To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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What were Atticus' personal reasons for defending Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Atticus has several personal reasons for defending Tom Robinson. Atticus is a morally upright man who believes that African Americans should be treated equally. He also realizes that Tom Robinson is innocent and feels like it is his responsibility to protect Tom from the racist community members of Maycomb. Atticus also stated that he could not live with himself if he did not defend Tom to the best of his ability. It would go against Atticus' morals and values if he chose not to defend Tom Robinson. Atticus' conscience does not allow him to walk away from the case. As was mentioned in the previous post, Atticus also defends Tom because he wants to be a positive role model for his children. Atticus wants to lead by example and valiantly defends Tom Robinson in a hopeless case. Jem and Scout learn integrity and courage from witnessing their father defend Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury. Atticus also wants to be the catalyst for social change in the backward town of Maycomb. 

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missy575 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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1. Atticus wants to do the right thing in front of his children. He mentions the fact that he could not ask them to live with strong morals if he could not do the hard things himself. He knew and understood the world his children would be going into in terms of racial tension, and this was also his opportunity to influence them to take the next steps in their generation's lifetime.

2. It was the right thing to do period. Defending an innocent victim with all the fervor and ability he possessed was not just a good thing to do, it was his job as the public defender. Atticus was not racist, and had no reason to deny the case.

3. Atticus is cited to be a Christian man in many places in the text. Besides being a church-goer, Maudie calls him a Christian man who the town calls upon to do right on behalf of them. Even though much of the town would be mad at him, those who hoped for future change needed the character of a God-fearing man who would treat Tom without prejudice.

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