Although the trial of Tom Robinson is alluded to on the first page of the novel, the subject is not mentioned again until Chapter 9 when Scout gets in a fight with Cecil Jacobs after he claims that Atticus "defended niggers." However, the trial quickly becomes the primary focus of Part Two of the novel. Atticus' decision to take the case turns the family's life upside down. Scout is forced to defend the family name at school, usually by fighting, and the children have to endure the gossip they hear on the streets of Maycomb. Atticus takes the case only because he knew he wouldn't be able
"to face my children otherwise. ... I'd hoped to go through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said, ' You're It. '"
It is a case Atticus knows he cannot win, considering the fact that Mayella Ewell is white and Tom Robinson is black, and how a white man's word is always accepted over the word of a black man. Jem is mightily affected by the guilty verdict, and he questions the validity of a jury that can allow jurors to overlook the evidence they are presented. Scout understands about the "secrets courts of men's hearts" who have made up their minds before the trial begins. The death of Tom Robinson doesn't end the matter, since the children nearly forfeit their lives at the murderous hands of Bob Ewell, who Atticus disgraced on the stand.