In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus mean when he says, "the one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a man's conscience"?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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After Atticus lectures Jem about cutting the buds of Mrs. Dubose's flowers. Atticus then talks to Scout about Tom Robinson's case. She asks why Atticus thinks he is right when everyone else thinks he is wrong. The town is clearly not on Atticus and Tom Robinson's side because of their racist tendencies. This discussion was brought on by comments the children have been hearing in town. The statement shows just why Atticus is the moral compass of this novel. By choosing a life of knowledge and self-consciousness over ignorance and conformity, Atticus is able to overcome the external, racist influence of the town. His conscience is internal, and under the control of his own free will. He will not allow his conscience to be persuaded by an outside majority; especially a majority that represents injustice and prejudice.

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