In the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Atticus Finch is a lawyer and the father of the narrator Scout and her brother Jem. The book is set in the Deep South during the mid 20th century. In the first part of the book it is clear that Atticus is a very different character to most of the inhabitants of Maycomb (the town that the play is set). The author Harper Lee uses many techniques to try and show the difference between Atticus and the other characters and also portray his unique personality. This essay will analyse how Atticus is presented in the first part of the book.
Firstly, Atticus is shown by Harper Lee to be very liberal in regards to the treatment of his children. In the time that the book is set, children are meant to be very respectful to their parents and were only to address them as “sir” or “ma’am” however Jem and Scout are very relaxed in the manner in which they call and speak with their father. “Atticus said so,” this is a quotation said by Scout to Dill after she met him. She sees her father as Atticus and not only refers to him like that to other people but also in his presence. Compared to how every other parent is addressed by their children, Atticus is treated as an equal by Jem and Finch. When he wants them to learn from their mistakes he does not force them to blindly just follow his orders like soldiers but rather understand why they should or should not be doing something. This is so that they do not participate in something Atticus does not approve of behind his back as they will know why they are refraining from that thing. The reader can see from his reasoning and kind nature that he is a character that feels that even his own children deserve to know about their actions.
As well as that, Atticus makes his children learn for their own selves. “Try fighting with your head for a change” Atticus says this to Scout after she was caught fighting in school. This piece of advice is quite perplexing to Scout as she does not know how that fighting with her head is possible. The word “try” makes it seem as Atticus is giving Scout some advice in to how to sort out her behavioural issues. When someone is scorned at and told off they will feel very negative and will want to change so they do not anger that person again, however Atticus makes sure that Scout only changes for herself. The reader can distinguish that Atticus wants his children only to do what is best for them and he wants them to learn that. Atticus could have told Scout not to fight but instead as he knew direct orders with no reasoning are hard to obey, he made her figure out for herself what she was going to do by giving her a clue.
Furthermore, another factor of Atticus’ character that is linked to the previous one is his sense of justice. Calpurnia is the family cook and she is treated like an equal by Atticus even though she is black. He forces the children to respect her like a mother. Also, Atticus is a lawyer and even decides to defend a black man even though he knows that he will not win the case. “If I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this country in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something.” Atticus thinks that if he decides not to represent this man in court, than he will lose any credibility that he had within the Judicial community as he would have backed down from helping someone potentially keep their freedom and clear their name. Also, he thinks that he has a responsibility to everyone in Maycomb that he is willing to represent them all in court. “I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something.”
This part of the quotation shows that Atticus has very strong morals and feels that if he does not fulfil his duty and cannot be counted on then he has not even got the right to order his own children as he thinks he should have no power if he abandons his responsibility. The reader can see from this that Atticus sticks to his principles very well even though he can anticipate the difficulties and social exclusion he is going to face with defending someone black. His children do not understand how anything can take their father’s authority over them from him. It can seem almost silly that Atticus is linking choices he makes at work to letting his children run wild but it just shows how strong he believes in his ethics and how much passion he has for his beliefs.
Moreover, Atticus is presented to be very modest. Jem starts to become quite embarrassed when all the other fathers in the school take part in very active jobs and Atticus just works in an office. However, when the rabid dog has to be shot he shoots it straight through the forehead. “I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things.” This quotation shows how down-to-earth Atticus is because he could have easily carried on shooting as a hobby to impress people as he was really good at it; however he stopped shooting because he thought that his talent had come with a responsibility.
The words “unfair advantage” show how he views not only all humans as equal but also he has great respect for other creatures. Shooting is a huge hobby in America and being good at it would give someone huge prestige instead of insisting that he is better than people, he almost sees his talent as something that he should not exploit and he should restrict his usage as it would not be fair on other people and other animals. This shows the reader that Atticus has great humility as he was under pressure by his son to be more active yet still hid his talent from as well as he could, what’s more, animal rights was not prominent in the deep south (some humans hadn’t been bestowed their basic rights!) to know that Atticus could stand against a whole nation’s tradition shows how brave he is and how much he thinks for others instead of himself.
Penultimately, Atticus is shown to be very unconventional. Many of his own family criticise his views and he can defy the whole county by defending a black man. Furthermore, Scout goes to school literate and she is told to stop getting lessons from her father; however Atticus does not really teach her as he puts her on his lap and she teaches herself. Regarding the discipline of the children he is quite lenient and he does not force Scout to be more lady-like. “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire”, Aunt Alexandra is a typical Maycomb lady. She focuses on rearing her children and is surprised to see her niece wearing such boyish clothes at her age. Although most of Maycomb are the same, Aunt Alexandra is hated more by the two children because she is a family member so she seems to exploit her right of commenting on the children by continually irritating Scout and Atticus over Scout’s clothing. Atticus does not worry about what Scout wears. This shows that he does not want his children to be nurtured to satisfy the stereotype of their gender. The reader can see that although Atticus gets a lot of pressure through family members he does not want to carve their future as he would rather they would choose their own path. The words “my attire” shows that Scout finds her clothing her own choice and that Atticus is not bothered about what she wears. This reflects Atticus’ ethics again as it shows he does not judge people by what they wear as he lets his daughter wear what she wants.
Finally, Atticus is shown by Harper Lee not be judgemental. Maycomb is a town where people can be judged by their names, “He is a Cunningham” and by their colour. The deep-south was still very much associated with slavery as it had fought the rest of the country to keep it. Many people still viewed black people as second class citizens. Boo Radley is a mysterious character that many people never saw; this gave license for the likes of Miss Stephanie-Crawford to create stories of his endeavours that sounded similar to fairy tales. Instead of concurring to the general consensus, Atticus tells his children not to be hasty in judging people. “What Mr Radley does is his own, if he wanted to come out, he would” even though, Boo Radley hasn’t been seen for years, Atticus thinks that he is not being kept inside against his will. He remains adamant that although some people’s activities might not be fully comprehended by everyone else, they still have the right to participate in those activities. The word “would” shows that Atticus thinks that Boo Radley is in his house to his own accord. The reader can see that although the legend of Boo Radley is well documented in Maycomb, because Atticus did not hear from Mr Radley himself he does not make any judgements about people prematurely.
In conclusion, Part 1 of “To Kill a Mockingbird” presents Atticus’ in many different ways. It is obvious by how Atticus treats people that he is kind and considerate, however, some of his actions are not easily comprehendible. Atticus’ children never see him shoot anything before he shoots the rabid dog and people insist to them that he has the best shot in Maycomb. Atticus does not shoot because he does not want to kill harmless animals just to show off his skills. Furthermore, Atticus seems to do most things in an individual way. He brings up his children by himself and never hits them but only ever threatens; he never tells what Scout to wear and lets them call him by his first name. Atticus Finch is a character that is deeply proud of his Maycomb heritage but cannot be likened to anyone else in the county.
He constantly defies the general consensus of the county by defending black people, giving a lot of freedom to his children and dropping a popular hobby in which he was very good. Finally, Atticus has a laissez-faire view on some things that are strongly regulated in some Maycomb children’s life. He indirectly teaches his daughter to read by letting her sit on his lap whilst he read newspapers every night and he does not mind what she wears. If you compare these things to modern time they do not sound extraordinary; letting girls wear what they want was a by-product of second-wave feminism and the American education system is much less curriculum based and a bit more free. Atticus was doing these things decades before they became the norm which shows how innovatory he is. To conclude, one thing that can be easily noticed in the first part of the book is that Atticus Finch seems like a fish out of water in Maycomb and it can be argued that it is because he is too good for it.