To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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

Expert Answers info

bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write1,334 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write2,654 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

dwivsh | Student

By saying this scout means that according to the men of maycomb though atticus was fighting for tom robinson, he wasnt going to win.It was clear from the beginning of the case that he was going to lose due to the racial prejudice ingrained in the maycomb which wouldn't let the black to win.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
revolution | Student

It means how long he had memorized all the facts of the law procedures and use all his criminal knowledge to defend Tom Robinson, sadly he was bound to lose.

Also, can you see that the juries are white and most of the audience are white, so do you think who they were support. Even if the case is really not in their favor, they will support their own race. Even if a white man  commit murder, he will still be acquitted of the charge. In the other hand , if a black man commit a murder, he would be pronounced guilty as charge, so this shows racial discrimination at work.

Atticus knows all the while he would lose the case but he still risked it just to show the fairness of justice and the law. He just want to have some integrity and fight for what he think is morally correct, not influenced by other factors.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial