To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird discussion

The Atticus Factor

Comments Showing 1-50 of 94 (94 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Lesley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lesley I realize why I love the last three books I've read, and it's no doubt because all three have what I call "The Atticus Factor." These novels all explore a character who has morals, backbone and a certain degree of rebellion, whether conscious or unconscious. Life of Pi's Pi, East of Eden's Samuel Hamilton and To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch, are all, at the basic level, stand up guys. They are wiser than everyone around them. They are humble. And they are philosophers. While I love all the characters in these books, The Atticus Factor, or the character which sets the tone of symbolism and charisma for each novel, sets these books apart from the rest.

Can you name another novel that depicts this type of character?

message 2: by Paola (new)

Paola Okay, I love the "Atticus Factor." I'll have to keep my eyes opened...

Mary Seay That's a great observation and one I'll also look out for.

Deanna Pickering Great point, Lesley!

I nominate Peekay in The Power of One, although he is also very young and naive so I'm not sure if he fits the bill for you. :) If you loved the books you cited, and you haven't read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, then you need to pick it up. You will not be sorry!

Tina Peace Like a River by Leif Enger has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a great read in its own right with great characters. I'd love to hear if you think it has the "Atticus Factor."

Wendy we named our first son Atticus we loved this book so much!

Tanvir The Atticus factor plays a major role in this book, because of the fact that Atticus is one of the main characters in the book.

Gordon Matassa Another Atticus-esque character is Fleur Pillager in Louise Erdrich's TRACKS (Fleur appears in other Erdrich novels, but this particular one focuses primarily on her). Like Atticus, Fleur represents reason and provides the basis of what is moral in the novel. The difference lies in that while Atticus represents a Biblical type of pure moral character, Fleur represents traditional Ojibwa/Chippewa culture and many of its beliefs. Fleur may not be readily seen as the same kind of upstanding character Atticus Finch is claimed to be because Fleur represents a non-hegemonic culture. Atticus is much more clearly seen as a pillar of morality and reason because of his representation of dominant culture.

This was quite an interesting thread that was started. I would love to learn about other Atticus-type characters.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I believe that what sets Atticus Finch apart is the way Lee wrote the character. He does not posess a strong moral core, like so many other characters in books - he IS morality. He's not decent, he IS decency. When Atticus acts, he is RIGHT. I believe that many authors need to provide their characters with "grey areas" in which to flesh them out. Lee succeeded where so few else have because she did just the opposite with Atticus. What you see is what you get...what he says, whether with his children or in a courtroom, has not one unnecessary word, nor one necessary word missing.

The "Atticus Factor," I believe, is so rare that you have aptly named this discussion. Though I will think long and hard, I feel hard-pressed to believe that many names will be offered that will "fit the bill."


Lesley These responses are great - thank you! I especially appreciate Rita's depiction of "The Atticus Factor" being that he isn't decent, he IS decency, etc. Certainly Lee portrays him in a human light, despite his inability to err. I will also check out the suggested books above - "The Power of One," "Peace Like a River," and "Tracks." Keep the suggestions and insights coming!

Tanvir I believe that what sets Atticus Finch apart is the way Lee wrote the character. He does not posess a strong moral core, like so many other characters in books - he IS morality. He's not decent, he IS decency. When Atticus acts, he is RIGHT. I believe that many authors need to provide their characters with "grey areas" in which to flesh them out. Lee succeeded where so few else have because she did just the opposite with Atticus. What you see is what you get...what he says, whether with his children or in a courtroom, has not one unnecessary word, nor one necessary word missing. Thank you Rita by the way for the infromation.Listen up folks. This was all thanks to Rita. Atticus is a character ibn thsi book that really shows what a human should be like. He hides his good will with his humbleness and shields bad houghts from him with his knowledge. He'es my role model,... Somebody give me a tissue because I think that I am going to cry. Wah.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the kudos, Tanvir, but some "quotation marks" would have been appreciated between your comments and mine. And I do agree that Atticus is, as well, the embodiment of "humility," as you suggest.

Now go get that tissue!

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

OK, I may be taking this a bit far, but this is a group (and a book) that means a lot to me.

We keep talking about "The Atticus Factor." And those who have read "TKAM" know EXACTLY what Atticus says about mockingbirds, why, when and to whom.

I actually know nothing about birds, other than that they often build nests in the eaves over my bedroom, and when the eggs hatch, they wake me musically - though WAY too early. SOOOO...I decided to look up "the finch." (Finch being Atticus' last name.)

There's WAY too much on finches to get into, but one comment was consistent: "the finch is considered the most highly developed of all birds." As I read that comment over and over, I was wondering where all of my beloved old English teachers' heads were when we discussed this book.

We are NOT talking about "the Atticus factor." Clearly, we are talking about the "Finch factor."

On that note, I believe that I have finally said as much on the topic as I can, much, I am sure to many of your delights: I'll keep reading what others say, but it's all clear to me now. Harper Lee named her characters for a reason...Atticus is so unusual a name, and Finch, by comparison, is so common. We get "hung up" on the name Atticus, when in fact, it is the common last name of "Finch" that best describes the man whom, I believe, has the most "highly developed" persona of all characters in American literature.


James This may sound weird, but the first character that comes to mind for me as having that Atticus Factor in the ways that matter most is Forrest Gump. As written, his character has an instinctive ability to read and understand situations between people and somehow know the right thing to do; and once he knows what he should do, there's no decision process of doubt and pondering ways to get out of it - he just does it, immediately and with all his energy. Perhaps his borderline retardation made that easier for him than for Atticus Finch, who would certainly have seen probable consequences more clearly and had to overcome more fear to do some of the things he did. But Gump had that admirable constellation of qualities including honesty, generosity, empathy, and the courage of his convictions.

message 15: by Paola (new)

Paola Nice James! I totally agree. Yes, Gump's boarderline disability seems to make him somewhat innocent, although he does clearly have a sense of right and wrong. I love this Atticus Factor discussion.

CMT-Michigan Wow, that's intense! We named our kitten Scout, but to go as far as naming a child after a book character ... you couldn't have chosen a more honorable name!

CMT-Michigan Actually, you should do research on ALL of the character names ... they are all smart names that say a lot about each character.

message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 20, 2008 05:23AM) (new)

Mrs. Turnbow is absolutely right. I re-read the book, jotting down names and characters, and nothing could be closer to the truth. (Witness my posting about the name of "Finch," as just one example.)

As to Capote having written the book: I had heard those rumors years ago. Anybody ever read any Capote? (And I don't mean "In Cold Blood.") Capote was certainly an odd duck, but to even give him a moment's huzzah for writing TKAM is to diminish both authors' writing styles. Capote would have had to have been suffering from such a severe state of schizophrenia that he would have been long ago institutionalized - permanently.

As I tell my students: If you hear a rumor, it is just that. If that rumor is then re-stated by an independent, uninterested source as the first, then it moves toward coincidence. If a third, uninterested, independent source makes the identical claim, then it starts to move toward the realm of the possible. As far as I know, the rumor that Capote wrote the book was "grabbed" by others who thought it to be an interesting and "possible" idea. That does not constitue corroboration, but, rather, an idea that sparked other peoples' curiosity and answered the question as to why Lee never published again.

Who knows? Maybe Capote was driving the car that killed Margaret Mitchell, so that we never got our "Gone With the Wind" sequel?

Lesley Any other suggestions for Atticus-type characters? I'm loving this thread - great suggestions and insights!!

Leslie This is a way harder question than it sounds! Mostly, I think, because it's so hard for a writer to convincingly create an Atticus who isn't too flat, too moralizing, too ... perfect. The only characters coming to mind for me are children (Phoebe Caulfield, Meg Murray), but they, of course, lack the essential element of significant life experience.

I think it's immensely important that Atticus, the gentle pacifist, is a dead-eye shot with a rifle, for instance. Harper Lee knew what she was doing.

Leslie Fleur Pillager ... that was good, Gordon.

Coalbanks Title character in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Winston in 1984, the sherriff in 1948 . Thanks for the "Atticus Factor", it expresses my view of characters which attract me, some are less than likeable but they still have an attraction for the reasons as stated.

April I'm not sure this one will be agreed upon, but here goes. The only other character I can think of is Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. He is wise, understanding, and out to protect that which he KNOWS to be right. Even if it makes him unpopular. Also in the book Gandalf represents the rightoues path, just like Atticus does. I know it might seem far fetched, but I see it.

CMT-Michigan Perhaps another character with "The Atticus factor" is Dumbledore from Harry Potter-not as the movies portray him, but as the books portray him. He is wise but lets his students learn things on their own. He is funny and sweet.

James Yes, Gandalf and Dumbledore belong in this category - as written, it's hard to even imagine them choosing to do something they believe to be wrong, but they are still not cardboard characters; they transcend cliche and have complex personalities and histories. Thanks for pointing them out.

message 26: by Coalbanks (last edited Feb 26, 2008 04:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Coalbanks Last offering: Dr Stockmann, the town doctor who in Henrik Ibsen's play AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (1882) who is villainized when he discovers & attempts to expose the fact that the town's medicinal baths & economic mainstay are toxic. Spielberg based his movie JAWS on this play with police Chief taking the doctor's role. Pre-dates TKAM. Not very likely that Harper Lee did NOT read Ibsen, is it?

Juliet Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
P.S. LOVING "The Atticus Factor" btw

Kerri Does the "Atticus Factor" only apply to men or women too?

Robin I think the Tom Hanks/jailor in The Green Mile is an Atticus type of character, he stood up for what was right. Can't think of his name off the top of my head. Can't think of any others. Edward VIII, for abdicating the throne for the woman he loved, a close second.

message 30: by Alli (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alli This is definitely not a topic we discussed when I read this the first time in high school, but after reading all the insightful replies, I just don't understand how we DIDN'T talk about it!

I would put on the table the idea that Atticus' character plays off of one of the archetypical characters found in multiple great works of art, in all mediums of all eras. He's an individual composed of the morality and ideals of an era&region, and is not allowed to deviate from his curriculum vitae. Humans enjoy reading about an individual who is so "upstanding" because we each of us are conditioned to at least want the same for ourselves. Atticus just so happens to be a man recent enough for our generation(s) to relate to and on some level feel nostalgic for.

message 31: by Abby (new) - rated it 5 stars

Abby I completely agree with "The Atticus Factor". We should all strive for such moral character. I will be checking out some of the other books mentioned that have "The Atticus Factor".

Janet Abraham Lincoln

Janet Jean Valjean (Les Miz)

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Gandalf & Dumbledore fit, yes.
And somebody mentioned Phoebe Caulfield which is pretty accurate as well.
This is fascinating! I'll keep an eye out.

Lesley Thank you for all the wonderful feedback! I have more books now on my "to read" list than I can possible tackle any time soon, but tackle I will! Maybe I've been reading a lot of books lately with the whole "anti hero" thing, but I feel overdue to spend time with a character I admire, like Atticus, Dr Stockmann, Gandalf, and Peekay - just to name a few. And yes, The Atticus Factor can absolutely be embodied by male or female, human or animal (Richard Parker is a memorable character from "Life of Pi" and he is a tiger).

I think Alli said it well with her recent post:

"Humans enjoy reading about an individual who is so 'upstanding' because we each of us are conditioned to at least want the same for ourselves. Atticus just so happens to be a man decent enough for our generation(s) to relate to and on some level feel nostalgic for."


Carla I am amazed that the list for the Fellowship ended with Gandolf, when much of the characteristics can be found in Sam. One willing to take up and carry a burden for a cause of friendship. I so agree with Gump.

Kressel Housman I'd say Gump is more like Scout. She's innocent and he's retarded, but it's because of their simplicity that they call it like it is.

Kressel Housman A 2010 issue of the American Bar Association magazine ranked the 25 most popular fictional lawyers. Atticus was in a class by himself, so he wasn't part of the count. Three different writers commented about him, though. One of them said, "Apparently some people don't take notes in law school." After all, what lawyer would take on a case he was certain to lose?

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)


Steve Strong How about Howard Rouke in the Fountainhead.

Kressel Housman I don't think he made the list. It had more TV and movie lawyers than literary ones. My cousin Vinny was #12.

Willard Brickey This may sound absurd, and I know it's a movie and not a book, but I would submit the protagonist (played by James Caan) in the original Rollerball.

message 43: by Jay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jay Jay Old Atticus is a stiff-neck, a colossal bore, a self-righteous, huffing-puffing, over-subtle, stylized bastard. He's one of those simple-minded folks who believe in good old honesty and hard-work and nobility of the soul, a sort of earthy Sean Connery sans the toupee, the women, the gadgets and the eyebrow.

No, dear old Atticus Finch loves his boots dirty, his women clean, and I bet you a watch-chain in a hole in a tree, old Finch is a haggard masturbator when the lights go dim.

I really don't see why Atty is so hot; he's NOT. Whatever Scout tells you, you get the feeling that Mr. Finch was not too bright, he gives you the impression of being honestly ignorant--the sort of ignorance you can brag about to your friends. No, Atticus just ain't right. There's something real spooky about him. Did he father Boo? Did he have the hots for that high-spirited dear old girl in the court-room? Did he not have a pointy hat and a bed-sheet that says KKK? Why didnt he remarry? Was he gay? And hey, whats the big deal about that lovable, lonely, dying old widow with an AK-47 on her lap? And who in the holy hell names a girl Scout and a boy Jem? What was his nickname for his dead wife? Bill? No, folks, Atticus aint right. He's one of those useless, constantly reinvented memories that boring women recycle to bore the lights out of you in sad, drab summer parties.

message 44: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John It seems to me there is an age when little girls (and little boys) may see their parents as flawless, as something like gods. Lee is filtering reality through Scout's eyes when Scout is at that age, I've always thought. We see what Scout sees, not objective reality. As for finding out Atticus's flaws, Jay, I suppose we'd need another book written from a different perspective.

Brittany I loved Atticus and he was my favorite character. Naming your child Atticus is amazing since he was such an influential character.

Maria I nominate Rahim Khan in The Kite Runner.

message 47: by Katy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Katy Brandes There is no other character of such high morals that comes to mind to even compare with Atticus Finch. I'll have to think on that one, too.

I chose to name our four-year old son Atticus because of all the name represents. The common meaning I found on looking it up was "father-like." To me, the name Atticus encompasses every positive characteristic for a father-figure.

Kressel Housman I know! The brothers Cheerbyle in Nicholas Nickelby!

Lesley I am enjoying everyone's feedback on "The Atticus Factor." Even Jay, I appreciate your counter-view of Atticus as an "over-subtle, stylized bastard." I have to agree with John, though, that we see Atticus through the subjective view of Scout, when kids, as you said, see their parents as "flawless." I wonder what a 30 year old Scout would say about her father?

It's interesting that when I read this in high school, I loved Atticus. When I read it as an adult, I loved him even more. Is my admiration for Atticus a yearning for childlike innocence? Or is he just badass? I vote for both.

By the way, Maria, Rahim Khan is a good one!!

Kressel Housman Atticus/Dumbledore?

« previous 1
back to top