To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch Quotes
"Don't pay any attention to her, just hold your head high and be a gentleman." (11.23)
Being a gentleman seems to signify honor in a way being a lady doesn't, at least for Jem. How do ladies show their honor? Is it something they do—or something they don't do?
"For one thing, Miss Maudie can't serve on a jury because she's a woman-"
"You mean women in Alabama can't-?" I was indignant.
"I do. I guess it's to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom's. Besides," Atticus grinned, "I doubt if we'd ever get a complete case tried—the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions."
Jem and I laughed. Miss Maudie on a jury would be impressive. I thought of old Mrs. Dubose in her wheelchair—"Stop that rapping, John Taylor, I want to ask this man something." Perhaps our forefathers were wise. (23.43-46)
The "polite fiction" of the South is that women are delicate and need to be protected. Maybe the men are really just afraid that women would use power in a way that men wouldn't like.
Atticus's voice was even: "Alexandra, Calpurnia's not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn't have got along without her all these years. She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are." (14.28)
Aunt Alexandra's idea of family is exclusive (kick out those who aren't worthy of being counted in), while Atticus's is inclusive. She arranges family by blood, while Atticus considers affection and loyalty. Basically, it boils down to: do you judge a man (or woman) by his birth—or by his life?