"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: Character description - Atticus

Essay by jackosmackoHigh School, 10th gradeA, November 2006

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Through out the book 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' By Harper Lee, Atticus is a very moral individual with wise ideas and strong opinions. He is the father of Jem and Scout. Atticus is a local, home town lawyer who had just recently been asked to defend an African American from rape charges. Tom Robinson was charged with raping a white woman whose family would be conveniently described as 'Trailer Trash'. No one else would defend Tom because the white community believed that even 'Trailer Trash' was above the black man. Racism is evident here at its worst.

Atticus was both father and mother to Jem and Scout. Telling them the rights and wrongs in life. As the film is set during the Depression the lifestyle for these simple country people would have been difficult but uncomplicated as they went about their everyday activities. Atticus was quiet, firm and never raised his voice at the children.

By having such strong convictions about right and wrong he was great role model and his kids would always look up to him for guidance and love.

Atticus: "This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience-Scout; I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man."

As a result of Atticus taking on the case of defending Tom Robinson he was held in great esteem by the black community. I remember the part in the book where Atticus had lost the case and Tom Robinson was found guilty. The Reverend of the local Negro church put his arm around scout and told her to stand up out of respect as her father was leaving the court room.

Reverend Sykes: "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."

Atticus believed that all people were equal and everybody should be treated with respect.

Atticus: "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it-whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."

The Judge knew Atticus was the man for the job. Atticus' neighbour's and legal profession respected Atticus for the stand he made and would not expect anything less of him. He was chosen by the judge to defend Tom Robinson because he was the best and most honourable lawyer Atticus was brave enough to ignore threats from Bob Ewell including spitting in his face and spooking Jem in the car, he continued working on his case.

As soon as Mayella Ewell opened her mouth the African Americans knew they had no chance of winning the court case. Racism was cultural and ran very deep in the town of Maycomb. Even those who believed in Tom's innocence would not stand up for him. It would be probably considered a sin to defend an African American in the small town, especially in a case that contradicts the word and honour of a white woman. A person who supported any black person would have been condemned a 'nigger lover'. However Atticus stood for what he knew to be right. His children learnt from this because they saw him stand as an individual against the white community. Scout and Jem mature into people who can look into a person's soul and life without making judgments based upon their race, religion or culture.

Atticus is not a stereo-typical hero. He doesn't have big muscles and in the end kills all the bad guys and saves the world. He wears a cardigan, glasses and is always very mellow. Atticus is able to get out of tough situations without panicking and keeping his cool at all times while making wise decisions. Atticus shows that heroes come in different shapes and forms and heroes are there for different reasons and accomplish different feats.