How does Atticus's decision to be Tom Robinson's defense lawyer impact Scout and Jem in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, one way in which Scout and Jem are impacted by their father's decision to be Tom Robinson's defense lawyer is that they must suffer ridicule from Maycomb's townspeople.

Scout is the first to be ridiculed as a result of their father's decision when Cecil Jacobs, her schoolmate, declares in the schoolyard that "Scout Finch's daddy defended niggers" (Ch. 9). Scout is not really sure what Cecil means in saying so, but she knows she feels insulted and is ready to fight Cecil, breaking her promise to her father not to fight anymore.

Jem takes the hardest blow of ridicule from Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, the reputed meanest old lady in the neighborhood. By Chapter 11, Jem and Scout feel old enough to force themselves to walk past Mrs. Dubose's house in order to get to town, whereas prior, they had avoided her house like the plague. Each time they walk past her house, no matter how genteel they feel they are being towards her, she hurls insults at the children. Mrs. Dubose hurls what Jem considers to be her worst insult when she verbally attacks their father after having predicted Scout would grow up to wait on tables at a dive because she does not act like a lady:

Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in the courthouse lawing for niggers! ... Yes indeed, what has this world come to when a Finch goes against his raising? I'll tell you! ... Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for! (Ch. 11)

Mrs. Dubose's remarks infuriate Jem so much that he destroys her flower garden.

The townspeople's ridicule leaves Scout feeling confused because she thinks that if the whole town thinks Atticus is wrong to defend Tom Robinson, then surely Atticus must be wrong, as she expresses to her father one day:

Atticus, you must be wrong ... Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong ... (Ch. 11)

Yet, despite the ridicule, Atticus remains firm in his conviction that it is his moral imperative to defend a man when no concrete evidence exists to prove his guilt. Through it all, the children learn valuable lessons about courage and about mankind's evil, prejudiced nature.

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