Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why might some people misjudge Judge Taylor's ability?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scout describes Judge Taylor as a sleepy old man who runs his court with alarming informality and is known to prop his feet up on the bench during the proceedings. During his court hearings, Judge Taylor appears to doze off and seems to be sleeping while the lawyers argue their cases. Scout also mentions that Judge Taylor chews on a cigar during the proceedings and appears to take his job casually. Despite Judge Taylor's relaxed, informal demeanor, Atticus tells his daughter that the judge is intelligent, has a firm understanding of the law, and keeps his court in order at all times. One could easily misinterpret Judge Taylor as being unconcerned or oblivious to the proceedings because he barely opens his eyes and kicks his feet up. Despite his appearance and behavior, however, Judge Taylor is a strict, efficient judge who maintains an organized, coherent court, where everyone is heard and procedures are followed. During the Tom Robinson trial, Judge Taylor bangs his gavel several times to quiet the crowd, threatens Link Deas for interrupting the proceedings, and gives Atticus a fair chance to defend his client.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is set in the south during the time of the Great Depression.  It centers around the trial of Tom Robinson, a negro who stands accused of raping a young white girl.

Judge Taylor is not a prominent character since the story is told from the perspective of a six-year-old girl by the name of Scout.  Her involvement is due to the fact that she is the daughter of the defense lawyer, Atticus Finch.

Judge Taylor is well advanced in age.  He is a man of simple pleasures such as singing and partaking of his dipping tobacco.  He is a singularly unremarkable man.  The only clue that one might have that he knows more than it seems he does is his appointment of Atticus vs. the newbie lawyer, who would have traditionally "drawn the short straw" in such a controversial case.

A senile, simpleton of a judge who did not even have the good sense to assign the "correct" defense counsel!  Those are ample reasons to misjudge the good judge's abilities.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team