Atticus As A Father/To Kill A Mockingbird

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade September 2001

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English Atticus In the quiet southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, a town steeped in its traditions, Harper Lee's story To Kill A Mockingbird took place. It is the story of a motherless family, the Finchs. Atticus, a local defense attorney, was the father of two children: Jem, his son 10 years of age, and Scout his daughter who was 6 years of age. Throughout the story, Atticus teaches his children very important values and acts as a good role model for them.

Atticus worked hard with Jem and Scout on their education. It was very important to Atticus that his children be well educated, and for them to value their education. Atticus spent hours teaching them to read and write. The children also spent much time observing Atticus as he read and wrote. By observing Atticus educate himself through his reading and writing, they were given a good model to follow.

Because Atticus valued his own education, the children were taught the value of education in their everyday life. Atticus was educated at home by his father. He learned to educate himself through observing his parents and by doing things without having been taught. By being a good role model for reading and writing when he was home, he used this method of learning to teach his children in their education.

Atticus was a very humble man. For Christmas, Jem and Scout both received air rifles from their uncle. Atticus gave them very strict instructions to never shoot a Mockingbird because they do not harm anything, and only sing beautiful music. Atticus would not teach the children how to shoot their rifles. He didn't want them to use their rifles, and did not even use one himself. Jem and Scout thought that Atticus was old and wasn't fun or good for anything. However, one day a rabid dog was roaming around town near their home and Atticus was called to help get rid of the dog. No one would try to shoot the dog themselves because the dog was too far away to hit from where they were. The men asked Atticus to shoot it because they knew he could hit it from a long distance. Atticus was once an expert shooter and was known as "one-shot Finch." Jem and Scout couldn't believe that their father had been such a good shooter for all of this time and that they had not known about it. This was very humble of Atticus in that he didn't brag to his children or anyone else about his skill of shooting. He would not even teach his children how to shoot a gun. It takes a lot of character to keep such a skill and reputation quiet from people so close to him. I think there were several reasons behind his decision of not telling his kids about his shooting skills. I think he wanted to protect Jem and Scout from the dangers of guns. Because Atticus was an attorney, he saw all of the dangers going on in the world from the misuse of guns. I feel he wanted to protect his children from them. I also think he didn't teach them to shoot because he felt they were too young to handle all of the responsibilities of guns. He didn't want them to see how talented he was and to think shooting was a sport or a way of showing off. I think it was a very responsible choice of Atticus not to tell Jem and Scout about his shooting talents.

Through the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus taught his children and was again a good role model for them. Because of the long-standing prejudice that existed in Maycomb, Atticus knew that he would lose the case of Tom Robinson. Tom was a black man accused of raping a white woman. However, Atticus still fought for Tom's life and put his own reputation on the line to represent Tom. This took a lot of character for Atticus to do. In those days it was almost unheard of for anyone to defend a Negro's word against a white person's word. Even though he was called a "nigger-lover" and was threatened with bodily harm, Atticus refused to be intimidated or give up on the case. He used all of his legal knowledge as well as his heart to defend Tom and see that justice was done. Jem and Scout didn't understand prejudice or how it could change the course of justice. They were raised to accept all people of all colors, which made it very difficult for them to understand how Tom could be found guilty on the basis of his color alone. It was easy to see that Tom was innocent of the crime. They learned how powerful prejudice can be and that life is not always fair. However, through Atticus they learned to stand strong for their beliefs no matter what the odds are.

I think these examples show that Atticus was a good father to his children. He taught his children the important values of education, humbleness, and of having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. I think that Jem and Scout might not have always appreciated Atticus's teachings or fully understood him. I think when going through the lessons, they fought Atticus a bit and were confused about why he was doing what he was. However, now that they are grown and look back on all that he has taught them, I think they understand, respect, and appreciate Atticus more than anyone else in the world. The values that he taught them in life are ones that will stay with them forever.