Compare and contrast Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill with Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jake and Atticus are similar in that each is a white attorney who accepts the unpopular role of representing a black defendant in a small, primarily white Southern town. Jake and Atticus both defend their clients vigorously, instead of just going through the motions as other white attorneys might have done in the same situation. As a result, both Jake and Atticus bear the scorn of their communities, and both are subjected to threats and violence. Despite the opposition they encounter, Jake and Atticus persevere; each man believes deeply in the law and behaves with personal integrity in the pursuit of justice. During the time they fight for their clients, both attorneys form emotional bonds with them and their families. Atticus and Jake are both decent men who do their best to fight racial hatred and injustice.

The contrasts between Atticus and Jake are also significant. In Harper Lee's novel, Atticus is remembered and described by Scout as an idealized figure, above reproach. Jake, however, is developed by John Grisham as a somewhat flawed and dynamic character whose humanity grows as he fights for Carl Lee's life.

Atticus  is Maycomb's most respected attorney, related by family history to most of the white community in his town. He is also acquainted with and respected by Maycomb's black citizens. Most of his legal work is routine and undramatic. Atticus does not seek conflict or noteriety. Tom Robinson's case comes to him at the request of Judge Taylor who knows Atticus will do his best to see that Tom receives a fair trial. Atticus is middle-aged, a very experienced lawyer.

Jake, in contrast, competes for cases with numerous lawyers within Clanton and the county. He is young and ambitious. He knows that winning Carl Lee's case will earn him a great deal of notice; such a win would advance his career in a major way. When he first takes the case, these facts play their part in Jake's motivation. Jake is not a racist, but he has lived the segregated life of Clanton. Taking Carl Lee's case brings him into the black community in a new way, increasing his empathy and understanding, and helping him become a better human being.