How does Atticus protest Jim Crow laws even before taking on Tom Robinson's case? How does this influence or affect people close to him?In To Kill a Mockingbird. For example, his children, his...

How does Atticus protest Jim Crow laws even before taking on Tom Robinson's case? How does this influence or affect people close to him?

In To Kill a Mockingbird. For example, his children, his sister, Calpurnia?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conscience of Maycomb County and the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is the quintessential example of the liberal Southern attorney. Although many people in the town are angered by Atticus defending Tom Robinson--they know he will try his hardest to seek acquittal--he is so admired in Maycomb that he is always reelected to the Alabama legislature without opposition.

Atticus is revered by the black townspeople of Maycomb, who stand in reverence as he leaves the courtroom and flock to his porch to leave gifts of food following the trial. However, he clearly has displayed his fairness prior to the trial. He treats Calpurnia as a member of the family rather than as a housekeeper, and he has allowed her to serve as surrogate mother to Jem and Scout since their mother's death. He teaches his children that anyone who takes advantage of black people are themselves "trash." He tells Scout not to say "nigger." He allows Calpurnia to take his children to her church. He drives Calpurnia home and visits Tom's wife at her house (both on the "black side" of town). After Scout's fight with Cecil Jacobs, and later, with his cousin, Atticus explains that it's true: He defends Negroes.

... if I didn't (defend Tom) I couldn't hold up my head in town."

By defending Tom Robinson, Atticus even chooses against his sister, Alexandra, who also believes he is wrong. Then, in Chapter 15, Atticus stands alone at the jail to protect Tom from the lynch mob, an action few white men would have undertaken in 1930s Alabama.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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