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Judge Taylor is a very interesting character. He cares deeply about the justice system. He may look like he’s asleep, but this is his way of distancing himself from the emotional nature of the case. A judge’s job is to stand back and make sure that the trial is fair. Scout describes him as “a sleepy old shark” (ch 16). This is a contradiction. It shows that while he may seem unprepared, he is actually acutely aware of what is going on.
Scout describes Judge Taylor as running his courtroom with “an alarming informality” (ch 16). He puts his feet up, cleans his nails, and seems to be napping. Yet it’s clear that he isn’t, as she shares in the story of the lawyer who purposefully drops the books to wake him up.
So Scout concludes:
He was a man learned in the law, and although he seemed to take his job casually, in reality he kept a firm grip on any proceedings that came before him. (ch 16)
In a larger sense, Judge Taylor’s contradictions are part of the larger theme that things are not what they seem. He seems uninterested and irreverent, when in reality the trial is very important to him. After all, he did appoint Atticus Finch to defend Tom Robinson. That certainly shows he knew what he was doing, and wanted Tom to get the best defense possible.
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