What passages show willingness to want to do a certain act in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To be willing to do something is not necessarily synonymous with wanting to do something. Instead, to be willing can be defined as being "prepared to do something, or having no reason to not want to do it" (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English). In other words, one can know something is the right thing to do and be ready to do it without wholeheartedly emotionally desiring to do it. The importance of willingness is certainly a dominant theme all throughout Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

One key example of willingness is seen in Atticus's attitude towards his role of defending Tom Robinson. While Atticus knows defending Robinson is the morally correct thing to do and is ready to fulfill his duty, he cannot fully desire the responsibility of defending Robinson because he knows just how much hardship it will cause him and his children; he especially fears what his children will go through. We see Atticus expressing both his resistance and his willingness in his discussion about the case with his brother Jack in Chapter 9.

Atticus expresses his resistance to fulfilling the task of defending Robinson by stating to his brother that he had "hoped to get through life without a case of this kind," meaning a case doomed to failure due to the racial bias of the jury, despite the fact the case should have never been brought to trial due to lack of evidence. Atticus further explains that he is obligated to defend Robinson, regardless of his sense of doom, partially because "Judge Taylor pointed at [Atticus] and said, 'You're It'" (Ch. 9). Jack expresses he understands just how much of a sacrifice Atticus is making, how much of a burden Atticus is shouldering, by putting his all into Robinson's defense case when Jack makes an allusion to the biblical Jesus by asking Atticus, "Let this cup pass from you, eh?" (Ch. 9). Atticus's agreement with his brother's statement further shows us just how much Atticus dreads the task he is undertaking, even if he is also completely ready to fulfill the task.

Atticus also expresses his complete willingness, his complete readiness, to fulfill the task when he rhetorically asks his brother, "But do you think I could face my children otherwise?" (Ch. 9). Atticus knows he has a strong sense of dignity and would not be able to hold his head up or continue to raise his children if he does not fulfill what he sees as his moral responsibilities. He sees defending Robinson to be his moral responsibility because he knows Robinson is unjustly being brought to trial with absolutely zero concrete evidence proving that the crime Robinson is being accused of actually took place.

Hence, Atticus is very willing, as in ready, to put his all into defending Robinson even though he dreads the consequences.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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