Part of the appeal of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and perhaps what makes it such a classic, is its innocent way of encouraging the reader to question. It takes its audience on a journey by looking through the eyes of people with completely different perspectives. No character is made into a villain nor is condemnation ever encouraged. Even though things don't always work out, the story encourages the reader to see that the path of selfless compassion and integrity is always the right choice.

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This is an excellent description of integrity. This is also an excellent description of Atticus Finch. Although the book does not portray anyone as being a villain, Atticus Finch definitely does play the role of a hero. He stands up for what he believes is right and fights for that cause, completely disregarding the fact that his entire town seems to be in opposition to his views.

So, here comes the question, what was wrong about the actions of the Ewell's in the trial?

You may want to discuss these following questions in twos or threes:

What beliefs did each of the three most prominent characters (Atticus Finch, Bob Ewell and Mayella Ewell) seem to hold?

Did their actions match these beliefs?

Why then, should their actions be considered immoral?

At first glance, it may appear that every character was simply following their heart and acting on what they believed in. But, a closer look reveals that integrity is something more. Bob and Mayella Ewell both acted in a self-seeking manner. They selected the beliefs they thought they could use to sway the jury into getting them out of trouble. Bob Ewell manipulated the court to indict Tom Robinson, in an attempt to avoid the punishment of the law and Mayella Ewell played along with it in fear of and to avoid being punished by her father. Atticus Finch, on the other hand, stood up for the cause of another man, Tom Robinson in a situation with no benefit to himself, purely as a matter of principle.

True integrity and moral uprightness is doing what's right, because it is right. It is fighting for the truth, because it is the truth. The book encourages a path of selfless altruism to be the right path.

Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?

The Law
Now, the legal system has a purpose. It stands to prevent anarchy and chaos by enforcing a set of rules and norms on those underneath it. It helps to maintain the social order. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird is centered on a court case. It sheds light on the way the law worked at that time, in that society and shows what effects that that particular legal system had.

However, at the end of the trial, an innocent man was found guilty and a guilty man was allowed to leave without even a slap on the wrist. The result could not be described as just or as fair. Even so, there were no riots, the system did not collapse and majority of those that left felt that the legal system had performed its duty adequately.

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Again, you may want to discuss the following questions in twos or threes:

Were the events that took place fair?

Did the legal system enforce the law?

Did the legal system enforce the views of its society?

Did the legal system fail at its purpose?

At this point, it becomes fairly obvious that two things happened, the law was not enforced, but, the legal system did not fail at its purpose. Simply put, the beliefs of the society were reflected by the verdict of the jury. A government by the people for the people served to uphold the beliefs of the majority of the people, whether or not those beliefs were right.

Even though this is quite clear, Atticus still opted to defend Tom Robinson.

It could be that he had faith in the legal system, but, we can see that it's effects depend entirely on the belief of the people. On the other hand, it could be that Atticus had faith in the people to know what was right, but then again, every big event leading up to the trial spelled out that his society was far less interested upholding what was right and far too interested in upholding the dominance that one race had over the other.

This could leave the reader thinking that Atticus Finch, while being a man of integrity, was naive and optimistic, or, dim and ignorant.

Take a moment and try to decide for yourself why Atticus Finch still opted to defend Tom Robinson.

There is no right answer. But, there is an answer that makes more sense than the two that have just been described. Atticus makes it quite clear that he is not expecting to win. What he does seem to have, is not confidence in the legal system or the people, but, a hope that this case could be a way to let one affect the other.

His goal very well may have been a change in the order of society and the legal system could act as just the vehicle to bring that about. If the jury was persuaded to make the right decision by the sheer volume of evidence that supported Tom Robinson, at the very least, one man's life would be saved. On the other hand, all involved could see the injustice and discover for themselves that the legal system is unfair, and if they look a little deeper, they'd be able to see that that results simply because the people who enforce it are biased.

If Atticus did not represent Tom Robinson, he would lose for sure without a chance. However, representing him meant one of two possibilities. Firstly, he could be successful and Tom Robinson could walk free. On the other hand, he could lose, but in losing, it would paint a very clear picture of exactly what was wrong with society.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that social change would instantly from the failing of the trial. As a matter of fact, change does not have to happen at all. All the people have to do is continue along the path they were already walking, one that ignores the truth simply because it is inconvenient.

So, finally, there is one last set of question for you that book poses to make you think.

Were the actions of Atticus Finch worthwhile?

At the end of the day, did the trial invoke a change in society?

How would anyone know?

The Story
Loss of Innocence