Atticus resolves quarrels between members of the community. He maintains a diplomatic mindset and tries his best not to get on anyone’s bad side but attempts to help everyone, including himself when necessary, reach a compromise. He holds his head high no matter how offensive any insults he may receive, and believes others should do the same. “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.”(22) In saying Atticus is standing up for Walter Cunningham, a misunderstood boy in Scout’s kindergarten class.
She could not possibly understand the financial situation of his family, who were hit very hard by the depression, and he wanted to teach her empathy and understanding when a classmate could not afford lunch. His duty extended to teaching his children to pay attention to signals of others, especially those in need, and not socio-economic differences or skin colors.
Atticus is faced with quite possibly the most important case of his life when he is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, in the Mayella Ewell v. Tom Robinson lawsuit. As an African American accused of rape, Tom Robinson has almost no chance of being proven innocent by an all white jury in the deep south. “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” (79) This statement shows Atticus’ determination to do everything in his power to prove that Tom Robinson was falsely accused by Mayella Ewell because he refused her sexual advances. Embarrassed and outraged, Mayella accused Tom of rape as revenge.
Although it is a federal law that all citizens are entitled to a fair trial, the story of a black man raping a white woman does not paint a pretty picture, and the facts of the story are irrelevant as the jury is often subconsciously swayed before the trial even begins. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.'(181) Since the facts are often less important than the glamour of the case, the accuser is not someone that is thought to be on trial, simply the person bringing the case against the accused. Hence the idea of a false accusation would be unheard of, and as there is no recourse for a false accusation, the accuser is assumed reliable.
As a father Atticus has put his children and extended family members into an extremely uncomfortable situation because in defending Tom Robinson, he has brought an onslaught of torment on his family, and unleashed a wrath of hate and hostility towards the name of Finch in Maycomb, Alabama circa 1930, a time of peril and tragedy across the United states. “Stop tormenting that man.”(49) said Atticus. He believes that Boo Radley is just an old man who doesn’t mean any trouble, and his own kids mocking of Boo disgusts him, and so he tries to get through to them. “Easy does it son, She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman.
Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.”(158) Atticus knows that Mrs. Dubose is always on painkillers and is barely conscious, and so he tries to just be nice to her and wants Jem to do the same. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”(126) Atticus uses this metaphor to represent the Mayella Ewell v. Tom Robinson case, bluejays eat up gardens and are pests, therefore they can be punished. In the same way rapists and other felons have committed crimes and so they should be incarcerated, but Tom Robinson is a free man, who is being wrongly punished, the same way a mockingbird is when it is killed.
Atticus puts family first in almost every scenario, he has raised Scout and Jem to be excellent citizens, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down, no matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.”(38) Atticus is worried that Scout is getting into far too many fights and so he gives her this “pep-talk” of sorts to help her understand the utter necessity of her learning to “keep her cool”, as there will be many more situations even after the Tom Robinson lawsuit will blow over.
He is angry that his sister Alexandra is trying to keep the kids in the dark, as he believes they deserve the facts. He stand up for them by saying to her, “When a child asks you for something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and an evasion simply muddles ‘em.”(216) This is Atticus taking a stand for his children and how he believes if they have to go through constant ridicule and harassment due to their father’s defense of Tom Robinson they should also be allowed to know the details and breakthroughs in Robinson’s defense. “Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to.
You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t of gotten 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. Besides, sister, I don’t want you working your head off for us–you’ve no reason to do that. We still need Cal as much as we ever did.”(198) Atticus firmly explains to his sister Alexandra that Calpurnia is just as much a member of the family as any other Finch. He manages to finish his statement calmly and collected as opposed to the rage he was in just a few moments before, because Alexandra tried to kick Calpurnia out of the house.
Atticus’ character is consistent throughout the novel, in good times and bad. He models behavior that is unique, because it is above the social constructs of prejudice, bias and hate, which are so very present in Maycomb, Alabama. He can analyze a situation quickly and present the information to others through facts, which helps others, such as his daughter Scout to understand, and in Atticus’ own words, “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.”
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