Atticus Finch is fifty years old; he is a widower and the father of Scout and Jem. With Calpurnia’s help he is raising the children on his own. He stands out as a man of reason and courage. As a character, Atticus is even-handed throughout the story. He is one of the very few characters who never has to rethink his position on an issue. In the face of the prejudice and strong emotions of the people of Maycomb he tries to make his children see that it is better to use your head than to resort to violence. Atticus has a unique parenting style because he treats his children as adults, honestly answering any question they have. He uses all these instances as an opportunity to pass his values on to Scout and Jem. Scout says that “‘Do you really think so?’… was Atticus’ dangerous question” because he delighted in helping people see a situation in a new light. Atticus uses this approach not only with his children, but with all of Maycomb. However, although he treated Jem and Scout maturely, he recognised that they are children and that they will make childish mistakes and assumptions.
Atticus shows considerable bravery in defending Tom Robinson, knowing the likely unjust outcome of the trial. He is driven by a strong belief in the equality of people before the law and although he fails this time to gain a just verdict it does not diminish his faith in the law. Atticus believes in justice and the justice system. He doesn’t like criminal law, yet he accepts the appointment to Tom Robinson’s case. He knows before he begins that he’s going to lose this case, but that doesn’t stop him from giving Tom the strongest defence he possibly can. It is important to understand that Atticus doesn’t put so much effort into Tom’s case because he’s an African American; he does so because he is innocent. Atticus feels very strongly that the justice system should be colour blind.
Atticus’ philosophy of life is expressed early in the novel when he says to Scout: “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.” However, despite his virtues Atticus is not perfect as his faith in people leads him to underestimate Bob Ewell.