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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Judge John Taylor

Character Analysis

Scout calls Judge Taylor "a sleepy old shark" (16.105), and it fits: he may seem out of it most of the time, but disrupt his court in any way and he's on it like a shark on fishmeat.

While he seems fairly even-handed in court, his personal views on the Robinson case come out in more subtle ways. He appoints Atticus as Tom's defense council even when the job should have gone to another, less experienced, man. Later, Atticus says that the judge looked at Ewell on the witness stand "as if he were a three-legged chicken or a square egg" and continues, "Don't tell me judges don't try to prejudice juries" (27.16). But he's ultimately powerless to prevent the jury from finding Tom guilty on circumstantial evidence. Like Atticus, he works within the system—and the system is broken.

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