Atticus Finch was a character from a small town called Maycomb in a time that we come to know is shortly following FDR’s first inaugural address. Times are hard in small town America and ethics as well as morals are shaped by the way people interact with one another. Atticus has many admirable character traits; tranquility, honesty, humility, and a strong sense of civic duty. Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson, an African-American man accused of raping a Caucasian woman. The penalty for rape in Maycomb was death. Although Atticus is a single father and has a busy legal practice, he accepts the invitation to defend Tom Robinson.
The tone in which he is received for accepting the case would hamper even the bravest of souls. He still carries himself with a certain integrity that transcends time. Atticus personally stands up for Mr. Robinson even with the threat to his own safety.
He continues to be neighborly to Mrs. Dubose and her garden, as well as others who he comes in contact with. Atticus is not only a lawyer but he is a single father of two young children. With the help of Calpurnia they raise Jem and scout with a deep-rooted sense of honesty. Gem recalls not ever being hit by his father and the fact that Jem never wants to put his father in that position tells the audience a great deal regarding the father-son dynamic that they share. His ability to relate to his daughter, Scout, is impressive due to the loss of her mother.
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He is able to explain things in a way that lets the children reflect their own feeling on situations. He compromises and assumes the role of a mentor. He is perfectly content to let his children believe that their father is an old lawyer without many non-academic virtues. He surprises them again and again. The trial of Tom Robinson shows the audience a side of Atticus Finch that is grounded in civility.
The obvious comparison is to that of the prosecuting attorney. The latter is disheveled and cocky. He carries himself with a certain swagger that exudes a pompous aura. I have not read the book in over a decade so I am not sure if the character was exaggerated in the movie in order to present a more appealing contrast in characters; even if that is the case Atticus still carries himself with the tranquility and humility of a good-hearted person. The one problem that I have with this movie is the excess of civility and humility shown by Atticus.
The way he delivered his closing statement along with the way he questioned witnesses troubles me. The argument can be made that he was excessively civil because they wanted to portray him as taking the high-road and as the better person. If that is the case, isn’t the whole effort of defending a hugely unpopular cause such as Tom Robinson wasted. The end-game has to matter. If a lawyer is too civil to demand his client’s innocence the whole cause is lost. To simply state that the young lady was beaten by a left-handed man and not a right-handed man was vague and overly submissive.
Atticus is looking forward to the appeal rather than focusing all of his efforts and passionately pleading for a determination of his client’s innocence. This world needs unpopular lawyers; great lawyers who are not afraid to tarnish their reputation for a deserving cause. Atticus Finch is one of these people, a model lawyer. The legal profession comes with a civic responsibility that is inherently embedded in our scholastic training. An unpopular cause will always present itself; the question is who will be brave enough to bypass the money and selfishness in order to help in the evolution of society and hopefully the dismantling of evil and prejudice..