In Chapter 30 of "To Kill a Mockingbird", what insight is gained into Heck Tates's character?

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katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conversation between Atticus and Heck Tate in Chapter 30 is one of the highlights of the book, at least for me. Up until now, Heck Tate has generally taken a backseat to Atticus (think about the time Heck had Atticus shoot the mad dog) and some readers may not like Heck because of his testimony at Tom's trial (even though, when looked at objectively, Heck was simply relating the events of the night as he had seen them, and since Bob was the one who came to him, Heck knew their side of the story.)

However, Chapter 30 is the point when Heck makes his quiet strength known--that quiet, non-physical courage that Atticus has been trying to teach Jem and Scout about. Atticus has always been the moral compass of the book--he could do no wrong in the eyes of Scout, our narrator. However, it would logically prove that if Heck is arguing with Atticus, Heck would be in the wrong. Not so in this case. Heck is willing to stand up to one of the most respected and respectful men in all of Maycomb to do what he (Heck) thinks is right. Atticus may want to take the moral high ground, bringing the death of Bob Ewell to trial--including Jem, Scout and Boo--but Heck knows of the evils committed by Bob and uses his power as sheriff to declare it an accident and save Jem, Scout and Boo from the prejudices of the town. Heck knows that if a jury would convict Tom Robinson, they would have no problem convicting Boo, whether or not he saved children's lives.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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