Atticus Finch is one of our favorite characters in literary fiction. He offers that stern, yet-caring, fatherly presence in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. At the same time, his passionate pleas give us courage — to stand up for those basic beliefs in right-and-wrong, justice, and simple acts of humanity. He helps us to realize that we must imagine the perspective of others. That perspective-altering experience should (hopefully) inspire us to be better human beings.
Here’s a quick collection of Atticus quotes. How many do you know? How many will you take the time to memorize, print out, and use them on the walls of your office, your home, and as bookmarks in your current reading selection? How will we remember (and live) these lines? And, what lessons can we learn from these beautiful collections of words?
At the outset of the novel, we hear that it’s “a time of vague optimism” and that the people “had nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then, fear, anger and prejudice–all take center-stage in the novel. And, the one righteous, worthy man in the town must take a stand against all the forces that stand against him.
Atticus understands where they are coming from. He understands their humanity, nature, their fear and their hatred; but he refuses to be cowed or broken down.
Perspective is all…
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things form his point of view”
“Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– (spoken by Atticus in Ch. 3)
Some days, I almost think I understand what Atticus is talking about, and I imagine that I might even get there–to an understanding of where they are coming from and how to “walk” in their shoes. Other days, I think it’s a bit insane–to think that I can ever understand another’s point of view (we, as humans, get so convoluted!)
“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…”
– (spoken by Atticus in Ch. 10)
There are certain, very basic, truths of innocence and justice demand our attention–that is, if we have any sense of right and wrong at all!
Get a Conscience…
“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
– (spoken by Atticus Finch in Ch. 11)
The truth is is we even try just a little bit to see from the other person’s perspective, and then listen to our inner voice (that conscience), we’d likely know what to do. Many just don’t listen, and others just prefer to ignore that inner voice.
Courage is all…
“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. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.” – spoken by Atticus Finch in Ch. 11
It’s not about weapons or strength. It’s about standing up for what you believe is true and right–no matter what the personal cost. His words and his actions continually purvey courage, against insurmountable odds.
The Bravest Man?
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” – Chapter 11
It’s not difficult to imagine that Scout and Jem will grow up to be just like Atticus. They look up to him, and hey value his example.
“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.” – spoken by Atticus Finch in Ch. 13
As for Atticus, he’d like to to keep all the injustices hidden from his children, but he knows that he never could (even if he tried).
The children shall lead…
“So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ’em to their senses…. That proves something – that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children.” – spoken by Atticus Finch in Ch. 16
It reminds me of the Pied Piper–only in reverse. If we could all see (and understand) with the open-minded innocence of a child, imagine what a world this would be…