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The Philosophical position of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee Essay Sample

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The Philosophical position of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee Essay Sample

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” This quotation by Epictetus, a great Stoic of his time, describes Atticus Finch’s reasoning during the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus, the single father of two children, Jean Louise Finch (Scout) and Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), is a strictly static character whose strong views and sound judgment shape his relationship with them. The relationship between he and his children bases itself on the views of himself, because he is the parent. He shows these views in how he handles himself, and how he interacts with people in the novel, most of all his children. Atticus causes his children to admire him, thus making them want to follow his methods. This philosophical basis of the relationship between Atticus and his children is one of stoicism.

At this point, stoicism may be a foreign word. It is a part of philosophy, which is the love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline. It is a way of reason, of logical thought, to come to logical conclusions. There are many different ways of logical thought, and one of them just happens to be stoicism. Stoicism, put simply is a way of living life. A stoic would say the best life, the happiest life, is the virtuous life. To shame oneself is the only fear of the stoic. He lives his life with honor and keeps to his values no matter what others think, usually causing those same people that thought wrong of him before to look up to the stoic in the end. A stoic is not concerned with the façade; his concern lies within oneself. It only follows that after one has mastered oneself, others will see that person as a role model.

This is what Atticus Finch is to Scout and Jem, a role model; he is someone they can look up to. He “is a gentleman” to those around him, a result of his strong ethical values. Scout does things when Atticus asks her because “Atticus so rarely ask[s] Jem and [her] to do something for him….” This is important because unlike the boy who calls wolf, Atticus does not ask much of his children, but when he does, his children know that it is important to him and they do not want to let him down. They do not want to let him down because they look up to him; they want to be among his group. They want to be among his group because they see his moral and ethical ways superior to others.

Atticus has virtue and he makes sure he keeps it. He is the most morally prominent figure in the sleepy town of Maycomb, where the story takes place. Many of the people in Maycomb look up to him, including his children. In the case of Atticus Finch, stubbornness proves to be the backbone to his claim to fame. His “…[S]tubbornness [is] quiet and rarely evident, but in some ways he [is] as set as the Cunninghams.” His refusal to change his judgment, which he expresses in the static nature of his character, gives his children someone they can depend on. This strengthens the relationship between child and parent.

Children are more willing to listen to someone that they can depend on. This is why, when Atticus tells Scout something about the nature of people, she remembers it and constantly puts it into effect. “You never really know a man until [one] stand[s] in his shoes and walk[s] around in them,” is a piece of advice from Atticus that Scout used throughout the entire story, and it aids in the development of Scout during the story.

Children change with time much faster than adults do. It is imperative that as they are learning the ways of the world that they have a good teacher. Scout and Jem have a great teacher, Atticus. His ways shine in their glory as he advises them as to how to go about things. He knows that a lesson learned the hard way is often remembered while one told to you by someone is not and he practices this with his children to a degree. Atticus helps Arthur (Boo) Radley, a mysterious character during the entire novel, go from a hideous vampire-like character to a mockingbird through his children’s eyes. Atticus keeps things that he could easily tell his children a secret and lets them find out on their own, often much more dramatically and having a greater impact on them.

The trial of Tom Robinson has a great impact on the entire Finch family as well as Maycomb itself. Atticus tells his children that he must take the case because he could not live with himself if he does not. At first Scout and Jem do not understand, but after they experience the harsh comments from the town, and secondly, the trial itself, they know that it is shame to which Atticus cannot submit himself.

As all stoics believe, shaming oneself is the worst crime there is. One must first say to themselves what they would be by doing a certain act, then do what they must do in order to make the right decision. As the parent of Jem and Scout, everything Atticus does has a direct impact on his children and everything he does strengthens the relationship between him and his children. Stoics are courageous, honorable people, and Atticus finch fits that definition like a glove. The relationship between Atticus and the children, the philosophical basis of which Atticus controls, is therefore stoic in nature.

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