Hit enter after type your search item

Defining a Hero: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch’s Heroism


Defining a Hero: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch’s Heroism

The definition of a hero is different and complex. While there are certain types of heroism such as altruistic heroism, or other machismo blowing this paper will look for to discover a meaning to the particular heroism as exhibited in Harper Lee’s character Atticus Finch in To Eliminate a Mockingbird.

A conversation of the meaning of hero according to literary terms (as specified by the Greeks, Aristotle and Plato– particularly using his approach on morality) will be used to establish the paper in order to find what makes Atticus Finch a timeless hero. Such issues as bigotry and bravery versus bias will highly support this thesis claim.

The concept of heroism in the form of a literary character has its roots with Greek drama. This drama revealed heroes as having a major flaw. It was this flaw which at once ruined them however likewise permitted them to be human and therefore be able to be labeled as heroes. In discovering this definition them the readers of Lee’s unique To Kill a Mockingbird must consider what odds are against Atticus Finch and what flaws or defect he has in his character that allow him to be a human hero.

Aristotle’s meaning for a hero is one who is not in control of his own fate, however instead is ruled by the gods in one fashion or another– when it comes to Atticus Finch his fate and the fate of his trial is determined by the jury. It is then the jury who exhibit control over Finch’s fate and the fate of his customer. Although Atticus is a hero of Lee’s story, he should be thought about an awful hero for his bravery is fulfilled by opposition and it is this opposition that ultimately wins the battle of justice versus prejudice in Harper Lee’s book.

The tragic hero for Aristotle is tragic due to the fact that of their absence of control or will in the face of their established future and downfall– an established future which is well developed in the bigotry of the jurors in the court case scenes where Atticus is shown to be a hero as well as revealing his supreme failure in the jury convicting Tom Robinson of rape.

A fantastic terrible defect (hamartia) is the hero’s devil may care mindset at the beginning of each story, and then their despondency and stagnancy of hope that satisfies them at the end of the play. This is revealed with Atticus’ belief that justice will dominate in the courtroom and his discovery of Mayella Ewell making sexual passes toward Tom and her inebriated daddy Bob Ewell catching her in the act. Hence, hope appears to be lost for the hero. Therefore, although Atticus Finch might be specified as a hero his heroism character traits in the book still is marked by failure.

While Atticus is defined as a hero, his heroism is identified by subjective narration. Harper Lee tells his story through the voice of Scout, Atticus’ child, therefore, the idealism with which a child has for their father is already in play in identifying the character qualities of heroism in Atticus Finch (this can be strongly seen when Scout fights the other kids at the play ground for calling her daddy a ‘nigger fan’).

Although there is a genuine amount of idealism in play in the novel in concerns to Scout’s perspective of her daddy, there are other aspects of the story which help in specifying Atticus’ heroism. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird bigotry is ubiquitous with the young culture in the town. Simply as Atticus is a legal representative in the book, Search the storyteller and child illustrates the scene of racism thusly, “My fists were clenched I was prepared to make fly. Cecil Jacobs had announced the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy protected niggers.”

Though Scout constantly safeguards Atticus on the play area and in other parts of town, the racist remarks do not stop. Even Scout’s cousin Francis is extremely provided with racist remarks, “At a safe range her called,’He’s nothin’ but a nigger-lover’.” In Scout’s defense of her dad the reader is currently subjected to her viewpoint on Atticus being a hero– and a hero is made that much grander when they are up against the evil majority of a town and they have the assistance of their family.

It is possibly both of these components; that of breaking the chances and of Scout’s self-evident dedication to her dad’s cause, that make Atticus Finch a hero. It remains in racism, and the truth of that prejudice that the entire town’s lives are altered, and the political arena of the courtroom reveals itself as prejudiced. It protests this charge of discrimination that Atticus might be specified as a hero, and it is also his failure against this prejudice that makes him a terrible hero.

Modern literature juxtaposes a character’s diminishing faith in themselves and truth. Atticus’ reality is that he is trying to save a person in a town in which they are already found guilty by the color of their skin. There are components of justice and finding the fact underneath the guise of bigotry that play a major part in assistance of Atticus’ being a hero. His undeviating pursuit of justice versus these chances is what primarily finds him out to become a hero not in his child’s vision of a daddy (because subjective perspective) however in a more universal definition: Heroism through moral judgment.

In timeless Greek drama, Plato’s idea of morality is presented as logical action. Morality isn’t a free will that governs humanity’s actions, but rather it is universal reason (life as a whole) that determines action, hence in is found Atticus’ heroism. In his moral judgment in safeguarding Tom Robinson and even going against a lynch mob in his pursuit of that justice create in Lee’s story a vibrant force of this ethical truth.

In Atticus’ is awakened the sense of racial heroism, as Crespino states “In the twentieth century, To Eliminate a Mockingbird is most likely the most extensively read book dealing with race in America, and its lead character, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.” (Crespino 9). It is perhaps this one pursuit that many plainly specifies the kind of heroism discovered in Atticus Finch’s character, that of a hunter and of a tragic hero. It is in his morality that such a meaning can most succinctly be stated.

Human nature is a nature of reason, not strictly adherent to enthusiasm or sensations, but rather to a higher calling– it is this greater employing which readers discover Atticus’ heroism, his morality regardless of an adverse reality. Morality then, becomes the crux of finding heroism in Harper Lee’s book. Morality is factor.

This is not to state that Plato and other timeless Greek writers were ascetic; rather they put enthusiasm, and sensations in their plays however the principles of mankind being tied into the good of a person. Being virtuous, or excellent leads a character to joy or release at the end of a story, however it is this absence of release that enables Atticus’ specific kind of heroism to exist.

He goes into the lawsuit fighting for Tom’s innocence with full knowledge of what his opposition remains in that town. The word for this offered by Plato is eudemonism, which suggests euphoric and it is the absence of this eudemonism that makes Atticus such a striking and memorable literary character.

Atticus was a male filled with faith in humanity; an optimist/realist of some sorts. Plato’s approach of humanity doing evil was that a person only does evil in lack of knowledge, for he believed everybody, simply as himself wants only what is excellent, which is Atticus’ mindset in the novel and the quality that makes him a great attorney is not a hero.

In contemporary literature, the lesson is not about escapism however pertaining to terms with life and making an essential option, an ethical option. Choices can be broken down into excellent and evil in modern-day literature in specifying a hero, or to be more exact they can be dichotomized into brave and a state of succumbing to one’s own humanity.

The awful hero may witness evil deeds and remain in a constant state of exposure to them, however in the end of an unique, virtue is followed. The source of a character doing wicked or good is caused by unlimited desire. Something that goes unmitigated ends up being possessive of that person and they in turn want, and want, without satiation which is what Mayella’s character displays.

This is when the appetitive part of the soul (the part of the soul that wants sex, food, etc.) overtakes the rational (part seeking truth, and reason) of the soul leading to moral weakness or akrasia– it is a weakness that does not come from the character traits of Atticus Finch. By providing Atticus such moral aberrant characters as Mayella and her daddy, Lee is making Atticus’ heroism that a lot more pronounced.

It is not then self-interest that leads a person to joy, and there is a certain stability between the allowance of each part of the soul directed by factor, and asceticism. Atticus was a not a Sophist. Without the assistance of ethical factor then a state of chaos would occur entailing an everyman for himself type of mindset which is what the mob in the story renders.

Hence, joy in the novel can only be accomplished when that hedonistic attitude is vanquished which occurs when Bob Ewell “falls on his own knife”. This scene helps in making Atticus less of an awful hero and more of a selfless hero.

Morality must be shown as sticking to private interests. Plato did not concur with the kind of hedonism displayed by the Sophists, who believed humanity was an extension of the animal world. Instead, Plato specifies that the nature of male is factor; and in this reason exists an organized society constructed by factor. This expresses Atticus’ own perspective in the story.

In comprehending this viewpoint and accepting that Atticus strived for factor, that essence of a legal representative to require justice when there is no shadow of a doubt for a man’s innocence, the reader can better comprehend the inspiration behind Atticus’ moral actions.

Happiness for the reasonable male in modern-day literature then enters fruition by governing their more base, animal, desires, which are unreasonable; it is with Atticus that such states of mankind are more succinctly specified. This morality is extended into the world of society due to the fact that of human interaction. Therefore, if a man is to be the pinnacle of reason, and morality, and joy, then the society that he lives and associates must then likewise exhibit such an ethical temperance. This is the faith by which Atticus bases his lawyer’s argument.

If then a society is blinded by hedonism, or pure desire of self, a guy in that society has no hope for personal joy since of absence of morality, reason, and therefore completely succumbing to akrasia as can be seen in Atticus and particularly Tom’s lives. The concept of good and wicked twined together is the elixir of the modern-day novel; writers breed fears from dreams, the concealed desires of subconscious become known through their character’s actions.

Writing and reading books is a discovery into that unspoken element of the mind; the mute archetype lastly is provided voice, and in such a way bears witness by both being associated with the action and informing of the story. It is not surprising that attorneys today base their own judgment on that of Atticus’ (a fictional character) ethical judgment and choice making. In the arena of heroism, when a character becomes the basis of real life individuals’s morality, then the status of a hero is cemented.

Modern literature is the truth of life and self reflected through plays and characters. Realism is the alcohol by which Harper Lee is exhibited. In realism, the writer is mentioning that situations are the focal point of human contingencies. This is specifically true for Lee’s Atticus Finch.

In this downtrodden representation of everyman the audience exists with life at its entire naked state, a hero whose fight is lost. That is the promise of modern literature; veracity, despite the frustrating anxiety of life and its deception towards everyman. Writers are truthful in their writing, and in contemporary literature realism and not brave requirements of Greek drama however the Achilles heel is what is portrayed.

Whether the novel ends on a delighted or unfortunate note, the point is option– regardless of Atticus being a tragic hero his strength stays in sticking to that option. Modern literature provides the audience no impressions about harsh truth, but it also offers the distinction between fate and scenario and makes a hero.

Atticus discovers his morality, and it is the reader along with Scout who must in a sense, catch up to that ethical judgment. Therefore, early on in the course of the story Atticus choose prior to most of the town comprises their minds on the innocence of Tom. Anything else that a character might exist with and made to make a choice, that choice ought to be rooted in virtue in order for them to be a hero even a tragic hero.

Modern novels are not just written fanatically about virtue (as can be seen Lee’s rather dismaying view of humanity in the manifestation of the town Maycomb Alabama) however also about the truth of an individual when they exist with their own choices and how those options affect their household. Considering that Atticus is a family man along with a legal representative how he represents himself and who he represents has a direct affect on his household as can be seen with the character Scout.

This total option of putting his family in risk as is seen in the kids being the ones who disperse the mad lynching mob that seeks Tom, is another intriguing element in Atticus’ heroism. It is not essential to specify a hero as an individual whose beliefs are more vital than the security of his family, rather it is this frustrating opposing force (in this case racism) being attacked by one guy that rapidly specifies Atticus’ heroism.

In such a scenario a reader may be advised of David and Goliath in which a little kid takes on a giant, and even though he may face certain death, he trusts in his own ethical choice. This is what Atticus is doing, he trusts his ethical choice against racism in safeguarding Tom and he understands that it is not his option that puts his household in threat but rather the existence of bigotry that is the reason for that risk.

How the character responds to their state of humanity and ethical option is what defines them as hero. For Atticus Finch he is established as a hero because of this option and how he tells his daughter Scout to not fight when the play area kids slander his name. He wishes to shield his household from this battle, not damage them but save them from additional prejudices.

Thus, Atticus is shown to be a hero in two capacities, not desiring his household to be damaged while he may be hurt (altruistic heroism) and protecting the ‘lost cause’ Tom in court against bigotry, a battle he knows he will eventually lose (terrible hero).


Flower, Harold (1999 ). Modern Crucial Analyses: To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Chelsea Home Publishers.

Crespino, Joseph (Summertime 2000). “The Odd Career of Atticus Finch”. Southern Cultures (University of North Carolina Press) 6 (no. 2): 9– 29.

Harper, L. (1988 ). To Eliminate a Mockingbird. Grand Central Publishing, New York City.

Mancini, Candice, ed. (2008 ). Bigotry in Harper Lee’s To Eliminate a Mockingbird, The Wind Group

Metress, Christopher (September 2003). “The Rise and Fall of Atticus Finch”. The Chattahoochee Evaluation 24.

Shields, Charles. Mockingbird: A Picture of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Co.: 2006



This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar