Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

What allows some individuals to take a stand against prejudice/oppression while others choose to participate in it?

Why does Atticus Finch take a stand against racism in Harper Lee's acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird? His actions contrast with his stereotype...a somewhat privileged Southern white man living in Alabama during the height of Jim Crowe segregation. Atticus Finch, however, is no stereotype.  What motivates him to go against the grain and defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. One may argue that Atticus was ordered to defend Tom as a court-appointed attorney, but Atticus chooses to REALLY defend him, not just go through the motions. This conscience decision on the part of Atticus is conveyed when he reveals to Scout, "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again. […] Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess." (9.16-21)  This quote exemplifies Atticus's moral compass...the decision to truly defend Tom, despite his knowledge that he will undoubtedly lose the case, reveals that this decision represents everything Atticus stands for: truth, fairness, and integrity.   

The setting of TKM is Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. Jim Crowe segregation was alive and well in Harper Lee's sleepy little fictional town.

Why does Atticus defend Tom? Comment with your opinion in addition to textual evidence for support.Be sure to give insightful feedback to at least two other posts.

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