To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic American novel set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama – which, like many places during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is plagued by prejudice and racism. Written by the enigmatic Harper Lee, the novel explores themes of morality, individual responsibility, societal responsibility, and what it really means to stand up for what you believe.
Generation upon generation of Americans have read this novel, and for many of us, the life lessons learned from it remain fresh in our minds. So, we’re here to talk about one of the greatest highlights of To Kill a Mockingbird – the character Atticus Finch.
Who Is Atticus Finch?
Atticus Finch is a small-town lawyer and single father to his daughter, Scout, and son, Jem. Unlike most of Maycomb, Atticus doesn’t believe in the mistreatment of African Americans based on race. Because of this, he takes up the legal case of Tom Robinson – a young black man falsely accused of a terrible crime. The novel follows Atticus as he tries to teach morality to his children while defending Tom Robinson in court.
What is Atticus Finch’s personality type? Based on his words, actions, and relationships with other characters, we believe that he is an Assertive Advocate (INFJ-A).
Note: We’re aware that a very different version of Atticus Finch plays a central role in the novel’s sequel, Go Set a Watchman. However, due to the controversies surrounding that book’s publication, its vastly different narrative, and the nearly 60 years between the release of both novels, we’re choosing to only focus on the character as he appears in To Kill a Mockingbird for our examination.
Of all his personality traits, it’s perhaps Atticus Finch’s Mind trait that’s the hardest to figure. We don’t learn much about his personal life in the book. We mostly learn about his motivations and perspective on justice and fairness. However, we can assume that Atticus is mostly an Introvert because of his quiet and deliberate approach to issues.
Many of the adaptations of the novel through the years have taken great pains to illustrate what the novel only implies – that Atticus is an Advocate personality. Take, for example, a brief moment between Atticus and Scout in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout has had a terrible first day of school, where she’s told that she needs to work at her grade level and should stop reading at home. Scout sees this as being unjust (it’s not her fault the other kids her age can’t read and she can), and she wants to quit school, but Atticus will not let her.
Instead, he tells her they’ll make a deal. To help guide her, he asks her if she knows what a compromise is. Scout asks if compromise means “bending the law.” Atticus replies:
“Uh…no. It’s an agreement reached by mutual consent. Now, here’s the way it works. You concede the necessity of going to school, and we’ll keep right on reading the same every night…just as we always have. That a bargain?”
It could be said that this soft, gentle approach is indicative of an Introvert rather than an Extravert. If Atticus were a Protagonist (ENFJ) and not an Advocate, our research tells us that he would’ve been much more likely to make his expectations very clear without asking for input from his daughter. A Protagonist personality likely would’ve told her the terms of the compromise and that she had to do it.
But that’s not what Atticus does. Instead, he engages in conversation with Scout and allows her to make her own conclusions – in the manner of a true Advocate.
Unlike his Introverted personality trait, Atticus’s Intuitive trait is easily identifiable in the novel itself. Atticus chooses to believe in the rights of a person, no matter their race. In places like Maycomb, Alabama, during the Jim Crow era, it was a belief that could be considered dangerous.
He chooses to go against the popular and traditional beliefs of his community without any hesitation. Now, this is not to say that Observant personality types easily give in to racism, but rather that they would find it more difficult to split from what their families and communities believe in – something that Observant types are more likely to struggle with.
It’s important to remember that Atticus’s beliefs are mostly anachronistic for the time in which To Kill a Mockingbird is set. The character is an embodiment of the ideals and beliefs that author Harper Lee wished were prevalent during her childhood in the Deep South during the 1930s. Atticus Finch’s role in the novel calls for him to be an Intuitive figure, seeing beyond and differently from everything his world has taught him.
Some people mistake personality types with the Feeling trait as being less intelligent than Thinking types. That’s irrevocably wrong. Individuals with the Feeling trait are just as intelligent as Thinking personalities. The difference between the two lies in how they make decisions.
In Atticus’s case, he makes decisions based on an emotional spectrum of right and wrong. It’s not a matter of, “This is efficient,” or, “This is the best course of action because it logically makes sense.” Instead, as a Feeling personality type, Atticus bases his decisions on his personal morality and tries to instill those values in his community – and, more importantly, in his children.
When his mind is set on something, Atticus does not give in. This is not out of stubbornness, but rather an obligation that he feels he owes to his principles. It’s easy to see the Judging personality trait in action when Atticus, faced with political pressure from the rest of Maycomb’s population, refuses to change his stance and his defense argument in Tom Robinson’s trial.
We believe this one to be rather self-explanatory. It takes strong convictions to believe in what you’re doing, especially if it is unpopular with your community. Assertive personalities are known for their self-assurance.
Atticus rarely questions his abilities. Even when he must shoot a mad dog, despite not having shot a gun in years, he does so confidently. Atticus takes aim, fixes his glasses, and shoots true with a single bullet. And, just as he decisively and assertively kills the rabid dog, he seeks to stomp out racism and injustice in Maycomb, Alabama.
As created by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus’s personality traits combine to create an impressive man: one who is kind, yet discerning; who is wise, yet encourages the minds of his young children; who is firm, yet preaches compromise.
It’s important to note that Atticus Finch, while impressive, is a fictional character who lacks the complexity of a real person. But even if he were real, we’d still believe that Atticus is the embodiment of an Assertive Advocate.
What do you think? Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird and disagree with our analysis? Or did we hit the nail right on the head? Leave a comment below to let us know.