Tom Robinson, a young black husband and father in Maycomb, is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a poor young white woman. Tom's trial becomes the major story line of the novel. Atticus agrees to defend Tom, after Judge Taylor asks him to take the case. Since the story takes place during the 1930s in Alabama, racial prejudice is the social norm; Tom is assumed to be guilty because he is black. Atticus knows that innocent or guilty--and Tom is clearly innocent--Tom will most surely be convicted by his all-white jury. Atticus tries to explain this injustice to Scout in advance so that she will have some understanding of what is going to happen. Atticus also explains that he intends to defend Tom vigorously, even knowing he will most likely lose, because it is the right thing to do, even though it will be difficult. In taking Tom's case and remaining true to his principles, Atticus teaches his children, by his example, true courage, decency, and morality.