In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus explain to Scout about the jury finding Tom guilty? Why?

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Scout's too young and too innocent to understand the full extent of racial prejudice in Maycomb. In her naivety she assumes that the jury will realize that Tom Robinson is entirely innocent and acquit him of all charges. But Atticus knows better. He knows that there's no chance whatsoever that Tom will be acquitted. At that time and in that place—the Deep South in the 1930s—an accusation of rape against an African-American male was tantamount to a death sentence, especially if the alleged victim was a white woman. A black man raping a white woman was seen as more than just sexual assault; it was considered an attack on white supremacy and the ideals of racial purity, not to mention an affront to the romanticized notion of Southern womanhood.

So Atticus has to be straight with Scout. He has to prepare her for the trial's inevitable, unjust outcome. At the same time, he needs to explain to her why it's important for him to take on a case he has no hope of winning: it's simply the right thing to do. This shows Atticus's integrity as a man, as a lawyer, and as a father.

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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. 

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