In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Atticus follow his gut?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


Throughout the novel, Atticus Finch is a morally upright man who courageously challenges Maycomb's prejudiced views against African Americans by defending Tom Robinson. He understands that he is fighting a losing battle, but accepts the challenge nonetheless. The reason Atticus decides to follow his gut and defend Tom is because he cannot neglect his conscience. Atticus knows that the right thing to do is to stand up for Tom Robinson. Also, Atticus wants to be a good role model for his children and demonstrate the importance of following one's conscience, even when it is unpopular to do so. In Chapter 9, Atticus has a discussion with his brother regarding his decision to defend Tom Robinson. When Atticus' brother suggests that he let the case pass from him, Atticus says,

"Right. But do you think I could face my children otherwise?" (Lee 55).

Another scene throughout the novel that gives insight into why Atticus follows his gut takes place in Chapter 11. When Scout tells her father that most people in Maycomb think that he's wrong for defending a black man, Atticus says,

"They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions...but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience" (Lee 66).

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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