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What makes a good parent? As far as society is aware, parenting does not come with an instruction manual. It is their job to impart conscience on these infants whatever way they think best, despite the environment and society they were born into. The only way to be taught is from the guidance of our parents. From an early age, we are already adopting the mannerisms and behaviours we see in front of us. It is a parent’s job to guide and teach their child the acquired skills and qualities needed to embark this journey of life on their own. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch strives to be a leading father figure by educating Scout and Jem to treat people with dignity and respect, modelling faithful behaviour and teaching them symbolic life lessons.
The author portrays Atticus as having a large impact on his children’s lives. Scout and Jem turn to Atticus whenever they need guidance and talk to him like a friend, considering that may be the reason they call Atticus by his first name. He created a respectable bond between his kids, no parent would have portrayed at the time. This, in turn, allows Scout and Jem to acquire the same thoughtful and kind personality traits Atticus possesses. “You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus wants Scout to understand that in order to get along with everyone, you have to put yourself in their shoes and consider life from a different perspective. The turn of events that had happened on her first day of school had left Scout questioning Atticus’ words. Often times, people tend to do poor actions, but all for good intentions. In order to relate to all kinds of people, Scout has to do this to get a better understanding of one’s objective. It is not easy living in a society where individuals voice their opinion on others without thinking twice. The idea is simple, compassion is built from sympathy, from trying to understand another person’s actions even if they do not agree with it in the first place. Towards the end of the novel, Scout had a moment of realization when comparing Atticus’ words to Boo Radley. She had learned that there is a drastic difference between the way people are perceived versus the way they truly are. Not everyone can be understood, but that is the point in trying. The whole meaning of the word “try” is to make an attempt to do something. If the white individuals in Maycomb had really made an effort to try and put themselves in Tom Robinson’s shoes, they would have realized that he was in fact not guilty. However, that is not the case since the colour of his skin perceives him in an unworthy way. This understanding puts Scout in a position where she is much wiser than the others living in Maycomb. Atticus acknowledges that at the end of the day everyone has an opinion. Regardless, on whether it is good or bad, kind or cruel, Scout has to look at life through a different lens to get a better perspective of why they think that way. Perhaps, that was the main problem at the time. Judging others so consistently it led to a world of only black or white, a world of hate. Once someone puts their mind to something, their actions will start reasoning with their brain, resulting in all-around violence.
To show kindness in a world where there is only hate is a true gift. Atticus continuously demonstrates good-natured behaviour towards the people living in Maycomb. “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial if he had any, to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there.” Through his actions, us readers were able to identify the kind of person Atticus was. Most people’s reactions would have been to react, as opposed to Atticus who simply just wiped it off and left. Through Jem’s eyes, he got to witness a kind collected soul walk away from what could have ended horribly. The hardest action one can do in this circumstance is to walk away and not allow the crude doings of others to cloud your head. Atticus walked away as the bigger person by not giving him the satisfaction of being provoked as Bob desired. As human beings, our natural instinct is to let our emotions shadow our judgment, instead of thinking about how our actions will affect us in the long term. He saved Mayella, Bob, Jem and himself by just simply walking away. In Atticus’ eyes the cruellest, most spiteful people should still be treated with respect. One action can mean a lot. It can mean more than one million words put together. An action is a true representation of oneself. Their morals, beliefs and values in life all reflect what kind of person they are. In relation to this, Atticus standing up for Tom Robinson shows that he believes one’s skin colour should not degrade an individuals importance. As a father figure, Atticus is put in a position where he not only has to think about himself but for his kids as well. Jem is able to look up to an individual who treats everyone as for how a human being should be treated.
Children are oblivious to it all. They are born into this world knowing nothing than what is perceived in front of them. Living in a time like this is easy for their innocent minds to be corrupted into the sinful stereotypes society throws at them. Atticus has witnessed it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. Life lessons come from the toughest experiences. As a parent, it is up to him to be able to teach his kids to be a light in a dim world. “I wanted you to see what real courage is instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.” Atticus had taught both Jem and Scout the idea of real bravery. He helps them understand that a powerful weapon is not going to make oneself more courageous, the weapon only has power if you possess the bravery to use it. Atticus also wants the kids to see how a person like Ms. Dubose possesses courage within her. Battling a serious illness while trying to end her morphine addiction portrays how she faced death with strength and determination. “It’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.” Mockingbirds are the pure epitome of innocence. They are living creatures who just sing for the enjoyment of others. However, they are killed by people to be used for their own personal benefit. Atticus wants his kids to realize how cruel the world can be at times. People often ruin beautiful things thinking it is right. This quote is a metaphor for the innocence and killing that happens in Maycomb. Through his words and actions, the biggest life lesson Atticus has taught his children is social justice. In a world of misfortune and inequality, he gave them the ability to look for the common good in not only life but in other people. Atticus opened their eyes to a world that could be more than what meets the eye. An opportunity to envision a life where justice, equality and respect are served to all.
In conclusion, throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, it is clear to see that Atticus holds a strong, loving relationship with Jem and Scout. He does a wonderful job raising his children despite the common way parenting was done at the time. By staying true to himself and looking at life through an empathetic view, his actions and morals have taught them the knowledge needed to face life head-on. A parent’s biggest accomplishment in life should be raising their kids to be good people. Atticus has certainly done this even though his parenting style was deemed unacceptable by others. Perhaps, that is truly what it means to be a good parent. It is the capability of teaching them, listening to them, providing for them and loving them with one’s whole self. After all, it is being someone they look up to, someone they aspire to be. Through his selflessness, humility and kindness Atticus Finch was a hero in Scout and Jem’s eyes.
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