Revisiting Literary Characters: Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

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First published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate success and has sealed its immortality by arguably being one of the greatest American novels ever written. But the most impacting element of this story comes in the form of father, lawyer and the morally driven, Atticus Finch.

Scout is a ten year old girl living in a small town in the state of Alabama and is the narrator of this classic novel. Set during 1939, Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman, marking the beginning of the turbulent events that are about to unfold and this innocent girl’s exposure to the racial inequality in America. Even though the evidence isn’t substantial and he is undoubtedly innocent, he is a black man contesting the word of a white person, meaning Tom is ultimately found guilty and becomes the victim of a racially blinded society. Atticus (Scout’s father) is Tom’s lawyer, and the only man that is willing to help.

Readers love Atticus simply because of his high morals and untainted view of the world that surrounds him; Scout not only respects her father, but loves and trusts him unconditionally. The beauty of such a young child narrating a maturely themed novel is that Lee gives a completely innocent perspective on an issue that is still relevant in America today. She allows many of us to see the ludicrous idea of racism, particularly in a time when it was such a prominent issue within people’s everyday lives. Atticus represents an ideal, a man that doesn’t judge and will act if he thinks it is the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences. He is often shunned and criticised in the novel, not only for his views but for the way his views are effecting his children, but Atticus never lets this change his outlook on life, or more importantly the way he brings up Scout and Jem.

Harper Lee has created a brilliant protagonist that is one of the most respected in modern literature, simply because he contains all the qualities we aspire to have. Atticus Finch will reason with the unreasonable, stand up for those that no-one else will defend, not because he wants recognition for his heroic actions, but because it is the right thing to do.  He exhibits the best qualities of humanity which is what keeps his character relevant today; he is not only a great inspiration to his children, but an inspiration to all who read about him. Thanks to Atticus, we will all remember why ‘it is a sin to kill a Mockingbird’.

Words by Melissa Churchill

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