To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout and Jem's widowed father, and Alexandra and Jack's brother. He employs Calpurnia, but thinks of her as family. A distinguished lawyer in Maycomb, Atticus believes in moral integrity, and stands up against the racism of Maycomb to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of rape by a white man, Bob Ewell. Yet as much as Atticus believes in acting morally, he does not believe in righteously condemning those who don't always act morally. Instead, Atticus teaches his children to search out and respect the dignity of every human being, to try to see the world from their individual point of view. Atticus Finch has become one of the great father figures in American literature.

Atticus Finch Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird

The To Kill a Mockingbird quotes below are all either spoken by Atticus Finch or refer to Atticus Finch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Warner Books edition of To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Chapter 3 Quotes
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.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes
"If you shouldn't be defendin' him, then why are you doin' it?"

"For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again."



"Atticus, are we going to win it?"

"No, honey."

"Then why-"

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 100-101
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes
"Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
"Your father's right," she said. "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."
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Miss Maudie Atkinson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

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After my bout with Cecil Jacobs when I committed myself to a policy of cowardice, word got around that Scout Finch wouldn't fight any more, her daddy wouldn't let her.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Cecil Jacobs
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

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The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes
Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. "Atticus," his voice was distant, "can you come here a minute, sir?"

Beneath its sweat-streaked dirt Dill's face went white. I felt sick.



Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. "Dill, I had to tell him," he said. "You can't run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin'."

We left him without a word.
Related Characters: Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch (Scout), Atticus Finch, Charles Baker Harris (Dill)
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 22 Quotes
They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 25 Quotes
Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson, Mayella Ewell
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 31 Quotes
A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention. It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's. . . . Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive. Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog. Summer, and he watched his children's heart break. Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Atticus Finch, Arthur Radley (Boo), Charles Baker Harris (Dill), Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:

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When they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . ." His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Arthur Radley (Boo)
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

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Atticus Finch Character Timeline in To Kill a Mockingbird

The timeline below shows where the character Atticus Finch appears in To Kill a Mockingbird. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...River. Finch's Landing passed from son to son until the present generation, when Scout's father, Atticus, became a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama. Her Uncle Jack is a doctor in Boston, while... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...aren't rich, but they are comfortable enough. A black woman named Calpurnia cooks and helps Atticus with the children during the day. Atticus's wife died when Scout was two. (full context)
Chapter 3
Growing Up Theme Icon
During lunch, Walter talks with Atticus about farm work like a grown up. He says he can't pass first grade because... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
That night, when Scout says that Miss Caroline wants her to stop reading at home, Atticus counsels that instead of getting angry, Scout should try standing in Miss Caroline's skin to... (full context)
Chapter 4
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...Jem comes up with a new game: they're going to act out Boo Radley's story. Atticus catches them playing. Jem lies and says they weren't impersonating the Radley's. (full context)
Chapter 5
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...begins to spend more time with Miss Maudie Atkinson, a neighbor who grew up with Atticus. One evening, Scout asks Miss Maudie why Boo Radley never comes out. Miss Maudie says... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...to slip a note through a window of the Radley house with a fishing rod. Atticus catches them and tells them to stop bothering Boo Radley just because he seems peculiar. (full context)
Chapter 7
Growing Up Theme Icon
...the next day Nathan Radley cements the knothole. He says the tree was dying, but Atticus tells Jem it wasn't. Jem stares at the Radley house for a long time. Scout... (full context)
Chapter 8
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...with snow to make a snowman that looks remarkably like Mr. Avery, an unfriendly neighbor. Atticus is impressed, but then sees the resemblance and kindly asks them to disguise the snowman... (full context)
Chapter 9
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Students at school start saying that Atticus "defends niggers." When Scout asks why, Atticus says he's defending a black man named Tom... (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...with Scout's dreaded Aunt Alexandra and her awful grandson Francis. At Finch's landing, Francis calls Atticus a "nigger-lover." Scout punches him, and Francis claims she hit him for no reason and... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
...Uncle Jack why she hit Francis, but makes him promise not to say anything because Atticus said she shouldn't fight anyone over the Tom Robinson case. Later that night, Scout overhears... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
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Then Atticus says the trial will be bad, since "reasonable people go mad when anything involving" a... (full context)
Chapter 10
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Atticus is older than other kids' parents, and Scout and Jem are sometimes embarrassed by their... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...Finch's street. It's still far off, and Heck Tate, the sheriff of Maycomb, says only Atticus is marksmen enough to hit the dog from such a distance. Atticus kills the dog... (full context)
Chapter 11
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...an old woman who harasses Scout and Jem whenever they walk past her house, condemns Atticus for defending Tom Robinson. Jem, enraged, rips the flowers off her camellia bushes. (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
As punishment, Atticus makes Jem go and read to Mrs. Dubose each afternoon. Scout goes with him. At... (full context)
Chapter 12
Growing Up Theme Icon
...is crushed when Dill doesn't arrive because his mother got remarried. To makes matters worse, Atticus has to leave for two weeks to serve in the state legislature. (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Calpurnia, who's in charge when Atticus is away, invites Scout and Jem to attend her church that Sunday. The all-black congregation... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
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...gathers money to support Helen, Tom Robinson's wife. Scout realizes Tom Robinson is the man Atticus is defending, and asks what he did. Calpurnia tells her: Tom has been accused by... (full context)
Chapter 13
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...believe that the older a family's history, the better the family is. Alexandra even forces Atticus to teach Scout and Jem about their family history. But this strange change in Atticus... (full context)
Chapter 14
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...notice grownups in Maycomb talking about them. Scout hears the word "rape" again, and asks Atticus what it is. He tells her. (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
...leads to the story of going to Calpurnia's church. Aunt Alexandra is horrified. She and Atticus have an argument about Calpurnia. Alexandria thinks Calpurnia is no longer necessary. Atticus says she's... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...antagonize Aunt Alexandra, but Scout objects to him telling her what to do. They fight. Atticus sends them both to bed. Scout steps on something while climbing into bed, and, with... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Atticus tells Miss Rachel Haverford where Dill is, but lets Dill spend the night. Dill sleeps... (full context)
Chapter 15
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...Tate comes to the Finch's front lawn with a group of men to talk to Atticus. Tom Robinson is to be moved to the Maycomb jail and Heck says there might... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Jem gets scared someone might try to hurt Atticus. When Atticus drives into town the next night, Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak out after... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...leans out his office window holding a double-barreled shotgun and calls out that he had Atticus covered. (full context)
Chapter 16
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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At breakfast the next morning, the day of the trial, Atticus says that Mr. Underwood never liked black people, which makes his behavior of the previous... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Jem declares Mr Cunningham would have killed Atticus the previous night. But Atticus says Mr. Cunningham just has his blind spots like everyone... (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Though Atticus tells Jem, Scout, and Dill that they shouldn't attend the trial, they sneak in. They... (full context)
Chapter 17
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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Growing Up Theme Icon
...prosecutor, questions Tate, who recalls Bob Ewell saying that Tom Robinson had raped Mayella Ewell. Atticus cross-examines: Tate says the right side of Mayella's face was heavily bruised. Next, Bob Ewell... (full context)
Chapter 18
Prejudice Theme Icon
...a quarter, and that when she turned around Tom attacked and raped her. In cross-examination, Atticus shows that Mayella is terribly lonely. When Atticus asks Mayella to identify Tom, and Tom... (full context)
Chapter 19
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Atticus calls Tom Robinson to the stand. Tom says he often helped Mayella with chores. On... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Atticus is making his closing remarks when Dill and Scout get back to their seats. Atticus... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Calpurnia enters the courtroom. She tells Atticus that Jem, Scout, and Dill are missing. Mr. Underwood says they're sitting in the balcony.... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Jem cries. He can't understand how the jury could convict Tom. Atticus says they've done it before and they'll do it again and only the children will... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...that the black community of Maycomb has brought them baskets of food in thanks for Atticus's defense of Tom. (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...that there are good people in Maycomb. For instance, it's no coincidence Judge Taylor appointed Atticus to take Tom's case. (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Suddenly Miss Stephanie Crawford runs up with gossip: Bob Ewell just threatened Atticus and spit in his face. (full context)
Chapter 23
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Jem and Scout are terrified Ewell will attack Atticus. Atticus, thinks Ewell has already gotten the need for revenge out of his system, though... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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Meanwhile, Tom Robinson is in prison. Atticus thinks he has a good shot of winning on appeal. If he loses, though, Tom... (full context)
Chapter 24
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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..."sulkiness" since the Tom Robinson trial. Miss Maudie shames the woman for talking badly about Atticus while enjoying his hospitality. (full context)
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Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
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Just then, Atticus comes home and tells Calpurnia, Aunt Alexandra, Miss Maudie, and Scout that Tom tried to... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...it because it didn't do anything to her. Scout remembers that Jem was present when Atticus told Helen Robinson that Tom had died, and Helen collapsed in grief. (full context)
Chapter 26
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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...of Boo Radley. She is confused, however, when the town, which was so set against Atticus defending Tom, reelects him to the state legislature that year. (full context)
Chapter 27
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Aunt Alexandra thinks Ewell has a grudge against everyone involved in the trial. But Atticus says Ewell will calm down when the weather cools. For Halloween that year, there's a... (full context)
Chapter 28
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...distance, she can see a man she doesn't recognize carrying Jem toward her house, and Atticus running out to meet him. Atticus calls for Dr. Reynolds and Heck Tate. Dr. Reynold's... (full context)
Chapter 30
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Atticus is sure Jem killed Bob Ewell and doesn't want it covered up. But Tate says... (full context)
Chapter 31
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
When she gets back, Atticus is reading in Jem's room. Scout asks Atticus to read to her and rests her... (full context)