In Chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus says that every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally and that this one is his. How does Tom Robinson's case affect Atticus personally?
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This question gets to the heart of one of the main themes of the book. The case of Tom Robinson affects Atticus in the sense that it tests his convictions and character.
Right from the beginning Atticus knows that the case will be a difficult one. He knows that he will probably lose and that his family will suffer a certain amount of hardship on account of his defense of Tom Robinson. Here is what he says in a conversation with Scout:
“Atticus, are we going to win it?"
“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.
From these words, it is clear that there is nothing easy about defending Tom Robinson. The easier thing for him to do would be to let the case pass by. However, if he did that, he would be going against his beliefs. He would allow an innocent man to be punished by a racist jury. Moreover, he would not be demonstrating courage, when he calls his children to be courageous. This inconsistency would damage his conscience. So, he defends Tom Robinson. And by doing so, he remains true to himself and his convictions. He becomes even a better man.
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