Please provide 3 quotes showing how Atticus is setting a good example for his kids by taking the Tom Robinson case in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout gets into a argument at school with Cecil Jacobs who tells her that her father defends "n*****s." She doesn't even understand what he's talking about, but it sounds bad enough to deny it. Afterwards, in an effort to explain to her why he is taking the Robinson case, Atticus says the following:

"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" (75).

During Christmas time, Scout gets to go to Finches Landing to see Uncle Jack and other family. She gets into a fight with her second cousin Francis who calls her father a similarly bad name. Atticus later talks with Uncle Jack about Scout, and rearing children, and the discussion drifts to the Tom Robinson case as follows:

"But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what's going to happen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb's usual disease. Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand" (88).

Atticus knows that Scout is listening to him as he says everything and more in the above passage. He allows her to hear so she consciously thinks about what he is saying--all of which is very good for her to hear as they prepare for the upcoming case.

Finally, Atticus proves he is doing the right thing by taking the Tom Robinson case when he goes to the jail at night to protect anyone from harming his client. Atticus takes a light, a chair, and a book to read out in front of the courthouse. He shows his kids that he's willing to put himself in danger in order to stand up for justice. After the incident with the Cunningham lynch mob, Atticus shows forgiveness by saying the following:

"Mr. Cunningham's basically a good man. . . he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us" (157).

Atticus responds to every situation with patience and wisdom. He never lets anyone or anything shakes his morally strong foundation. As he passes through the trial of Tom Robinson, he also uses logic, education, and the power of knowledge to show how the bigotry and prejudice of the Ewells, and the town, are founded on ignorance and racism, rather than truth and equality. And when he loses the case, he is deeply sad for Tom when many people would simply move on with life. He teaches his children by example that justice means to defend each and every person no matter what.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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