Atticus Finch as a Symbol

crash course in To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Few works of literature have been scrutinized for examples of valor, justice and bravery in the face if defeat quite like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Atticus Finch is held in high regard for his integrity and moral fortitude. He sees himself as an ordinary man placed in an extraordinary situation, and he likely would be very uncomfortable with all the attention.

Good Versus Evil

In a work as rich as To Kill a Mockingbird, literary themes are abundant, but none so much as the ever-present challenges of good versus evil. This theme prevails extensively throughout the story in many forms, large and small.

But what gives To Kill a Mockingbird an interesting take on good vs. evil is the secondary theme of the importance of empathy, and how perspective is everything. The Ewell family sees themselves as fighting for what is right, even in their blatantly evil attempts to have an innocent man judged and convicted. Unfortunately for Atticus, who is on the side of good, their efforts appear to win out.

Yet Atticus is able to place himself in Bob Ewell’s shoes and understand that he lives a terrible existence. Atticus understands his misery, and his motivations, and this empathy makes Atticus a good man. Bob Ewell, on the other hand, will never be able to put himself in the shoes of another.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

One Shot Finch

Atticus’ involvement with the mad dog in town is representative of the racial prejudices that seem to thrive and his attempts to end said discrimination.

The dog roams around the streets making all citizens shut themselves away. Similarly, racial inequalities and tensions in the town have the same effect on the people of Maycomb—they hide from the all-too terrible realities of life in their community.

Atticus is the one person who has the courage to try to end the misery. He takes on the seemingly impossible, battling a deeply ingrained mindset in attempts to liberate the townsfolk from evil and hatred. He deals with both situations with a patience and tolerance not seen in others.

When Characters Like Atticus Come To Life

Much has been written about Atticus Finch—he is a character so beloved that many think of him as a real figure—a mentor, a role model, a hero.

Atticus Finch fighting discrimination
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson

He strives to live an authentic life, he is an excellent father to Scout and Jem, he is patient and deliberate, and he holds himself to a high standard of moral conduct. For these reasons, and many others, Atticus has become more than a character—he has become a cultural symbol.

Perhaps it is that we see so little of these qualities in others that we are compelled to seek them in a literary character. Once we find them, in this case symbolized by Atticus Finch, we cling to them for dear life.

Atticus remains an example of moral integrity that, even today, continues to stand strong.

Who is your literary role model? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you!

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