What can be deduced about the character of Atticus from his defense of Tom Robinson? Why was he “chosen”? To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee created in Atticus Finch a character who has become larger than life in both literature and in legal circles. The quintessential fictional Southern liberal lawyer, Atticus is so respected in his home state that the Alabama State Bar erected a monument in Monroeville to honor the "first commemorative milestone in the state's judicial history." One attorney noted that "Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person." An article in the Michigan Law Review claimed, "No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession."

Honest to a fault, Atticus was chosen personally by Judge Taylor to defend Tom Robinson because he knew that Mr. Finch would do his best to gain an acquittal. The townspeople knew it, too.

"... you know the court appointed Atticus to defend this nigger."
    "Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That's what I don't like about it."

Atticus plays upon the jury's conscience in his summation, calling upon them to honor the integrity of the court system. He makes it clear that although "all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe," he maintains a faith in the equity of both the white and black races.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus Finch is a principled man who, as Miss Maudie describes him, is “the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” He was chosen to defend Tom Robinson because he could be trusted to live up to the ethics of his profession and do everything he could to prove the man's innocence.

His intense questioning of Bob Ewell and Mayella, although polite, destroyed their credibility. Certainly, he proved that Mayella was struck by a left-handed person and Tom, who has a damaged left arm, could never have hit her. Unfortunately, no physician examined Mayella, so there was no scientific proof that no rape occurred.

The closing remarks of Atticus Finch were the best that could have been said. For he stressed that in America "in our courts all people are created equal." With these words he appealed to the conscience of the members of the jury, hoping that they would view Tom Robinson as a fellow citizen and not as "just a Negro."

Before he went to trial, Atticus told his brother that he could not face his children if  he did not take Robinson's case. After the trial, although he lost, Atticus Finch had nothing of which to be ashamed. He remained a principled and ethical man.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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