“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving,”(Dale Carnegie). The book To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee contains many strong and defining characters. One character who stands out from the rest is a lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. This character goes through hatred and the struggles of racism, but still manages to hold a firm composure, his name is Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch is a wise and moral man who plays a significant role in the public by teaching not only his children, but the community about why it is important to put yourself in another’s shoes in order to better understand an individual, and their roles in society.
Throughout the story, Atticus shows his strong ability to understand a situation from another person’s point of view. Earlier in the book when Mrs. Dubose had passed away, Atticus mentioned to Jem that she had died free of her morphine addiction. He had told Jem that, “‘She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine… I wanted you to see something about her–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…. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew,’”(Lee 149). In other words, Atticus is trying to tell Jem that although Mrs. Dubose might have had a different standpoint than Atticus it was still important to acknowledge what really mattered, her courage. Atticus understood that even though Mrs. Dubose was rude and made snarky comments about him she was a strong person because of her ability to overcome addiction. The way Atticus repeats the word “I” shows us that Atticus wants to influence Jem to see a different side of Mrs. Dubose. He’s teaching him to look beyond what words people say and the stereotypes involved to see the truth behind a person. This shows how Atticus is not one whose quick to judge and how he’s willing to take the time to understand a person which then reveals his wise words and moral teachings.
Atticus’s wise and moral attributes are displayed throughout the book and can be found influential throughout his children’s lives and the Tom Robinson trial. Towards the beginning of the book Scout had complained about how her new teacher yelled at her because she could read. After listening to her ramble Atticus said,“‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view …until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,’” (Lee 39). Atticus is trying to explain to Scout that if you put yourself in another person’s shoes and look at a situation from their point of view you’ll begin to understand them. This explains to us that Atticus has good intentions by providing Scout with wise advice. His job as a lawyer has made him more open-minded, such as the fact that he’s defending a black man because he doesn’t want to dishonor his morals. During the Tom Robinson trial, Atticus presented his evidence to both the jury and spectators, hoping it was enough to persuade them to make the right decision. Nearing the end of his talk, he said, “‘There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there’s no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire,’”(Lee 273). In other words, Atticus is trying to say that no matter the race, there is not a single person who hasn’t lied, done an immoral thing, or looked at a woman. The quote reveals a big part of Atticus’s character because it shows that he has the right idea about what kinds of people are really out in the world. His actions influence the way people view others and helps them to open their eyes to the reality of life. By using his wise and meaningful words he demonstrates how a person can learn from a man with the right morals.
Atticus expresses his effective teaching capability by conveying his beliefs to others through teaching them from experience. Towards the end of the book, Scout walked Arthur Radley home and after he walked through his door, Scout was left alone standing on the Radley’s porch. She could see the neighborhood from his perspective and at that moment she realized, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them,”(Lee 374). After standing on the Radley’s porch, she had realized what Atticus had meant when he said you never really know a man until you walk around in his shoes. This quote reveals to us how a simple action can change the view of a person. Scout had never really taken into consideration what other people saw, but after standing on the porch and remembering Atticus’s words she learned a very valuable lesson and what it truly meant to be open-minded. To sum it up, Atticus’s way of teaching is not something that could be taught in words but instead through experience. He shows his children the positive outcomes of an honest and understanding man, enabling them to become more aware of the reasons why a person might say or do something. His ability to teach a lesson through the hardships of others really shows how important his role in the book is.
Atticus Finch is not only a person with wise and moral intentions, but is also one who can teach his children and the city of Maycomb the significance of reading a person better to further understand their place in society. Atticus’s ability to understand and teach a person not only affects him but influences the thoughts and morals of others around him. His dominant attributes such as his way to speak wise words as well as his strong morals shows the reality of the world how a person can view it differently. As you can see, Atticus Finch is a very influential person who teaches the importance of grasping another person’s character and could be considered or thought of as a life changer.