To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch Quotes
"You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire." (20.48)
Racism logic fail: Tom is black, black is bad, therefore Tom is bad. Atticus tries to transform it into, "Tom is a man, some men are bad, some men are good, and now listen to the evidence and decide which group Tom belongs to." Convicting Tom because he is black, Atticus argues, would be as silly as convicting him because he is a human being.
"Heck," Atticus's back was turned. "If this thing's hushed up it'll be a simple denial to Jem of the way I've tried to raise him. Sometimes I think I'm a total failure as a parent, but I'm all they've got. Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him... if I connived at something like this, frankly I couldn't meet his eye, and the day I can't do that I'll know I've lost him. I don't want to lose him and Scout, because they're all I've got." (30.37)
Here's a new way of looking at parenting: instead of telling your kids not to embarrass you, how about trying not to embarrass your kids? Only, we're not talking about retiring your mom jeans or putting your cellphone in your pocket instead of clipping it to your belt. We're talking about living an upright, honest, and moral life—and that's a lot harder.
"In the second place, they're afraid. Then, they're-"
"Afraid, why?" asked Jem.
"Well, what if—say, Mr. Link Deas had to decide the amount of damages to award, say, Miss Maudie, when Miss Rachel ran over her with a car. Link wouldn't like the thought of losing either lady's business at his store, would he? So he tells Judge Taylor that he can't serve on the jury because he doesn't have anybody to keep store for him while he's gone. […]
"Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something. Men don't like to do that. Sometimes it's unpleasant." (23.47-52)
Atticus suggests that it's not just the actual fallout they would have to face from the community that keeps Maycomb's residents with background, as Miss Maudie would say, from serving on juries, but also fear of publicly taking a stand. Maybe this fear also influenced Tom's jury—declaring an opinion that goes against the common view can be pretty scary.