To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus and 1930’s America

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ takes place in a fictional town called Maycomb, based on Monroeville in Alabama during the Depression. It is narrated by the main character, a girl named Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer with high moral standards who defends Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The book explores different themes such as prejudice and family in 1930s Southern America through Scout’s consciousness. The story is told from Scout’s perspective: through her childlike mind at the time of the story, but also as a grown woman looking back on her childhood. Therefore, Atticus is seen through Scout’s eyes and his personality is demonstrated through her views on him.

The book is semi-autobiographical as Harper Lee uses the stimulus of her own father for the character Atticus. Also, the book is written in first person, which suggests that Harper Lee uses the character of Scout to portray her childhood as there are many similarities in Scout’s childhood that correspond to Lee’s background, such as the character Dill being based on Lee’s childhood friend, Truman Capote. Atticus is used to reveal different aspects of American life at the time, such as the tragic poverty due to the Depression as he is paid in goods because of the lack of cash that his clients possess, and the prejudice as he defends an innocent black man who is wrongfully accused – not unlike the Scottsboro Trials which occurred in the 1930s.

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There were two main reason for Lee’s choice of name for Atticus. One was that in Ancient Greece, and individual named Atticus would not join either side in the war that took place at the time. This made him fair-minded and wise about his decisions. Therefore, Lee used this fairness and honesty as the basis for the character’s personality. Additionally, another individual by the name of Atticus was a Christian martyr who was put to death for…