Why was Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson not pointless in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are three reasons that the defense presented by Atticus Finch was not pointless:

  1. The jury of twelve white men did not return after a few minutes. Instead, they had at least one man who disagreed on the verdict of guilty because it took them a few hours. This means that people are beginning to appreciate the process of justice.
  2. Mr. Underwood, who has had a reputation for "hating Negroes" has become so convinced of Tom Robinson's innocence and the miscarriage of justice that he has written a scathing editorial rebuking those who would make a sacrificial victim of a crippled man for the sake of conventional beliefs.
  3. Those in attendance at the trial have witnessed that the courtroom should be the one place in which everyone is treated the same way. After listening to the ignorant and bigoted Bob Ewell, many have realized that a fair trial should be for everyone--white or black, and perjury is a great offense. As Miss Maudie recognizes, there is "a handful of people in this town with background who say a fair trial is for everyone." Now, these people may push for future trials to be treated in a less biased manner by the prosecution, and that jurors leave behind their prejudices when issuing a verdict.
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