In Chapter 16 of To Kill A Mockingbird, why does Scout wish that Atticus had told them he had to defend Tom Robinson?

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mrwickline | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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In Chapter 16, Scout and Jem are trying to find seats to watch their father defend Tom Robinson, who is on trial. When Scout gets separated from Jem and Dill among the crowd of people, she makes her way to the wall by the stairwell and overhears gentlemen discussing the case. The subject of the discussion is Atticus Finch. Scout listens as she hears the men state that Atticus is a deep reader, and that “the court appointed him to defend this nigger.” (16.218) The fact that Atticus had to defend Tom Robinson, whether he wanted to or not would have made a significant difference in the way Jem and Scout defended their father. When confronted by neighbors, family members, or school children who insulted Atticus and the family over the trial, Jem and Scout could have used the excuse “he had to.” Scout says this would have equalled fewer fights and less fussing. The fact that Atticus aimed to actually defend Tom was what upset the town people.

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