To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Scout learns that her father was appointed to defend Tom Robinson. In the novel it states, “The court appointed Atticus to defend him. Atticus aimed to defend him. That’s what they didn’t like...

Scout learns that her father was appointed to defend Tom Robinson. In the novel it states, “The court appointed Atticus to defend him. Atticus aimed to defend him. That’s what they didn’t like about it. It was confusing.” Why are the townspeople upset? What is it that Scout doesn’t understand? 

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although Atticus was specifically appointed by Judge Taylor to defend Tom Robinson, the prejudiced townspeople are upset that he is going to valiantly defend his client. In the racist town of Maycomb, the majority of the citizens criticize Atticus for preparing to defend a black man. They are not concerned with Tom Robinson's innocence and do not want to upset their traditional way of life, which constitutes living in a segregated society where black people are treated like second-class citizens and have no rights.

Typically, cases like Tom Robinson's are given to the inexperienced Maxwell Green, who does not give any effort when asked to defend his black clients. However, Judge Taylor favors racial equality and justice, which is why he appoints Atticus to the case. Judge Taylor knows that Atticus is a morally upright, tolerant man, who will valiantly defend Tom Robinson. Atticus is not concerned with the community's opinions regarding his choice to defend Tom and follows his conscience....

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