20th Century Literature: Atticus Finch as a Code Hero

Micah Ingram
Mrs. Moore
20th Century Literature
26 November 2018
Atticus as Hero
In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee addresses the diļ¬ƒcult topic of
racism in the South. Even though slavery was outlawed, the white men of that point in
time were still fighting to hold back the black men around them. It was socially
unacceptable for a white man to be friendly, let alone humanize, a black man. This is
represented in the outcast of Atticus Finch. Atticus is a lawyer and single father to his
two children, Scout and Jem. He was well-respected and liked throughout the town up
until the point he takes a case in which he would be defending a black man, Tom
Robinson, who was falsely accused of rape. Though there is an overwhelming amount
of social backlash from this decision, Atticus remains steadfast and displays how truly
courageous he is.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of
view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” When Atticus says this, he
is talking to Scout about her teacher at school. Scout had a rough first day in first
grade, thinking her teacher has unjustly punished her and told Atticus everything that
had happened between the teacher and herself. Atticus explains how the teacher is
new to the culture and customs of the people in their town, and that she did not
understand that Scout had only meant well when she embarrassed her. This interaction
shows how understanding and compassionate Atticus is towards other people, even if
they do him wrong, and how willing he is to forgive.
“Scout," said Atticus, "nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean
anything—like snot-nose. It's hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they
think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage
with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label
somebody.” In this quote, Atticus is again talking to Scout about an altercation at
school. When Atticus took to the defense case of Tom Robinson, the news spread like
wildfire. Practically everyone in town knew about it, and soon Atticus was not the only
one to receive backlash from his decision. Many of the children at Scout and Jem’s
school would pick on the two Finch kids because of who their father was, and would
verbally cut at them by calling their father a “nigger-lover.” This upset Scout, but she
held it in and ignored the others. However, the bubble burst when Scout’s own cousin
called her father that name, and she beat him. Later, Scout asked if Atticus really was a
“nigger-lover” and his response was one that reflects his heart and feelings towards the
horrible things people have said about him for doing the right thing.
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before
you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win,
but sometimes you do.” When analyzing this quote from Atticus, we come to see that
he is truly a courageous man. When he took the defense of Tom Robinson, Atticus
knew there was no way he would win against the prosecuting white man, but he gave it
his all anyway. Though the trial cost him his reputation, he still stood by his ideals and
did not give up when faced with riots and threats. Atticus show us how even a
common man can be a true hero, he just needs the courage to do it.