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In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Tom Robinson tries to escape from jail and gets...

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In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Tom Robinson tries to escape from jail and gets killed in the process.  Of this attempt, Atticus commented on his discussion with Tom about appealing the guilty verdict, “I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance.”  What does Atticus's decision to be honest with Tom Robinson reveal about his character?

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Atticus Finch is nothing if not an honest man, and his decision to tell Tom Robinson the truth about the possibility of an appeal reflects that.  In fact, the way Atticus treats Tom Robinson is a testament to his tolerance and respect for nearly anyone he encounters, because even though Robinson is black, Atticus works to give Robinson a sound defense in court, just like he would for anyone else, telling his children that "There's one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule and that's a man's conscience."  Despite the inevitable guilty verdict, not to mention the disapproving "tsk, tsk's" of many of Maycomb's white folks, Atticus had already earned the respect of the entire black community in Maycomb with his sincere efforts to defend Robinson, and he had gone even further, promising Robinson they would appeal, and that it might work; however, as revealed by the quote found in the question above, Atticus stopped short of giving Robinson false hopes.  In fact, perhaps that may be the most important evidence of all that Atticus did not share Maycomb's racist mindset:  just as he had defended Robinson to the best of his ability as he would anyone else, he also respected Robinson enough to tell him the truth about the appeal, just as he would any other client.  Atticus was a compassionate man with unfailingly good manners, but he was not one to "sugarcoat" the truth with anyone.


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