What does Scout mean when she says, 'In the secret courts of men's hearts, Atticus had no case?'

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Atticus has no case because of the racial prejudice toward blacks during that period of time, especially in the South. The "secret courts of men's hearts" refers to how a white person felt about a black person in his/her heart even if he/she didn't come right out and say they were prejudiced. Atticus presents an excellent defense for Tom Robinson, but he can't win because Tom is black. Had Tom been a white man, he probably would have been found innocent. This quote from the book captures the theme not only of racial inequality, but of conformity as well. Boo Radley is tortured because he is different also.

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Ah, a good but sad question. She meant that no matter how well Atticus made his case in a court of law, he was going to lose. Why? Because of the attitudes in the town. Because "in the secret courts of men's hearts," they were biased, and would not allow a case with a racial split like this one (Black male defendant, white female accuser) to be resolved fairly.
Atticus took the case knowing he would lose, but with the hope of creating greater fairness in the long run.
Greg

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