To Kill A Mockingbird – Portrait of Atticus Finch
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”Atticus Finch in to Kill a Mockingbird
My son Conner is a sophmore. Okay, that in itself is not exceptional. I realize this.
The text message I got one day a few months back was.
“Mom, I got the lead in the school play.”
I didn’t even know he had tried out. Conner has pretty much been a jock all his life, moving from one sport to the next. But theater?
I’m tellin’ ya. Teenage boys are such a mystery to me.
The play was To Kill a Mockingbird. It’d been forever since I’d read the book and I’m not sure if I’ve even seen the movie with Gregory Peck but I’m planning on renting it, if I can find it.
I adore Mr. Gregory Peck and admire all his films.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a story about injustice. It’s a story about social status and racial profiling. It’s a story about human cruelty and human ignorance.
It’s also the story of Atticus Finch, and everything that’s good and right.
Atticus Finch is the character Conner played the role of. He’s a lawyer in the deep southern town of Maycomb in the 1930’s.
Atticus has two children, Scout and Jem and they have a friend named Dill.
The story is told through the narration of Jean Louise (the older Scout many years later), and through the inquisitive younger Scout who is searching for some meaning in her father, and the events she witnesses around her.
Scout has a lot of questions for Atticus, who has a way of causing his children to seek answers themselves and find them based on what their heart tells them is good and right.
Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a negro man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, the town tramp.
The night before the trial, Atticus camps out outside Tom’s jail cell to ward off a mob lynching he knows is in the works.
Scout actually breaks up the lynch mob by talking to the men, and making them remember that they are all friends.
The faith of a child.
Tom has stopped and helped Mayella with house projects on occasion and she takes a fancy to him, a big no-no in the 1930’s, because well, frankly, she’s white and he’s black. When caught by her father Bob Ewell, she screams rape and her father ends up beating her up. Then they both become co-conspirators in the cover up and accusation of Tom Robinson.
During the trial, Atticus more than wins the case for Tom Robinson. He proves that Tom, who has a crippled left arm could not have possibly been the one to black Mayella’s right eye. He also tricks Bob Ewell into showing that Bob is left-handed and was fully capable of committing the abuse.
Atticus is a gentleman and kind however, even in questioning Mayella Ewell.
Unbeknown to Atticus, his children watch from the negro side of the gallery up above and earn a new respect for who their father is.
Isn’t this every parent’s dream? That their children will observe their character, realize that all the advice, pain, sweat and tears has been to teach them right from wrong, and good from evil. That as a parent, being a child’s friend is tempting, but molding them into a good adult is something greater.
For Atticus knows ahead of time, he has no chance of winning but reflects:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” Atticus Finch in to Kill a Mockingbird
Ahhh a parent who teaches actually lives what he teaches his children. He does right, even when no one is looking or the crowd goes against him.
Unfortunately, the jury sides with the plaintiff, and Tom is convicted and sent away, where he is later shot for trying to escape prison while waiting for his appeal. Tom becomes “the mockingbird no one should have hurt”.
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird
The kids (Jem, Scout and Dill, a neighbor friend) are intrigued with the neighbor Boo Radley who hasn’t come out of his house in years.
One night on her way home with Jem from a school activity, Bob Ewell seeks revenge on Atticus for calling him out in court, and attacks the kids in the dark. A struggle ensues and later, Bob Ewell is found dead with a knife stuck in him. Scout realizes that Boo has saved them and her opinion of him changes as well.
Again, the mockingbird theme is revisited and the town sheriff convinces Atticus that he will report that Bob fell on his own knife. We see Atticus struggle with what he knows to be correct in relation to law versus what he knows to be right in the character of a human being and we all breathe a sigh of relief as he saves Boo from further persecution.
Scout escorts Arthur “Boo” Radley home but in a way of honor and realizes she now knows what it is to walk in someone elses skin.
This play was fantastic. I was so proud of Conner for his performance in the character of Atticus Finch.
My daughter asked me the question afterward…”Mom, do you think playing that character will affect Conner’s outlook on life of what it is to be a true man?”
I don’t know how he could NOT be affected.
I know I was.
Atticus Finch is a reminder to us all of how sometimes, we are tunnel visioned humans, who don’t know that each and every human being has a story and a life and deserves to be treated equal.
But as Atticus points out, that is hardly the case, as was intended by our forefathers – equal treatment I mean.
“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe–some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others–some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men. But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal–there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.” Atticus Finch in to Kill A Mockingbird
In a perfect world, we would see no color, no financial levels, no social status. Each person would be known simply for who they are.