthful, fair and never patronises his children, Jean Louise (Scout) and Jem. He acts as both a father and a teacher to them, educating them in the social and moral expectations and etiquettes of their society.
He treats them with respect and wants them to understand why things happen in the community, what is wrong with society and how to try and change them and improve themselves at the same time.
Atticus didn’t believe in spoiling his children or shouting at them and believed in respect between himself and his children. Honesty and self respect were very important to Atticus and in order to be able to tell his children what to do or to enable him to order them about, he firstly had to prove to himself that he was doing the right thing, and that he could hold his head up high in the community, for example in taking the case of Tom Robinson: ” The main reason… not do something again”
Atticus needed to be able to live with other people, and gain their respect by doing what he knew was right before he could live with himself and take control of other people’s lives, especially his children’s.
He needed them to see what the difference was between the fine line of right and wrong and show that he carried through his own teachings. Atticus needed to show the children what he called ‘ Real courage’ and in taking Tom Robinson’s case he knew it was the right thing to do, to stand up for something he believed in even though he knew he would lose the case before he started.
However, the important thing to Atticus was to give it his best shot and to give his very best to try to help some one worse off than himself, especially as Tom was a black man, showing that he was a man of principles and someone who wasn’t hypocritical about his beliefs. In the early stages of the play, Scout and Jem are doubtful of their father’s abilities, as he is different to other fathers in Maycomb, the small, southern American town where ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was set: ” Because he doesn’t do anything… nd he reads” They thought that Atticus was boring; he wasn’t what they considered to be a stereotypical ‘man’. He didn’t do any kind of manual labour, and instead worked in an office. He said he was too old to play football with the rest of the fathers and therefore the children underestimated his abilities. However, when they found out he was an excellent shooter, after the killing of the mad dog and found out his childhood nickname: “When he was a boy his nickname was Ol’ One-Shot”
Scout and Jem gained a new respect for Atticus, and this grew later in the play as they discovered where Atticus’ real talents lay – in the courtroom. This realisation helped them to understand the points Atticus was trying to teach them those of equality, and not to judge a man by the colour of his skin. He tried to make Scout and Jem understand things from other people’s points of view and try to see why this is important: ” You never really know a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. This basically says: don’t judge a book by its cover; don’t kill a mockingbird, something which has done no harm, for this, as well as being part of the title is the underlying theme of the play and the role of the mockingbird is portrayed through the characters of Tom Robinson and Boo Radely. The role Atticus plays as a father is in a way an idealistic role. He is never too harsh and never overly kind, he gives respect and is respected, in fact, he seems in every way the ideal parent.
The reader is shown in every aspect of family life what a good father he is and perhaps his only fault as a character is that he has no large flaws, no vices or bad habits, and this, in a way, begins to make you wonder if Atticus is really a believable character. After all, is anyone really perfect? As a lawyer, Atticus once again comes across as the ideal character; clear, fair and eloquent- the best man at his job. The whole fact that he took Tom Robinson’s case and listened to his conscience, when he knew he would lose, howed what sort of character Harper Lee wanted Atticus to be. He knew that the justice system at that time was prejudiced and immoral and that it was certain that Tom Robinson would be found guilty. ” We were licked before we started” This shows the reader that deep down Atticus was aware that the case was hopeless, but he acted on his principals and took it anyway. In this role it also came across how clever Finch was. He used subtle but clear points to tear the opposition to shreds yet always remained calm, cool and polite; the ‘perfect southern gentleman’.
This part of his character is at least I think partly believable. Comparisons with this aspect of Atticus’ character- the lawyer- can be made with the ‘real world’ or the present day. Although it is true that not many lawyers would take a case they knew they were going to lose, the play is written so cleverly that you think it could happen. The play makes you feel good knowing that someone would take so great a risk, knowing they would come out of it the worst for someone less well off than themselves.
It makes you want to believe in the character of Atticus and want to think that there are people out there like him. The way Atticus is portrayed throughout the trial seems to demand respect, so his character immediately gains some dimension by relating to and involving the reader. In the trial, he completely turned the case around, proving just by asking simple questions that Mayella was lying and that Bob Ewell was an awful father.
It was obvious by the end of the trial to everyone that Robinson was innocent and it was then that Harper Lee used the injustice of his imprisonment to put across her ideas about racial prejudice in the deep southern of the United States. So, not just Atticus but also the whole play is used as a way for the author to convey her ideas, as is true with any book. As a member of the community, Atticus had the complete respect of almost the whole town, from the upper class ladies such as Miss Maudie Atkinson down to what were considered to be the lowest of the low- the black people, who stood for him as he left the courtroom.
Although he was not rich, Atticus was seen as one of the pillars of the community which in a way was unusual, as he had neither status or wealth yet was kind, generous, clever and polite, many of the qualities which the upper classes often forget about. The most important thing of all, however is that he was trusted by Maycomb: ” We trust him to do right. ” This is why the case of Tom Robinson was given to Atticus and not to another, less capable man. He knew to do what was right and that if he didn’t do it, nobody else in the highly prejudiced town would: ” I simply would like you to know… ne of them. ”
Everyone saw him as someone they could turn to, and this was a fair judgement on their part. Atticus judged people on their own personal merit, regardless of their background or past. He was freethinking and respected people for what they were, regardless of the colour of their skin, once again showing he was the ideal character- the Hero of the play. Atticus understood that people were poor and that the depression had hit people hard, so he was generous and let people use other forms of payment such as crops to repay any work he did for them.
He was portrayed as someone everyone wants to know and aspire to, fair, firm and modest. As a believable character, Atticus is not one hundred percent realistic. He is definitely an ideal character and therefore all the other characters are compared to him and he is also someone you want to believe in, yet somehow this is not quite possible. In a way, I think Atticus is not quite human enough to be believable, and the fact that his only flaws are that he is too nice and always sees the good in people confirm this.
No one is perfect and the fact that Atticus has so little faults takes away some of his dimension and gravity. He is believable only as a character of fantasy and as a subtle way for Harper Lee to convey her ideas about racial prejudice and her views on America at that time in history. Throughout the play Atticus is the voice of truth and fairness, and is a very consistent character, keeping to his principals and values- he is the same at home as he is in front of the community, which although sounds like a wonderful thing to be, is highly unrealistic.
He shows the reader everything that is wrong with society and how, if more people are like him in the future people and society might change. He is a series of ideas, beliefs and dreams, and is therefore used as a way to channel Lee’s new ideas into a believable format. Enveloping these radical ideas within a mild mannered, moderate, inoffensive character perhaps made them more acceptable to the people of the time.