My question is not why they call their father Atticus as much as why he lets them do this, and what this says about their characters.

Where I come from--and, I think, in 1930s Alabama--it is not common to let kids call their parents by their first names. Usually the parents stop this from happening, and Atticus presumably made a decision not to stop them. Why did he make this decision, and what does this say about his character?

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    @Catija I'm not saying he shouldn't I'm just saying that it's weird, and people who do let their kids do that have a good reason. I know many people who tried to call their parents by their first names, but their parents didn't let them.
    – CHEESE
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:08
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    Scout, as far as I remember, defied a lot of social norms - she was an independent young girl who really set out to explore. She was willing to speak up, she was intelligent and smart, things that are different. Atticus was also pretty different - he showed that race and prejudice were wrong, and in terms of his parenting style, he let Scout and Jem be very free. It's how they learned to climb trees. I don't think there's any explicitly specific mentioned reason - it just ties in to the books story of letting Scout have freedom and exploring the downs and ups of the world.
    – Zizouz212
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:08
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    @Catija For Jem and Scout, this isn't a phase.
    – CHEESE
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:12
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    @Catija Well, I don't know where you're from but I guess most of the world doesn't think the way you do. Anyways, I suppose we should keep the discussion to literature. Feb 1, 2017 at 18:14
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    I think this is a good question and not overly broad. In American culture, using a first name means that you see the person as an equal, and children and parents are not supposed to be equal. Therefore, the child is being disrespectful by putting him/herself on equal footing to the parent. So the question is, why did Atticus allow his very minor children to address him as if they were his equals? It does indeed say something about his character (and parenting style). @TheBitByte Feb 1, 2017 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


Lee does this to paint the whole Finch family as unconventional, reflecting upon the abnormal characters of Atticus, Jem, and Scout. In southern Alabama during the 1930's, society isn't very progressive, shown by the townspeople's negative attitudes towards African Americans. Similarly, in this setting, society expects children to address their parents with respect.

It is within this society that the dynamic character of Atticus Finch is developed. In contrast to the other townspeople, Atticus is highly educated and progressive, defending the rights of the unrepresented. He wants his children to grow up with a forward-thinking mindset, just like him, questioning the world's opinions through rational thought and reason. Thus, one step towards doing this is to address their father as equal, showcasing Atticus's belief that all men are equal, regardless of age, gender, or race. For the exact reason of highlighting the unorthodoxy of the family, Jem and Scout call their father Atticus.

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