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The novel includes several instances of the protection of innocence. Here are three:
1. When Tom is moved to the Maycomb jail, Atticus sits outside to wait for the lynch mob. When they show up, they tell him that they sent Sheriff Tate into the woods on a "snipe hunt," which makes Atticus realize that he's standing alone against a lynch mob. Scout goes to him, followed by Jem and Dill. Atticus stands up and says, "Go home, Jem.... Take Scout and Dill home" (172). When Jem doesn't move--a highly unusual choice on his part--one of the men try to manhandle Jem and Scout kicks him. One of the men, mostly strangers to Scout, says to Atticus, "All right, Mr. Finch, get 'em outa here.... You got fifteen seconds to get 'em outa here" (173). Although the men are there to lynch an innocent man, they do not want the children to be there for it, to be corrupted or traumatized by the event.
2. Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson, the main action of the book, is protection of innocence. Atticus knows he cannot win, even before the trial begins, but he does his best anyway. However, "in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed."
3. After the trial, which Atticus loses even though he proves the innocence of his client and guilt of Mayella's father, Bob, Bob waits until the fall pageant to take revenge by attacking the Finch children. In the confusion, he is killed, stabbed with a kitchen knife. When Atticus, who believes Jem stabbed Ewell, argues that he will not cover it up, the sheriff eventually turns on him and says, "God damn it, I'm not thinking of Jem!" (315). He insists Jem is innocent and Ewell fell on his knife. As it becomes clear that Boo stabbed Ewell to protect the children, Tate says:
I never heard tell that it's against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but maybe you'll say it's my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. Know what'd happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb includin' my wife'd be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight--to me, that's a sin." (317)
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