The role and influence of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Essay by nzessays November 2004

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In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is a significant character as he is a white man who stands up for a black man in a time of racial prejudice and a strong hatred for negroes. He influences the views of the people of Maycomb, and his children's development in the story. Atticus made an impression on me, as throughout the story he stands firm in his beliefs, and ultimately wins back the respect of society and his children.

Before the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man convicted of raping a white girl, Atticus was one of the most prominent citizens in Maycomb. The story is set in the 1930's during the Great Depression. In a time of widespread poverty, Atticus is relatively well off, however because of his calmness, wisdom and behaviour, he is respected by everyone, even the very poor. He functions as the moral backbone of Maycomb, and is a person to whom others turn to in times of need.

"He knew people, they knew him" But it is the conscience that makes him so respected that drives the people of Maycomb to reject Atticus so cruelly. Unable to live with the systematic racial prejudice, he agrees to defend a Tom Robinson in court. This leaves Atticus as a victim of Maycomb's inability to cope with the idea of a black man deserving a fair trial and he is "spat on" by society and called names such as "nigger lover". Despite the cruelty and malice directed at him, Atticus never holds a grudge against the people of Maycomb. When he says to his daughter Scout "you never really know a man until you crawl into his skin and walk around in it" I realised that it is this ability to see...