To Kill a Mockingbird - The Character of Atticus Finch
Kind and understanding, strict but fair, Atticus Finch embodies everything that a father should be. A man of great strength and courage, he is Scout and Jem's hero; the steady presence that keeps them grounded and their only connection to the adult world
. He is their teacher, their protector, and their friend. He takes on these responsibilities without hesitation, and cares far Scout and Jem the only way he knows how. Some say it's a misguided effort at parenthood, but the reader sees that Atticus' episodes with his children are what make him an exemplary father.
Atticus' unique relationship with Scout and Jem is built on equality and respect, and helps to create his "father of the year" character. The simple act of calling him "Atticus" and not "father" brings Scout and Jem to the same level as Atticus. They are people, not children. "Jem protested, then pleaded, and Atticus said, `All right, you can come with us if you stay in the car'"(239). By allowing Jem and Dill
to accompany him and Calpurnia to tell Mrs. Robinson about Tom's death, Atticus demonstrates his respect for Jem and Dill, and his faith in their maturity.
Part of Atticus' role as a father is teacher. Most of Scout and Jem's knowledge comes from Atticus. He teaches them the important life lessons
that they can't learn from books or blackboards. " `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'"(30). This conversation between Atticus and Scout comes early in the novel, and helps the reader to appreciate the special bond between Atticus and his children. They respect him as their father, and they value his opinions and advice. In addition to sharing his thoughts and wisdom with Scout and Jem, Atticus teaches through example. His lessons in morality and ethics come in the courtroom, when he's defending Tom Robinson. " `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. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire'"(204). This is part of Atticus' closing statement to the jury. During this episode Atticus teaches Scout and Jem and the rest of the courtroom that justice is not fair. That justice is not done if a black man is convicted because he is black, and a white man walks free because he is white. Although most people in the courtroom will disregard them, his comments will have a dynamic effect on the future actions of Scout and Jem.
The success of any father can be measured in many ways, but can most easily be measured by the attitudes and actions of his children. Throughout the novel Scout and Jem consistently display the tolerance and respect that Atticus has instilled in them. They are curious, intelligent, polite and giving and will surely grow up to be just like their father. This is what makes Atticus a great father.