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In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch plays a crucial role in the development of the story by acting as its moral backbone. He is always looked to for his infinite wisdom and to always do what is right. To Kill a Mockingbird is a story set in the racially biased 1930s. Atticus Finch is a lawyer and single father of two who tries to defend innocent Tom Robinson from the evil of mankind while also raising his kids based on the lessons he has learned throughout his life and in the court.
Atticus Finch acts as the moral backbone by always giving others his best advice and by trying to direct everyone that looks up to him in the best direction possible. Atticus, while giving advice to his son, Jem, said, “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. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what” (Lee 149). Atticus explains to Jem that Ms. Dubose was the most courageous and brave person he knew. Jem had to read to her every day after school and on Saturdays as punishment for destroying her flowers in a fit of rage after she insulted his Father while he walked by. Little did he know, though, that him reading to her every day was helping her overcome her morphine addiction. Atticus teaches his kids the way that he would an adult, and by doing so, they have the mentalities of people far older than themselves. Attics’ teachings with his children give them a black and white perception of the world, rather than the embellished version that most children see. His advice to his children about courage and perseverance impacts them by showing them that courage lies in odd places and that they will need it in order to survive in the cruel world. Another time Atticus gave great advice was when he told his children that, “You never really understand a person until you understand things from their point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (39). Atticus gives Scout crucial advice to understanding the world and taking on different perspectives here. Without the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, one truly does not understand someone else. Atticus tells Scout this so that she can better understand the Cunningham’s, more specifically Walter. All throughout the story, Atticus gives Scout and Jem advice to help them become familiar with the world, and to act better in it. Rather than scolding and punishing them, he chooses to lead them with advice, too. Most parents would punish their children for wrongdoing and hope that it would teach them a lesson, but rather than doing this, Atticus teaches Jem and Scout lessons through wisdom rather than consequences.
Atticus acts as the novel’s moral backbone because his profession as a lawyer translates into his daily life. Jem, while discussing Ms. Dubose’s request of him after destroying her flower beds with his father, Atticus, said, “She wants me to come every afternoon after school and Saturdays and read to her out loud for two hours. Atticus, do I have to?”, and rather than giving him what he wanted to hear, Atticus replied, “Certainly”. Jem, begging, said, “But she wants me to do it for a month,”, and Atticus once more replied, “Then you’ll do it for a month” (140). Here, Atticus translates his knowledge from the court of law into his life and his teachings with his children. Jem obviously does not want to go to her house every day and read to her, so he begs pardon from his father who instead follows through with it rather than cutting his son some slack. While parenting, many parents are faced with tough decisions about cutting slack with their children, but Atticus prefers to bring his kids up knowing that every action they do has its consequences. Jem was guilty for destroying the flower beds, and admitted to it when his father confronted him about it, so Atticus, being the lawyer he is, knew the only thing that was right was for Jem to do was exactly what Ms. Dubose asked of him, and it just so happened to be something that he very much disliked- reading. Atticus displayed how lawyering had impacted him another time by saying, “but there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal… That institution, gentlemen, is a court… and in our courts all men are created equal” (274). Atticus has a strong background morally not only because he is a lawyer, but because every drop of him believes in his work. Atticus wholeheartedly believes in the fair and equal treatment of all, as displayed in the Robinson v. Ewell court case. There aren’t many things more painful than misjustice and prejudice to Atticus. He is a strong believer in doing what is right, despite any circumstances that would beg for bias, and regardless of race, religion, etc. Equality, fairness, and discipline have all been burnt into Atticus’ mind from his many years lawyering. His job has brought him up with the best morals- the very morals that are used to try hundreds of people every day to this very day. The lessons Atticus learned were learned from the holy grail thereof- the court. The court cannot lie, the court cannot be biased, and the court cannot treat people unequally, and that is why Atticus cannot either.
All throughout, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch acts as the moral backbone by imposing his strong belief of doing what is right as well as his wisdom on the world around him. All of those who know Atticus, whether it be his own children, or people from around Maycomb, know that Atticus always does right. Atticus is able to tackle any problem, and people respect him for that. The lessons that Atticus had learned throughout his life have sculpted him into a symbol of equality, fairness, and intelligence throughout not only the court, but Maycomb county and Alabama as a whole.
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