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

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Both Brigance and Atticus are progressive Southern lawyers in very conservative small towns. Jake lives in Clanton, Mississippi, and Atticus lives in Maycomb, Alabama. Both agree to take on cases that, because they are defending black men, set them at odds with many in the white community, and both suffer...

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Both Brigance and Atticus are progressive Southern lawyers in very conservative small towns. Jake lives in Clanton, Mississippi, and Atticus lives in Maycomb, Alabama. Both agree to take on cases that, because they are defending black men, set them at odds with many in the white community, and both suffer consequences. Atticus defends Tom Robinson against rape charges, and Jake Brigance defends Carl Lee Hailey on a murder indictment for shooting the men who raped his daughter. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, Atticus's daughter, suffers teasing from some of her peers, and both of his children children are attacked by Bob Ewell near the end of the book. In A Time To Kill, Klan members burn a cross in Jake's front yard, firebomb his house, and attack his secretary and her husband, leading to his death. Thus, both men are held up as examples of the ordeals good people sometimes have to go through in doing the right thing.

But there are also significant differences between the two characters. Brigance is young and up-and-coming, and he takes the case in part because he is Carl Lee's friend but also because he knows that winning it (or even losing it) will boost his professional profile. Atticus, on the other hand, takes the case out of duty—he is actually asked to defend Tom Robinson by the judge. He is already a highly respected attorney in Maycomb. Brigance also had some dealings with his case beforehand, having failed to alert the authorities that Carl Lee might try to avenge his daughter's brutal attack. Overall, Atticus is a much humbler, quieter personality than Jake, characteristics that may owe more to age and experience than any other factor. It might also be noted, of course, that Jake won his case, and Atticus did not, despite the fact that Carl Lee Hailey had indisputably killed the two men, and Tom was just as certainly innocent of his crime. Though the violence surrounding Carl Lee's trial was more intense, the prejudice in Maycomb was even deeper than that in Clanton.

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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.

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