The stuffed shirt

          Atticus Finch is a man of few words.  Wise men speak volumes, but only need a few words.  Finch is that type of man.  A lawyer in a small Alabama town, set in the 1930’s, has agreed to represent a Negro accused of raping a local white woman.   How Finch handles this case in the racially dramatic film “To Kill A Mockingbird,” reveals his strong character personality to the audience.

            Always well-dressed and nicely groomed, Finch may have appeared to be a “stuffed shirt.”  In fact, he was the opposite.  Instead he was modest in his talents as the best lawyer in the area and sharp-shooter of his town.  Logical and steady in his actions from courtroom tactics, to taking down a rabid dog in the street, Finch could do it all.  These qualities gained all the people’s trust and the town’s respect.

            Finch reciprocated the respect towards and to his children.  He knew accepting this client’s case would put him and his family under a microscope.  A single parent after the death of his wife, Finch was able to provide the right mixture of parental love, sensitivity and honesty to raise his son and daughter properly.  At times, he was stern with his offspring but underneath that sternness was an even temperament.  He understood his daughter, Scout’s multiple playground fights were due to wearing a dress, but was firm that she had to wear it and was not to start fights when teased.  Understanding his daughter was a tom-boy, he made a compromise she only had to wear the hated dresses to school.

           Though Finch preferred to fight a battle with words and wit, he was not afraid to stand up for his personal beliefs or the rights of his client.  The townsfolk lost their respect for him as they clearly felt he should not represent a Negro.  When Finch was faced with an angry mob while guarding his defendant for the evening, he rose to his feet not giving any indication of fear.  The phrase “nerves of steel” comes to mind in the scene where Finch sees his children and their friend push through the lynch mob. 

            Finch’s priorities were protecting his family and client’s rights and life.  He suffered personal conflicts at the end of the movie when his children are attacked by the father of his client’s accuser.  Learning the father was dead after his children are saved by the town recluse, he struggles with allowing the sheriff to conclude it was an accidental death.  His honesty in all areas of his life was confronted by the ugliness in the world.  Finch, being the wise man he was portrayed, let his compassion for the true innocents win this battle, no courtroom involved.

Works cited:

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. Writ. Harper Lee.  Horton Foote.

 Universal International Pictures, 1962 Film


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