The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama was where the world first glimpsed a character who would become known to generations. This was no small feat for a seemingly simple man—an attorney, widower, and father. Somehow, though, the world came to see the character of Atticus Finch as so much more, and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird continue to acknowledge the name with a sort of reverence.
Immersed in responsibilities, Atticus Finch’s duties are found in his struggle not only to effectively raise two children, but also to help a town find it’s own character and sense of truth.
The Beliefs of Atticus Finch
For movie-goers, it was through Gregory Peck’s character portrayal in To Kill a Mockingbird that some insight into the character of Atticus Finch was gained. His story takes place in a small town, like many others, dealing with social prejudices of race and class. It speaks to the compassion of a family man who loathes injustice but is never one to complain. Atticus Finch is the type to work though a situation rather than merely talking about it endlessly. He sees the realities of life and attempts to instill a respect for humanity in his young children.
Is he trying to protect their innocence? To keep them from being exposed to the prejudices of the world? Atticus Finch does not seem to want to shelter them from anything at all. He often imparts real wisdom to his children, words they may be too young to understand in that moment, but he seems hopeful they will remember and carry throughout their lives. Some might say Atticus Finch is something of a redundant idealist.
Integrity is defined as being undivided in your moral standards and adhering to the truth and quality of principles. Atticus Finch’s character seems built around these ideals. Atticus always chooses right over wrong. With him, there is no alternative. Because of his convictions, he often conflicts with Maycomb’s townsfolk, even those who often support him. If injustice is dealt, Atticus Finch believes it must be remedied.
The Cult of Personality
It is interesting to note that, by today’s standards, the legal strokes of this character are not seen as old, dated or clichéd. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Finch represents an impartial truth in the law, offering true justice, regardless of agreement or success in the eyes of the legal fraternity. Winning or losing the case brought to him is almost insignificant, even if the true villains are not brought to a conventional and rightful consequence. It is bringing out every facet of truth that is really important, and offering guidance when decisions must be made.
Most fascinating is how this fictional character is as so beloved by many readers as though he were real. A lawyer and father, yes—but what makes this man climb to higher ground? Why is he better than our friends and our neighbors?
Atticus Finch is an example of how a historical and fictional character can still offer current value. The modern film magazine, Empire, recently touted the character of Atticus Finch as one of the top 100 greatest movie characters ever. He has been called a hero in contemporary times. That’s quite a tribute considering today’s not-so-subtle action movies are saturated with the term hero. Finch seems more relevant than most protagonists of today’s film fare.
Given all of these accolades, it is not unforeseen that modern legal-eagles in their early studies are exposed to the character as if he were a real attorney. A fictional character, yes, but Atticus Finch may well have crossed that blurred line that wills and wishes a fictitious person into being. It seems to go beyond the respect for good writing.
This character demands a truthful and ethical life. While maintaining the town’s respect, he attempts to shake off the pack mentality of lingering unspoken obligations involving race and social status for a newer, more relevant code that he is to protect his townsfolk, no matter what.
To Kill a Mockingbird offers up hope that such good men remain in the world, that guardians and protectors exist. Fans of the film are left with the certainty that the justice Atticus Finch seeks so vehemently, prevails… for some.
Do you relate to Atticus Finch? Or do you have an Atticus in your life? Let us know!