Bruce Cockburn, a well known Canadian jazz and folk artist, sang in “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” that one should “Keep kicking at the darkness ‘till it bleeds daylight”. This statement vividly outlines the determination needed to preserver through a tough situation and come out on the upside. When faced with a challenge that seems unbearable, one must remember that this effort will eventually turn into an accomplishment that they can be proud of. In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, the importance of Atticus Finch’s character is to influence the way the community and his children view racism.
Atticus tries to change his children’s opinions and actions throughout the story by leading by example and discussing and explaining equal rights and prejudice with them. Likewise, he shows the black community that trust and goodness can be found in a white man, by defending Tom Robinson to his utmost ability at the trial. Finally, Atticus begins, through his many efforts and failures, to change some of the white community’s mind about how they view racism and treat others.
Atticus’ actions throughout the novel, standing up for black rights, and the fight against racism throughout the Trial, is a step towards rying to change people’s views on equality, and more largely, reinforces his influential role and effect in breaking down racial barriers in the community. Atticus has two children, Jem and Scout, they are immersed in racism and hatred towards others from a young age. Atticus tries to show his children through example and explanations that they should not get involved with discrimination because it is evil and unfair. To begin with, through various attempts to make Boo(Arthur) Radley come out, the kids prove to be discriminating, even though it seems innocent. Atticus catches them and helps them ealize how wrong what they are doing actually is. Atticus and Jem argued about what they were doing to Arthur: Jem, Scout and Dill were outside the Radley household trying to give Arthur a note telling him to come outside and meet them. Atticus finds them doing this and tells them that what Mr. Radley does is his own business, not that of others in the community. Jem counters, stating they just wanted to meet him and that it was harmless. Atticus then explains that they are “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood”. He tells them that they must stop ormenting the man. (Lee 64-65)
Atticus begins to show the children what they are doing wrong, how they need to begin to treat Arthur with more respect, no matter what he chooses to reveal about himself or his life. The reader is now shown, though subtly, that the kids are being influenced by the town’s outlook on certain things and people. They are led to believe it is acceptable to be prejudice against others. Secondly, Scout is confused about why Miss. Caroline is mad that she can read. She doesn’t grasp why people act in a deprecating way. Atticus tries to explain by saying “You never really nderstand 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 shows his deep understanding of the way people think in this quote, one now builds on the knowledge of him being able to change the ways and thoughts of others. He makes Scout realize that people may seem evil or they may be discriminative, but you have to always take into account what they are going through in their life to truly be able to judge them fairly. Lastly, the trial has a large impact on the finalization of the ids comprehension of the way they must treat others with respect and dignity. Through all Atticus’ teachings and the turnout of the trial, coupled with the town’s reaction, Jem learns that not everyone in the world is nice.
He displays his understanding in saying “Like something asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thought the Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like” (Lee 288). Jem reflects upon the utter reality that there are people in any society that are not kind in any way. Jem ultimately becomes aware of the act that what his father explains to him was right. People are not always what they appear to be and one must be careful how they conduct themselves and what they actually listen to. Undoubtedly, Atticus helped protect his children from the dangers of listening to what others say and acting upon it, making them think about if what others are doing is right before participating in it themselves. As Atticus teaches his children of equality, he also deals with trying to show the town that the black community are their equals, showing the development of his influence more openly.
Illustrated primarily in his defense of Tom Robinson, Atticus begins to show his definite want to help when he stays outside the jail watching out for Tom. He sat there, “a long extension cord ran between the bars of a second floor window and down the side of the building. In the light of the bare bulb, Atticus was sitting propped against the front door… ‘He in there, Mr. Finch? ’ a man said. ‘He is,’ we heard Atticus answer, ‘and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up. ’… ‘You can turn around and go home again, Walter,’ Atticus said pleasantly” (Lee 201-202).
Atticus stands up for Tom when the group of men show up to get him. This makes one realize how passionate he is about saving Mr. Robinson and helping him get the fair treatment he deserves. Outlining the importance of equality placed in Atticus’ mind, and how he intends to make others feel the same way. In conjunction with this point, Atticus continues to enforce his beliefs right up until the trial. Throughout the entire questioning Atticus never strays from his attempts to prove Tom Robinson innocent, he begins to convict Mr. Ewell by showing he is left handed and also turns
Mayella’s own words on herself. When Tom testifies, Atticus begins to show everyone how believable his story is with some cleverly worded questions. He wraps up with an appeal to the judges that explains a human is a human, no matter the colour of their skin (Lee 222-276). This instance is where Atticus really defines his character, and love for the cause. He stands before the entire town of Maycomb and yet, is still able to continue with his activism about equality, despite how badly that is looked upon in this courtroom. Finally, Atticus is shown a great respect by the lack community for all his efforts. As Scout looked about the balcony, “the negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s: ‘Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’. ’” (Lee 283). Likewise, after the trial another show of adoration comes from the blacks, “The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family… Calpurnia said, ‘This was all ‘round the back steps when i got here this morning. ’… Atticus’s eyes filled with tears. He did not speak for a moment. ‘Tell them I’m very grateful,’ he said” (Lee 286).
In both these instances the negroes show their undying gratitude towards Atticus for what he did to help try and save Tom. Through his influences on the black community, by helping one of their kin, they had to somehow show him respect and their thanks. This is how they have done that. Atticus is a man of great impact on the community. He stands up for equality and black rights right from when he is a appointed the case, until Tom Robinson is dead. He influences their lives by ultimately helping pave the way towards a brighter, more accepting future in Maycomb.
While helping the black community through their struggles, Atticus tried to begin changing the minds of the white community from hatred to acceptance, once again proving his influential role in this town. At first no one believes in the cause Atticus is supporting, they rebel against it and tend to dislike the Finch’s; making rude comments and gestures towards them. While walking into town some days, Scout and Jem would “sometimes hear, ‘There’s his chillun,’ or, ‘Yonder’s some Finches. ’… ‘They c’n go loose and rape up the countryside for all of ‘em who run this county care,’ was one obscure observation” (Lee 180).
There are many people in the community that disapprove of the way Atticus is raising his children to include everyone and not be prejudiced. It is quite clear at this point that Atticus has not made headway with the townsfolk, they rebuke the new idea about treating everyone as their equals; no matter who they are and what they look like. The white people still cling to the hatred from previous generations, they feel safe there and do not want to let go. Despite the majority of them putting down on the embracement of others, there are a few people who see what Atticus is doing is the right thing to o. Mr. Link Deas is a person who believes this, during Tom Robinson’s testimonial, he stands up and declares: “‘I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy’s worked for me eight years an‘ I ain’t had a speck o’trouble outa him. Not a speck. ’” (Lee 261). During Atticus’ questioning, Mr. Link Deas decided to stand up and voice his support for Tom, an attempt to sway the jury and courtroom towards Mr. Robinson’s side. Atticus does not have everyone’s support, but he surely has a few, Link Deas is an example of a person who thinks that everyone should be equal in this town.
Link Deas and a few others are shifting towards acceptance of the blacks in their society, treating them as they would any white man, standing up for them while they are in need. Likewise, Atticus places some hope and good accepting views in people with some importance. When the jury returns with their verdict, Tom is found guilty, though surprisingly Atticus informed the kids that, “‘you might like to know that there was one fellow who took considerable wearing down-in the beginning he was rarin’ for an outright acquittal. ’… ‘Who? ’ Jem was astonished. Atticus’s eyes twinkled. It’s not for me to say, but I’ll tell you this much. He was one of your Old Sarum friends.. ’ ‘One of the Cunninghams? ’ Jem yelped” (Lee 297). Yet another person who sees the light in what Atticus is doing, people begin to realize that the black community is just like them; nothing different except the colour of their skin.
Atticus accomplishes what he wanted to do, all that he ever told anyone was that you can not change every person’s mind at once, you just have to make a few people understand and eventually everybody will notice what they were doing was wrong. It does not concern Atticus at ll that most people still believe that the blacks are outcasts, because in changing a few minds, he has begun the path to equality and paved a new direction towards acceptance. Atticus is a very influential character throughout the entire novel, providing advice, counsel and better, more accepting views on people to everyone. This helps break away some of the extreme racism taking place in the town. He shows his children the right way to act and ways to become a more embracing of a new view on equality through his own actions and words. Secondly he supports the entire black community by standing up for their kin, in Tom Robinson, ut more largely in their fight towards fair treatment and equal rights. Lastly, Atticus begins to imprint some morality onto the hearts of some citizens in the white community by showing them during the trial that the black people are just like them and should be treated the way they would treat any other white man. No matter in what time you live, society always faces challenges, some larger then others, some overcome by the will of one man. Atticus Finch is a true visionary, and his influence on the town of Maycomb, though slowly, will help dispel the hate and racism running deep in this community’s veins.
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