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Atticus Finch

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Abby Rice 11/7/14 Atticus Finch: An Honest Man & Lawyer In the 1930's in southern Alabama, rape and attempted rape was considered a capital offense. This was just one of the measures taken to ensure the safety of Southern women, who in the eyes of men, were fragile and innocent. As a result of the Ladies Law, men could even be sentenced to jail time for using profane language around a lady. This conservative culture, combined with prejudices leftover from the civil war, spelled trouble for any black man who spent his time in company with white women. In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, an African American, is charged with the rape of a young white woman. Tom Robinson is very fortunate to be given Atticus Finch as his defense attorney. Atticus Finch is an outstanding lawyer whose moral responsibility and personal investment gave Tom Robinson the best chance at being acquitted. The case Atticus is presented with in To Kill A Mockingbird is one that challenges his morals. The county sheriff, Heck Tate, tells Atticus that he has “everything to lose” from taking on the case. Knowing that he and his children will be looked down upon by the majority of the population in Maycomb County, Atticus decides that he will defend Tom Robinson anyway. When asked why by his daughter Scout, he says that if he did not he,” couldn't hold up [his] head in town, [and he] couldn't represent this county in the legislature”. Atticus knows the right thing to do is to defend Tom, so he would be ashamed of himself if he decided not to. Atticus could have easily turned down the case and spared himself and his children the backlash. Atticus' decision to take on Tom's case provided Tom with a defense attorney that would fight for his release. In post-war Alabama, lynching was something that was not exactly unheard of. A significant amount of African Americans were lynched before their trials could take place. In To Kill A Mockingbird, a mob attempted to lynch Tom Robinson. Having heard that Tom was being moved to the local jail, Atticus knew there was a possibility that someone would try to hurt Tom. The night before the trial, Atticus took his lamp and newspaper to the jail and guarded the entrance. Sure enough, a mob of men arrived to get rid of Tom Robinson before his trial the next morning. “You know what we want,” a member of the mob threatened, “Get aside from the door Mr. Finch.” Atticus did not move, knowing very well that he could be harmed. Atticus went above and beyond his duties as a defense attorney by putting his own life at risk to keep Tom safe. Atticus Finch ensured that Tom Robinson could have a fair trial. First, Atticus saved Tom's life. One of the members of the mob that tried to harm Tom tells Atticus that the police force is, “so deep in the woods they won't get out till morning.” Nobody would have been able to come to Tom's rescue if Atticus was not there. If Atticus had not taken it upon himself to protect Tom from being lynched, Tom would not have made it to his trial. In addition to saving Tom's life, Atticus did what most lawyers of the time would not have done, he legitimately built up a case and defended Tom. Atticus' children overhear some men criticizing their father and one of the men says that, “Atticus aims to defend [Tom]. That's what I don't like about it.” Most white lawyers defending an African American, especially in the south, would not have actually tried to prove Tom innocent. The reason the some of the townspeople are upset, is because Atticus is not just doing his job; Atticus is giving Tom Robinson the best defense that he can deliver. Even though Tom Robinson was ruled guilty, Atticus was able to give him equal treatment under the law, something most African American defendants of the time never had a chance at. Atticus Finch gave Tom Robinson his very best despite all the criticism he received as a result. In the end, Tom Robinson is sentenced to death. With any other defense attorney, Tom would not have gotten a trial at all. This was the devastating fate for most African American men charged with crimes against white women in the 1930's. Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird brought light to this issue, a light that is still being shone on the injustices that happen in the court room today. After all, not many people are given a defense attorney as honest and hardworking as Atticus Finch.

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