Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

Expert Answers

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

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Judge Taylor appoints Atticus Finch to defend Tom Robinson against charges of rape. Atticus knows that in racist Maycomb County, his decision to defend Tom to the best of his ability will have repercussions for his family. For example, Scout and Jem see their father stand in the way of an angry mob to protect Tom. Atticus explains his reason for defending Tom by saying, "if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town."

Atticus points out inconsistencies in the stories of Bob and Mayella Ewell and provides evidence that Mayella received her bruises from her own father. He explains to the jury that Mayella was discovered by her father doing something that in their society is seen as "unspeakable: she kissed a black man." Although Atticus effectively proves his case, Tom Robinson is found guilty.

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

Atticus Finch is Tom Robinson's defense attorney in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is the novel's most morally upright individual and chooses to defend Tom Robinson honorably in front of a prejudiced jury. During the trial, Atticus reveals Mayella and Bob Ewell are lying about accusing Tom Robinson of assault and rape. Atticus reveals Tom Robinson was incapable of inflicting the wounds to the right side of Mayella's face because he has a crippled left hand. Atticus suggests Bob Ewell assaulted his daughter after he saw her kiss Tom Robinson. Atticus then pleads with the jury to look past their prejudice and judge the case fairly. Despite Atticus's excellent defense of his client, Tom Robinson is found guilty and becomes a victim of racial injustice.

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