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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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  What does Reverend Sykes' instruction to stand up show about his people's attitude toward Atticus in Chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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It is very clear that the black populace of Maycomb has no greater white friend in town than Atticus Finch. If they have not already recognized Atticus's fairness toward all people--white and black--they almost certainly have been informed by Calpurnia of the fair and loving treatment she has always received. Reverend Sykes and the rest of the black spectators already realize the the dangerous position in which Atticus has put himself by agreeing to defend Tom: He risks his reputation, friendships, and the safety of his family by taking the case. The Negroes in the balcony have seen Atticus give his all, presenting evidence that most juries would have accepted, inevitably freeing Tom. But like Atticus, they also realize that Tom is up against a stacked deck, that no jury is likely to accept Tom's word over a white man's. They must have also appreciated Atticus's heartfelt summation, pointing out that not all black men are "immoral beings." His pleas for the jury to look past Tom's skin color falls on the deaf ears of the jury, but not Tom's supporters'. The black spectators stand in silent unison because they know that Atticus has done his best, and they honor him in the best way they know how.

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