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When Atticus takes on the Tom Robinson case in To Kill a Mockingbird, what does the...

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penny892 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 27, 2012 at 2:08 AM via web

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When Atticus takes on the Tom Robinson case in To Kill a Mockingbird, what does the rest of the white community think of this?

Please include characters, with quotations, e.g Mrs Maudie, Mrs Dubose, or as a whole.

 

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 27, 2012 at 2:51 AM (Answer #1)

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No one seems to be happy about Atticus's decision to defend Tom Robinson--except for possibly Tom and his friends. Everyone in Maycomb--white and black--knows that Atticus will do his best to gain Tom's acquittal, and that is precisely what upsets most of the white community. According to one of the members of the Idlers' Club,

"... you know the court appointed him to defend this nigger."
     "Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That's what I don't like about it."  (Chapter 16)

Scout had been dealing with the community's racist attitudes toward the trial for months, fighting her cousin Francis after he denounced Atticus, calling him (and Scout) a "nigger-lover"; and walking away from a fight with Cecil Jacobs, who claimed that Atticus "defended niggers" while calling Scout a "cow--ward!" Jem got into trouble after he could not control his anger following Mrs. Dubose's insults about Atticus being "trash" because he was "lawing for niggers." The children hear their names mentioned in whispers on the streets, and one citizen declares that

     "They (Negro men) c'n go loose and rape up the countryside for all of 'em who run this county care..."  (Chapter 14)

Alexandra is worried for the safety of Atticus, and the men of Old Sarum are angry enough to consider lynching Tom Robinson. But Atticus has a few supporters: Dr. Reynolds, Link Deas, Mr. Avery and Sheriff Tate are among the men who visit Atticus's house on the Sunday before the trial to warn him that there might be trouble at the jail that night. Even the Negro-hating newspaper editor, B. B. Underwood, is willing to support Atticus when the lynch mob visits, and his later editorial decries Tom's death. The loyal Miss Maudie is on Atticus's side, but Dill's Aunt Rachel said

... that if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it's his head.  (Chapter 22)

The all-white jury clearly made its opinions known by their verdict, although Atticus reveals later that at least one of the Cunninghams was the lone holdout. Perhaps the most revealing reaction by the white folks of Maycomb can be seen following the trial, when Jem and Scout 

... made their way through the cheerful crowd.  (Chapter 22)

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