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Book #3 – Atticus Finch; Role Model Father October 12, 2010

Posted by pittsburghmike in Uncategorized.
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If I become a father, I want to be like Atticus Finch. I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and while there are significant lessons to be learned from this book about honor, honesty and integrity, I came away with a very clear impression of the type of father I want to be.

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place three years after the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, and is based on the town in which Lee grew up. The narrator, six-year-old Scout Finch, lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. While the story revolves around the adventures of Scout and Jem, the book comes to a head when Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell. In the deep south in 1935, racial tensions are high heading into the trial, with Atticus (with the help of Scout) preventing the lynching of Tom Robinson just prior to the trial. Despite evidence presented by Atticus during the trial, including evidence that Mayella and her drunkard father Bob Ewell lied about the attack, Tom Robinson is convicted and eventually is killed in prison.

During the trial, Atticus embarrasses the Ewells, leading to a threat of revenge from Bob Ewell. That attempted revenge comes late in the story when Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem, only for the neighborhood recluse Boo Radley to step in and save the children.

The storyline of To Kill a Mockingbird is fantastic, full of colorful characters described with the honesty only available to a six-year-old. But it was Atticus that most enthralled me throughout the book, not his integrity as an attorney committed to the truth, but as a father.

Atticus treats his children with respect, teaching and guiding them. His children love him, defending him when others impugn him and learning from Atticus the importance of honor and the truth. Atticus disciplines his children simply through their fear of his disappointment. Atticus sees it as his responsibility to defend Tom Robinson as fitfully as possible, not only because he believes in Tom’s innocence, but because he wants to make the world a better place for his children. Atticus acts always in the best interest of his children. I want to be the kind of father of which Atticus Finch would be proud.

Despite being awarded the Pulitzer Prize and being recognized as one of the most important American novels, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the ALA’s most challenged books. At a most basic level, the book has been challenged for its use of racial slurs. But it should be recognized that the language used in the novel is accurate for 1935 Alabama. At one point in the 1960s the book was challenged based on the issue that rape was a key plot point, then the overtly hostile racial issues within the story. But again, the racial prejudice displayed by so many of the characters is accurate for 1935 Alabama.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book of great depth – I’m looking forward to completing this year of reading the ALA’s most banned and challenged books in order to rear this one again and discover more about Atticus Finch in the hope of becoming a father of his repute.

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