Atticus Finch is a fictional character in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a lawyer and resident of Maycomb County, Alabama, and the father of Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch and Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. Atticus is one of the central characters in the novel.
Atticus is the descendant of Simon Finch, an apothecary from England who settled near Maycomb. Rather than stay in the family homestead (named "Finch's Landing"), Atticus went to Montgomery to study law. He was later elected to the Alabama State Legislature, was then reelected without opposition many times, and was known as a respected and hard-working lawmaker (although it's never stated whether he was a member of the Alabama House of Representatives or the Alabama Senate). While a legislator, he met and married the future mother of Jem and Scout Finch (her first name is never revealed, but her surname is Graham, and it is mentioned that she was 15 years his junior). His wife died of a heart attack two years after Scout, their younger child, was born. Throughout the novel, Atticus lives in Maycomb with his two children and his maid, Calpurnia. He has one sister, who has very different ways of bringing up children and wants to make Scout a more feminine and respectable lady, and a brother who seems quite inexperienced with children as a medical doctor.
Claudia Durst Johnson noted about available critique of the novel that, "a greater volume of critical readings has been amassed by two legal scholars in law journals than by all the literary scholars in literary journals." Alice Petry remarked that "Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person." Examples of Atticus Finch's impact on the legal profession are plentiful. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center cites Atticus Finch as the reason he became a lawyer, and Richard Matsch, the federal judge who presided over the Timothy McVeigh trial, counts Atticus as a major judicial influence. One law professor at the University of Notre Dame stated that the most influential textbook he taught from was To Kill a Mockingbird, and an article in the Michigan Law Review claimed, "No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession," before questioning whether, "Atticus Finch is a paragon of honor or an especially slick hired gun."
In 1992, Monroe Freedman, a legal ethics expert teaching at Hofstra University Law School, published two articles in the national legal newspaper LEGAL TIMES calling for the legal profession to set aside Atticus Finch as a role model. Freedman argued that Atticus still worked within a system of institutionalized racism and sexism and should not be revered. Freedman's article sparked a flurry of responses from attorneys who entered the profession holding Atticus Finch as a hero, and the reason they became lawyers. Critics of Atticus such as Freedman maintain that Atticus Finch is morally ambiguous and does not use his legal skills to challenge the racist status quo in Maycomb. Freedman's article sparked furious controversy, however, and he has stepped back from his original position. Further, in 1997, the Alabama State Bar erected a monument dedicated to Atticus in Monroeville marking his existence as the "first commemorative milestone in the state's judicial history."
Lee herself, in an interview in 1961, described Atticus as "a man of absolute integrity with as much good will and good humor as he is just and humane." He is described as having "Christ-like goodness and wisdom" illustrated by Miss Maudie's comment that Atticus "was born to do our unpleasant jobs for us," and Aunt Alexandra's reaction to Atticus' grief at Tom Robinson's death: "It tears him to pieces...what else do they want from him?" Praise for the character is tremendous indeed, likening him to the "Abe Lincoln of Alabama," Emersonian in his wisdom, and a modern-day prophet.
Answered By: Cuckoo - 3/19/2009