Atticus Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird
“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 from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
It would be practically blasphemous of me to create a website analyzing characters and not start with the great Atticus Finch, even though he’s a very safe choice to start with. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird created the greatest man to walk the hallowed halls of the fiction world, a title few others have been able to match up to, and the least the man deserves is the honored first place in this measly website of mine.
Whether you’re a classic film buff, or someone who had to slog through their high school reading list, I’m sure you’ve all heard of, seen, or read about this man. Atticus Finch is widowed father of two and a lawyer in Maycomb County, Alabama. The story takes place in a world very different from ours, long before Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for the non-whites, and eons before the dream of a black president could be imagined.
Finch takes on the defense of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, in a trial that is already decided before it starts. While the events and evidence in the novel show Tom to be innocent, his pigmentation makes him a culprit in the eyes of the backwater Maycomb residents. Despite this, Finch stands up for him, showing his children and the society at large that being tolerant is the only way to live. The children, Jem and Scout (through whose childlike eyes the events unfold), admire their father to no end, and believe strongly in his faith and convictions, so much that his disappointments tear them apart, heart and soul. Atticus Finch has integrity, he’s funny, and frankly speaking, he’s pretty much the hottest thing ever.
My first meeting with this splendid man was at the age of 7, when I found a tattered paperback copy of the book for about 20 cents at an old bookstore, a real steal for a kid with minimal allowance. Mama Rooney had banned us kids from reading anything outside of the school syllabus, which sucked because we were all huge fiction buffs. And, of course, her restrictions only made us starve for more books. Thus, we had to stick to books that wouldn’t arouse much suspicion (which, sadly for me, ruled out the Sweet Valley Books I so craved). Needless to say, it wasn’t hard to pretend that Mockingbird was a classic that my teacher had told me to read for an English paper.
I was 7 years old, but she believed me. Being an overachiever in the Rooney family is a given, not an ambition.
Anyway, that was my first encounter with the subject of rape, with issues of race, and with the convoluted twists of the legal profession. I’m from a deeply religious family, but as I grew older, it was Atticus Finch, and not any Apostle, who became my moral compass. Would Atticus share his last chocolate bar with his little sister? Would Atticus have punched that damn boy in the nose for mocking his weight? Would Atticus have Spark-Noted it for the final paper? It’s solid enough to get a girl through life intact, I’ll tell you that.
I started this site mainly to criticize the heroes of literature and of film, and pointing out the flaws that would make them unsuitable for the real world. But there’s a reason why this guy is the ultimate reason why many kids grow up to become lawyers, and is the #1 Greatest Hero of American Film (as portrayed by the great Gregory Peck). It’s because he’s a good dad to both his son and his daughter equally, letting them learn from the harsh realities of life, instead of protecting them from it. It’s because he can shoot a gun better than anyone in the state, but chooses not to do so because he believes in non-violence. It’s because he realizes his sister is a prick, but he’s still civil to her. But above all, it’s because Atticus Finch knows that there’s a better way to live, and he doesn’t care what it costs him to tell everyone just that. He takes on the whole world to make a point, and he makes it loud and clear, even with his defeat. As Miss Maudie says, “He was born to do our unpleasant jobs for us.”
And that, my friends, is what we call a real perfect man, even if he’s fictitious.
19/20 – straight up. One point deducted for being fictional, and thus unattainable. Damn him.