To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How does Atticus influence the town when he takes on the Tom Robinson case?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Atticus makes the controversial, unpopular decision to defend Tom Robinson, which incites the prejudiced citizens of Maycomb and divides the small town into two factions. The majority of citizens are prejudiced and do not support Atticus's decision. Several citizens make derogatory remarks about Atticus defending a black man and even criticize him in front of his children. Mrs. Dubose tells Jem and Scout, "Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" (Lee, 105). Cecil Jacobs also reiterates derogatory remarks from his parents about Atticus by telling Scout,

My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an‘ that nigger oughta hang from the water-tank! (Lee, 79)

Atticus's own sister disagrees with his decision to defend Tom and believes that he is bringing shame onto their family. The Old Sarum bunch even attempts to lynch Tom to prevent Atticus from defending him in court. Despite the negative remarks and actions from prejudiced citizens, Atticus perseveres and defends Tom...

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