In "To Kill a Mockingbird" what does Atticus do in court that the children never saw him do even at home?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before Atticus begins his closing remarks, Scout witnesses her father do something that she has never seen him do in a private or public place. Scout is astonished to see her father unbutton his vest and collar, loosen his tie, and take off his coat. Scout goes on to mention that Atticus never loosened any of his clothes until he was undressing before bedtime. Atticus removing his coat and loosening his tie in the courtroom is equivalent to him standing before them naked. Atticus then puts his hands into his pockets and proceeds to give his closing remarks. Atticus's actions reveal his desire to connect with the jury members. By taking off his coat and loosening his tie, Atticus exchanges his formal appearance for a more casual look. The working-class members of the jury are more likely to relate and connect with a man whose appearance is similar to the members of their community. Also, Atticus removing his vest and coat has a practical function. It is extremely hot in the courtroom, and Atticus attempts to cool off by removing several layers of clothing. Throughout his closing remarks, Scout also witnesses another "first" when Atticus begins to sweat. Scout mentions that Atticus was one of those people who rarely perspires. Atticus's sweat illustrates his effort and represents the pressure he is under by defending Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator
There are two things that Atticus does in the courtroom that the children had never seen him do before. The first is "he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat." Apparently, this was something that Atticus never did; Scout says that she "never saw him do [that] before or since, in public or private...he never loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime." Atticus was a formal man, filled with ideas about politeness and manners; he always appeared composed and tidy in front of his children. So, Scout and Jem were impressed; they knew that this was an important moment-and it was. Atticus was about to give his closing testimony in Tom's trial. The second thing that Atticus does is sweat. Near the end of his closing testimony, "he took off his glasses and wiped them, and we saw another 'first': we had never seen him sweat-he was one of those men whose faces never perspired, but now it was shining tan." This indicates how important Atticus felt his speech was; he cared about it, was stressed about it, and wanting it to go well.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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