Atticus Finch, An Iconoclast Fighter for Justice
The Finch family has been living in Maycomb since it was a settlement. One of the members of this long dynasty of land-owners and farmers is Atticus Finch, a man who breaks the tradition of staying at Finch’s Landing, the family’s antebellum house, to study law and practice in the city as a lawyer. Atticus Finch is many things, a father, a widower, but most importantly, he is a man who knows right from wrong. He is intelligent, humble, and compassionate.
In the Maycomb courtroom, Atticus shows his intelligence by asking questions of the witnesses with precision to get exactly what he wants out of them. When Mr. Tate, the town sheriff, is called as a witness, Atticus knows what to ask to get the answers he needs. When Atticus asks Mr. Tate in which eye Mayella was struck, he answers “The left”. This response is not the one Atticus needs to make his point, so he further prompts with “Wait a minute, Sheriff…Was it her left facing you or her looking the same way you were” (Lee,168). This causes Tate to change his answer. Atticus’ intelligence is one of his key character traits. He thinks ahead, and knows what to say and when.
Atticus’ humility makes his character almost divine in nature. He keeps his cool in adversity and never holds his accomplishments over anyone. Evidence of this humility can be found in Scout’s reaction to her father shooting a rabid dog with pinpoint accuracy. Scout is shocked. She did not know her father had such skill. After seeing how surprised Scout was, Mrs Maudie says “ Forgot to tell you the other day that besides playing the Jew’s harp, Atticus Finch was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time.” (Lee, 98). Atticus had been so humble that he never bragged to his kids about his marksmanship.
Arguably, Atticus Finch’s most important character trait is compassion. He is friendly and nice towards those who are both above and below him in society, and even to those who are mean and cruel to him, such as the Ewells. One of the best examples of Atticus being compassionate is found in his dialogue with Scout after Aunt Alexandra chastens her. She tells Scout to be more lady-like and remember that the Finch’s are of a high social class and that Scout should act accordingly. This makes Scout feel unappreciated, misunderstood, and alone. When Scout goes to Atticus for comfort, he says “I don’t want you to remember it. Forget it.” (Lee, 134). Atticus’ compassion comforts Scout.
Though Atticus is one of the most virtuous in Maycomb, he does not consider himself above or better than others. His intelligence, humility, and compassion make him the perfect person to defend a man under the constant criticism of society, and to protect that man from the racial injustice found in the court system of the time.
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