Atticus Finch is the father of two young children, Jem and Scout. Throughout the book Jem and his little sister Scout learn a lot about the place they call home, Maycomb County. Atticus is a very responsible parent who teaches his children the lessons they need to become honest and dignified people later in life. He teaches them not to judge someone before they really get to know them. Atticus also teaches his kids not to hurt the innocent, whom they call “mockingbirds,” and he teaches them not to make rigid decisions.
One of the most important lessons Atticus teaches his children is that empathy should not be limited to people who seem nice on the outside. Atticus tells his children to use their imaginations, and feel what others feel before making a judgement. He instills this in their brains so they can fight off Maycomb’s usual disease. Maycomb’s “disease” is racism and having a judgemental mentality. “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,” (lines 9-13, pg 33.) Atticus is telling Scout that you never really know where a person is coming from until you’ve been there yourself. Another example of his empathy teachings is the understanding and respect he has towards Mrs.Dubose even though she says cruel things about him. Atticus is always positive towards Mrs.Dubose. “She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad,” (lines 23-25, pg 115.) These lines are being spoken by Atticus to his son Jem. Atticus knows Mrs. Dubose has been raised differently than they have. Atticus gives them things to consider before judging Mrs. Dubose negatively. The last example I’d like to point out is that Atticus was being a good example to his kids by showing empathy towards a mean and unruly man like Bob Ewell. When Bob Ewell spit in his face, Atticus simply walked away and took it. He tells Jem: “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. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take,” (lines 23-29, pg 249.) Atticus showed empathy towards Bob Ewell, and his kids. Atticus showed a lot of strength and dignity by resisting any sort of retaliation he could have made. He taught his son to care for others, no matter how filthy their sins are.
Atticus teaches his children the mockingbird lesson: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The mockingbird lesson is that you should never show aggression towards someone that has never done any little thing to harm you. A mockingbird is someone innocent and pure of heart like Atticus, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Atticus himself is a mockingbird because sees the best in everyone. Atticus has a lot of innocence to him, he is a good man. Although Bob Ewell spat in his face, he thought Bob was all talk. Atticus did not think Bob Ewell would go as low as hurting his very own kin but in the end, Mr. Ewell went after the little Finches to get back at Atticus. Boo Radley is a mockingbird because even though the entire town spreads nasty rumours and lies about him, he is a true gentleman at heart. When Bob Ewell went to attack Scout and Jem, Boo came to the rescue and killed Mr. Ewell. Atticus wanted to get down to the real reason why Bob Ewell died and the sheriff knew it would be a sin to give attention to Boo Radley. Scout says: “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”(Line 25, pg 317.)Scout knows that Boo is innocent in the act that he has done. He is simply a mockingbird. The children feel a sense of belonging to Mr. Radley, although he is not their “real” father, Boo has become a person much like their very own father Atticus in their eyes. Boo does many kind things for the children such as leaving them little presents in the tree house. In their time of need Boo Radley was always there for his children, Scout and Jem. Finally, the last mockingbird Scout has discovered in the story is Tom Robinson. Mockingbirds contribute to society the way real mockingbirds sing and entertain us with beautiful music to our ears. Tom Robinson helps Mayella Ewell with things she needs done around the house. Although Mr. Robinson knew that just by being there he could get into so much trouble, he felt sorry for her and helped her anyway. Tom felt empathy towards Mayella the way Atticus would for anyone, and Scout saw that in him. Atticus taught the mockingbird lesson so well that Scout can understand the difference between mockingbirds and bluejays.
Atticus knows that a person cannot be imaginative or understand simple metaphors likening people to mockingbirds, if his thinking is rigid. Atticus teaches the children to allow for flexibility in decision making. Scout’s first lesson about being flexible with decision making is when she is taught that sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules. “Sometimes it’s better to bend the law a little in special cases,” (lines 25-26, pg 33.) One example of this is that Scout bends the rules Miss Caroline has given her. Scout agreed with her father to read every night if she goes to school and never mentions a word about it to her teacher. In my opinion, another example of “bending the law,” is that Atticus Finch and the little Finches (Jem and Scout) bend society’s laws. They do not take the word of a white man over a black man, but they think for themselves. That in itself is rebellious and flexible. It is flexible because just like Scout has to go to school, the Finches have to live in Maycomb which is divided by race and class. The Finches don’t judge that way, even though everyone else does. The last example of Atticus teaching his children about being flexible is in the end, Scout agrees with the Sheriff and lets him bend the rules to keep Bob Ewell’s case low profile in order to keep Boo from being given a lot of attention.