In Harper Lee’s timeless novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the descriptions that Scout and Jem impart to us of their father Atticus lead us to believe that he is not a very idolised man. We are shown, through the qualities that Atticus reveals throughout the course of the novel, that he does not need to have rippling muscles and a perfect smile to be the ultimate “hero”. He shows us that even though he may come across as a frail fifty year old man, underneath thrives a strong, wilful personality, and in the end this helps him to earn a place as one of the most respected men in Maycomb. Instead of being the perfect superhuman, Atticus could be described as a quiet achiever. Throughout the novel he risks his life while standing up for what he believes is right and just, and although he never appears outwardly courageous, he always seems to survive even in the direst situations. One instance where this is shown is the Tim Johnson incident, and each time this type of incident occurs, the children are more and more convinced that their father is not as ineffectual as they had always believed. Another example of Atticus showing quiet courage is when the lynch mob arrive at the courthouse looking for Tom. Instead of appearing even mildly nervous, Atticus keeps his cool the whole time the lynch mob are there, even though he is risking his life. In taking on the very controversial Tom Robinson case, Atticus proves to us all that he is far more courageous than most men are. He knows that even if he put forward the best courtroom performance of his career, he would have no chance defending a black man against a white plaintiff particularly with a white jury sitting. He also knows the danger involved in taking the case, that he is putting himself and his family at risk. Nevertheless, he goes in and defends Tom as well as he possibly can, even though the outcome is not in his favour. Though he does have moments when he shines through in his role as the father to Scout and Jem, Atticus is not the perfect father, as described by Scout at the beginning of chapter ten. This description shows that Atticus is not all perfect and he is capable of failing. “Our father didn’t do anything. He worked in an office, not a drugstore. Atticus did not drive a dump truck for the county, he was not sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone.
Scout puts Atticus in an unfavourable perspective from the children s point of view. The children feel ashamed of their father, and they think that he can never be compared to any of the other children s fathers. Atticus, however, changes their opinion of him when they realise that he has earned the reputation of being one of the finest shots in Maycomb County. Miss Maudie asks Scout if she still thinks that Atticus can t do anything , and Scout changes her perception of him rather promptly. The fact that Atticus is far from perfect, just your average man, makes him much more appealing to the reader as he comes across as a very realistic character. From Harper Lee s descriptions of him in the novel, we find that Atticus not only displays qualities that seem very human and are far from any qualities that would make him stand out from others. He is old, feeble and almost blind in his left eye, a tribal curse of the Finch family. The Finch children appear to be rather ashamed of their poor, decrepit father, and they seem to prefer that he remain as inconspicuous as possible. Another of Atticus better qualities is that even in the face of danger, he sticks to his beliefs. He believes that all men are created equal, and that blacks should be treated with as much dignity and respect that the white folks around them are. He believes that there is more to Tom Robinson s case than meets the eye which is highlighted when he says to Scout Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win (the case) . He also sticks to his beliefs when he is in the courtroom cross-examining Mayella Ewell. Even though the Ewells are the lowest forms of white trash in town, Atticus continues to refer to Mayella as Miss Mayella and ma am in a gentlemanly fashion, and this reinforces his belief that everyone should be treated equally. After examining and finding examples of some of the qualities that Atticus Finch displays throughout the course of To Kill A Mockingbird , I believe that he is a real hero . He is honest, courageous, and respectful, qualities that set him above the rest.