Atticus Finch Quotes and Analysis
Top Ten Most Important Atticus Finch Quotes
We were far too old to settle an argument with a fist-fight, so we consulted Atticus. Our father said we were both right (2). Click for extended analysis
Context: Scout provides a personal and historical backdrop for the events of her childhood that led up to her brother’s arm being badly broken. This short
primer serves as an introduction to the main conflict in the novel.
Analysis: From the onset of the novel, Atticus Finch is presented as the voice of reason between two conflicting opinions of events. It also shows the way in which he is willing to consider all sides of an argument, taking into account each individual’s unique perspective rather than imposing his own upon a situation. He stands apart even at the book’s beginning as an individual of objectivity and impartiality.
Techniques: Flashback, foreshadowing
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch was the kind of reasoned man and parent, who his children look up to even now that they are adults. His integrity has
not diminished in their eyes over the years and after all that transpired. He is and was the moral authority in their house.
Atticus’s office in the courthouse contained little more than a hat rack, a spittoon, a checkerboard and an unsullied Code of Alabama (2). Click for extended analysis
Context: In explaining how her father and uncle broke with the family tradition of living on the land, Scout describes his law office in Maycomb.
Analysis: The sparse furnishings of Atticus’ office indicate that he does not serve as an attorney in order to obtain material wealth. His surroundings are purely functional: He has a place to hang his hat, dispose of waste, and keep his mind entertained. The legal code is described as faultless or in the context of the environs unblemished, indicating that it holds a special position of reverence in his professional quarters.
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch values the law above physical comforts or luxuries as evidenced by the fact that the legal code of Alabama is the most esteemed and cared for possession in his office.
“Atticus ain’t got time to teach me anything,” I added, when Miss Caroline smiled and shook her head. “Why, he’s so tired at night he just sits in the livingroom and reads” (9). Click for extended analysis
Context: On the first day of school, Scout’s new teacher Miss Caroline instructs her to inform her father he is not share time reading with her anymore as it will interfere with her own teaching methods.
Analysis: Scout’s younger voice surfaces here in the early part of the novel, drawing a sharp distinction to the more adult-sounding tone and language that often accompanies her narration of events. Her description of Atticus is one that a child would render, not realizing how inappropriate it may sound to suggest her father didn’t have time for such matters. In a bit of an ironic twist, however, Miss Caroline mistakes Scout’s earnest admission for a fib and then reprimands her for supposedly using the same imagination she was just encouraging the first graders to embrace.
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch’s parenting style is not one of the doting, sentimental single father. He is a busy man who works extremely hard. The lessons he teaches his children are a natural extension of that lifestyle.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it (16). Click for extended analysis
Context: Atticus is explaining to Scout why she must return to school and not be so hard on Miss Caroline for the honest mistakes she made that first day of class.
Analysis: Like so many passages in the book, this one represents the worldview and attitude that Atticus approaches his daily and professional life with. He attests that it is necessary to consider how others exist in this community in order to understand why they do the things they do. In this scene, we see Scout’s reaction to Miss Caroline, a relative newcomer to their community, and Atticus’s response is to remind her to see the other person’s side of things, even when that person may be ignorant of the unspoken social codes of their community, some of which Scout herself is just beginning to learn. He is trying to help Scout understand that she must accept and be tolerant of those around her who are different than herself by trying to understand the world through a considered appreciation of their existence. In this regard, the encounter with Miss Caroline is symbolic of Scout’s first step toward social maturation.
You can use this to show: This passage underscores Atticus Finch’s way of looking at the world and the people in it.
Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets (25). Click for extended analysis
Context: Miss Maudie and Scout are discussing Arthur “Boo” Radley in an attempt to help Scout understand why he may be the way he is today.
Analysis: Scout takes exception when Miss Maudie references the secrets that go on behind the closed doors of some family’s houses. Not realizing that Jem would make the connection between her statement and her father’s house, Miss Maudie clarifies that she was not speaking of Atticus in this remark. Instead, she assures Jem of her father’s integrity. His principled demeanour never diminishes or changes. He demonstrates his values and legal and moral ethics with consistency through his interactions with the townsfolk, his client, and even his children. The mention of secrets that spark this conversation foreshadow what Scout will come to learn both about the Ewell and the Radley families.
Techniques: Dialogue, foreshadowing
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch is known as a man of integrity, acting with moral consistency in all his dealings, both public and private.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles them (47). Click for extended analysis
Context: Uncle Jack and Atticus are discussing Jem’s behaviour at Finch’s Landing, when she split her third cousin Francis Hancock’s lip for calling her a nigger-lover.
Analysis: This passage provides a closer examination of Atticus Finch’s parenting style, which at first glance may seem very hands-off and naïve, but which in reality is a well-constructed, logical model built around the idea that children must learn from good models of behaviour and strong, but fair, disciplinary measures.
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch is concerned over how this trial will impact his family, showing that his higher moral purpose does come with a price: Worry for his family’s well-being and their ability to handle the taunts of the townsfolk. A stark contradiction can be drawn between him and Bob Ewell in this regard
Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird (49). Click for extended analysis
Context: After gifting the children with air rifles at Christmastime, Atticus explains his expectations of their use with Scout and Jem.
Analysis: Atticus’s statement confuses the children, to whom one bird is just another bird. At Scout’s request, Miss Maudie clarifies why it is a sin though, explaining that mockingbirds exist solely for the making of music for the enjoyment of others. This elucidation foreshadows what will eventually become the culminating event in the children’s interactions with Arthur “Boo” Radley, whose figure in this novel is symbolized by the mockingbird.
Techniques: Foreshadowing, symbolism
You can use this to show: Atticus Finch is a man who believes in doing what is morally right.
Quotes to show Atticus is intelligent
“Atticus Finch’s a deep reader, a mighty deep reader.” p87
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view p16
Atticus was quietly building up before the jury a picture of the Ewells’ home life. P97
our father’s last-will-and-testament diction p 17
Quotes to show Atticus is respected
served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition p17
people were content to re-elect him to the state legislature that year p129
and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up. P80
Quotes to show Atticus is tolerant
Atticus didn’t bat an eye, just took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and stood there and let Mr. Ewell call him names. p116
Heck, let’s go out on the front porch. p144
He said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind me much the way I was. P44
Quotes to show Atticus is a good parent
it was not until many years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said. P 48
This was the first he had let us know he knew a lot more about something than we thought he knew. p129
“Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man,” he said, “he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us.” p 83
Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way. p30
Quotes to show Atticus is a disappointing parent
when Jem wanted to tackle him Atticus would say, “I’m too old for that, son.” p48
I sure would. Atticus can’t do anything… p49
It had something to do with my going around in overalls. p44
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. p47
Quotes to show Atticus is brave
It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. p61
It was times like these when I thought my father…was the bravest man who ever lived. p54
lingering fingers..they were trembling a little. p81
“Get aside from the door, Mr. Finch.” “You can turn around and go home again, Walter.” p80
Quotes to show Atticus has integrity
The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. p57
The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town p41
“’s what everybody else at school says.”
“From now on it’ll be everybody less one.” p40
He’s the same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets. p106
For a more general outline of Atticus’ character with a few quotes mixed in try looking here