Tangia by Harper Lee, the leading male,

Tangia Zhou


Ms. Thomas

1 May, 2017

Atticus’ Parenting: A Man Before His Time

The role of being a parent has never been easy. One must take a great amount of responsibility in their hands to be a good parent. Any parenting method, whether positive or negative, has a lasting effect on children and their instilled values. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, an award winning novel by Harper Lee, the leading male, Atticus Finch teaches his two children, Jem and Scout Finch three significant life lessons, that eventually makes them better people and citizens of Maycomb. This is shown when he manages to teach his children to be empathetic and take things from another’s perspective. Along with that, he disciplines his kids not to be prejudice, and on top of that, Mr Finch teaches his kids to be courageous.

To begin with, Atticus teaches his children the valuable lesson of empathy. At the start of school, Scout Finch, could only see how horribly and roughly her first grade teacher, Miss. Caroline was treating her, until Atticus teaches her not to judge others before seeing things from their perspective. She had come home quite disappointed, upset, and confused to why her teacher had treated her in such way, so Atticus explains to Scout “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around it.” (Lee, 39). Atticus is trying to tell her that even though Miss. Caroline comes through as an unfair person, she was just trying to do her job as a teacher. In addition, Atticus teaches Scout to be empathetic towards Mr. Cunningham, a poor client of Atticus’ who could not afford to pay his bills in the traditional way. He instead paid Atticus by leaving goods on his porch, for the work he has done. Scout then insisted on Atticus speaking to Mr. Cunningham on the porch when he was leaving goods, but Atticus tells her it’s best if they leave him be, because he understands that the Stock Market Crash hit the Cunningham’s the hardest, so he doesn’t want to embarrass Mr. Cunningham by speaking with him. This shows Scout that life is tough for many, and being empathetic toward those living in tough situations can make oneself a better person. Furthermore, Atticus constantly remains empathetic to even the rudest members of society. An example of this is when the children ask their father why he chooses not to stand up for himself after Bob Ewell spat in his face, and Atticus states “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with.” (Lee, 292). This proves that Atticus understands the anger and shame that lives inside Bob, and he knows that Bob Ewell has no remaining credibility, so he chooses not to stand up for himself, because there would be no point in doing so. This shows Jem and Scout that no matter how disrespectful a person can be, standing in their shoes can always help in supporting their decisions, no matter how immoral they may seem. In conclusion, treating society with empathy is a very important factor in understanding the reasons behind how a person thinks. Similar to how he taught his kids to be empathetic, Atticus teaches the children not to be prejudice.

Secondly, in the society of Maycomb, many face the worst forms of prejudice, so Atticus teaches his children the importance of not prejudging people. The Finch’s neighbour, Boo Radley, a man who has often been looked upon as mentally deranged, because he hasn’t left his house in many years faced lots of prejudice. The children though he was extremely twisted, and would often impersonate scenes from what they thought were scenes from his life, so when Atticus sees this, he tells them “What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay inside his own house, he had the right to stay inside.” (Lee 65). In other words, Atticus is making sure that the kids don’t prejudge Boo before knowing his backstory. At first, Jem and Scout think that the scolding is because of their immature game, but as the story develops, they realize that Boo Radley never left his house because he didn’t want to get involved in Maycomb’s racist society. Likewise, Atticus teaches the children not to be prejudice through the Tom Robinson case, where Tom Robinson, a black man, has been accused of raping a white woman, and is automatically seen as guilty because of his race. Scout asks her father why he is actually trying his best with the case, and he answers “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win” (Lee 101). Atticus is trying to show Scout that even though Tom, and other black members of society face the worst forms of prejudice because of their skin colour, he will not be prejudice to Tom by not trying his best to win the trial. Furthermore, Scout and Jem despise their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, and think that she’s a mean old lady, but later realize that they judged a book by its cover. Atticus then explains to the children that Mrs. Dubose has a serious illness, and should be treated with respect, but Scout and Jem only realize how severe her disease is when Atticus explains to them how Mrs. Dubose wants to get off her morphine addiction, and die a non addict. Thus, Jem and Scout become aware that Mrs. Dubose is not only racist, repulsive, and heartless, but when given a chance, can also be a fighter for her values. All in all, although Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and Mrs. Dubose are perceived differently by the Maycomb society, Atticus teaches his children that a person’s true nature is far more complex than what it may seem like on the surface. Similar to the lesson on not being prejudice, Atticus also teaches his children the importance of being courageous.

The final lesson Atticus teaches Jem and Scout is courage. Throughout the novel, Atticus demonstrates bravery through his actions. Many people such as Miss Stephanie Crawford, scorn Atticus for treating black people as his equals. She even asks him “Too proud to fight, you nigger lovin’ bastard?” (Lee 291), but he doesn’t let that get to him. This portrays massive bravery to Scout because it shows to her that even though her father was looked down on upon for his values, he is still courageous, and never changes his values and beliefs because of how society sees him. In addition, Atticus teaches his children that even the most despicable people can be courageous. He tells Jem and Scout that Mrs. Dubose, an elderly neighbor of the Finch’s, who is extremely mean to the children, has a very severe disease, but perseveres to stay off the medicine she’s addicted to, so she can die freely. This shows the children that the reason their father made them read to Mrs. Dubose every night was so they could see what true courage and inner strength looked like. Furthermore, Atticus portrays bravery to his children by fighting with words instead of with a gun. Atticus knew that his client, Tom Robinson would be attacked by angry citizens of Maycomb in his jail cell, so Atticus chose to guard Tom for the night, with only a light and a book. This shows Jem and Scout that bravery isn’t holding a gun to another’s head, but instead having the control and power to fight confidently with words. All in all, Atticus teaches his children the significance of courage and fearlessness that helps them become stronger people in society.

Each parent has their own unique ways on educating their children on morals in society, and Atticus teaches his children directly and indirectly to be good influences in the Maycomb society. First, he does this by showing Jem and Scout that portraying empathy to someone is key to truly understanding them. Secondly, he shows them that treating people with prejudice is wrong, as people may not be like what they seem like on the surface, and finally, he shows his children that being courageous is an important asset in having confidence in oneself. To conclude, although the Jem and Scout began their journey as immature kids, they slowly developed into refined and respected individuals in Maycomb, with the help of their father, Atticus Finch.

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