In To Kill a Mockingbird how does Atticus have the courage to defend Tom Robinson? 

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus is a man of great courage.  One of the reasons why he has great courage is because he is a man of integrity. In a conversation with Scout, he reveals why he will defend Tom Robinson. 

First, he says that he could not hold up his head in town or even continue to practice law.  He says this, because there is an inner conviction that he has to do what is right.  He has to stay true to his personal convictions and be faithful to his occupation as a lawyer. From this perspective, courage emerges from his integrity. 

Second, Atticus also takes his parenting seriously.  How can he tell his children to live a certain way, if he does not live up to his own code of ethics and honor? 

Finally, Atticus believes that every lawyer gets a chance to do something that is important. To defend Tom Robinson is his chance. Here is the excerpt. 

“If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

“You mean if you didn’t defend that man, Jem and me wouldn’t have to mind you any more?”

“That’s about right.” “Why?”

“Because I could never ask you to mind me again. Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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