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In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, a black man, is charged with the rape of a white woman. In Maycomb, this is as good as a death sentence for a black man. Atticus has always been the kind of man who believes in doing the right thing. He believes that all people are created equally, yet he knows that in the community a black man has almost no chance of getting a fair trial. When the judge comes and asks Atticus to defend Tom, Atticus agrees, knowing that he is probably the only chance Tom has. Atticus also knows that because he is defending him, his children will start hearing some bad things, but Atticus believes in doing what is right.
Atticus is a fair and just man. He believes that everyone is entitled to the best defense they can get. Atticus knows that Tom is innocent, but he knows that it will probably be impossible for him to prove that.
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win."
Atticus tells Scout that Tom will probably be convicted and Scout asks him why he is defending him if he knows he will be convicted.
"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...Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess."
Atticus knows that this case and trial will have a long-lasting affect on not only him, but on his children and the whole town. Yet he knows that he has to do it. Atticus is the kind of man who wouldn't be able to live with himself if turned his back on Tom. Atticus doesn't realize the beautiful legacy he is leaving for his children.
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