What does Atticus say is a great leveler in To Kill a Mockingbird?Please, I need the answer soon!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus is speaking about the integrity of the courts when he refers to the "great levelers".  He means that in the courts, every man should be able to perform on a "level playing field", and have a fair chance of winning.

Atticus makes this statement in his closing arguments before the jury in the Tom Robinson case.  Tom Robinson is a black man accused by a white woman, and although the evidence shows that he is clearly innocent, Atticus knows that the truth has little chance of being upheld in Maycomb County because of an atmosphere of racial stereotyping and prejudice which goes back for generations.  Still, Atticus makes this final appeal before the court, reminding all present that no matter what conditions may exist in communities at large, men should be judged as equal at least in the courts.  Atticus says,

"there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal - there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president.  That instituti0on...is a court.  It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve.  Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal" (Chapter 20).

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question can be found in chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird. As an attorney, Atticus says that the courts are the "great levelers" in American society. By this he means that all men are equal before the law, and as the instrument of the law, the courts do not (or should not) take into account a person's education, economic status, intelligence, or any other factor when deciding their guilt or innocence.

The irony, of course, is that Atticus is well aware that justice is not blind in Maycomb, and that no court can efface the differences that Jim Crow society assigned to African Americans because of their race. Even though he tells the jury that in the courts "all men are created equal," he knows that the prejudices of the people make this a far-fetched proposition. African Americans were unable to serve on juries in Alabama (and indeed much of the South) and Tom Robinson is faced with a white jury that, because of their racism, are almost certain to convict him.

Atticus is exhausted and discouraged after the jury convicts Tom, but his belief that the conviction might be overturned upon appeal shows that he still retains at least some of his faith in the court system, and that his closing remarks were not simply rhetoric.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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