Chapters 23, 24 and 25
children and the town start to recover from the verdict. Atticus
tells Jem not to worry too much because he will appeal the decision.
Black people send large quantities of food to the Finch house to
show their appreciation. The neighbors gossip about the case and
life begins to return to normal. The only incident of note, however,
occurs when Bob Ewell, still angry about the way Atticus made him
look on the stand, confronts Atticus on the way to the post office.
Bob spits in Atticus's face and "told him he'd get him if it took
the rest of his life" (229).
Atticus discusses the finer details of the case with the children.
He admits that he never thought he would win the case but that he
was satisfied with the fact that the jury took so long to return
a verdict. Normally, Atticus explains, juries judge against a black
man in a manner of minutes. The fact that it took this jury so long
shows that attitudes are changing. Atticus also reveals that a relative
of Walter Cunningham's sat on Tom's jury. He thinks that if one
more Cunningham had sat on the jury it would not have been able
to return a verdict at all. This surprises Scout who thought the
Cunninghams were against Atticus based on Walter's behavior at the
jailhouse the night before. Atticus has hope for the people of Maycomb.
He feels that some of the white people had done their best to protect
Tom without explicitly admitting that they were on his side. Tate,
for example, didn't have to warn Atticus that Tom was being transported
to the town jail. The judge, could have assigned Tom's case to the
younger, more inexperienced district attorney as was customary.
While Atticus had been the only white man to stand up for Tom publicly,
others had worked behind the scenes to help Tom's cause. Tom lost
this case but Atticus was confident that he would win on appeal.
Aunt Alexandra hosts a womens group at the Finch house and Scout
attends dressed in her finest clothes and working hard to behave
properly. She has difficulty following the conversation as the women
gossip and discuss various topics. One thing is apparent, though,
the women in the group hold diverse viewpoints and represent the
various liberal, conservative, and hypocritical viewpoints found
in the general population. Atticus interrupts the event with the
terrible news that Tom Robinson was shot and killed by guards as
he tried to escape Enfield Prison Farm. Aunt Alexandra take the
news hard and shows the first time of softening her prejudices.
She agrees to let Calpurnia stop serving her group to go with Atticus
to visit Tom's widow, Helen.
Scout resents the fact the Maycomb's townspeople stayed interested
in the news of Tom's death for only two days but she finds solace
in an editorial written by B.B. Underwood in The Maycomb Tribune.
Mr. Underwood didn't talk about miscarriages of justice, he was
writing so children would understand. Mr. Underwood simply figured
it was a sin to kill cripples, by they standing, sitting, or escaping.
He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by
hunters and children'Mr. Underwood's meaning became clear: Atticus
had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson,
but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case.
We see a slight change in Scout’s appearance in that she wears a dress and
is coerced into helping serve the ladies of the Missionary Circle.
Scout listens carefully to the conversations and for the first time in the novel Christianity is used as a validation of prejudice. The ladies are concerned by the indiscipline of their servants since the trial, one in particular Mrs. Merriweather criticizes her maid Sophie saying ‘We can educate them till we are blue in the face. We can try till we drop to make Christians out of them, but there is no lady safe in her bed these nights’. The sad thing is that these women cannot understand why the black community is dissatisfied.
On the surface Tom’s death goes virtually unnoticed apart from a short
obituary in the colored News. However, Lee utilizes a known racist, Mr. Underwood, to condemn Tom Robinson’s death in his editorial.
He likens it to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children. By purposely writing at a child’s level, Mr. Underwood underscores the town’s immaturity and callousness when it comes to racial issues.
Tom’s death sentence was signed as soon as Mayella opened her mouth a
screamed. However, the majority of the town refuses to acknowledge this. Instead they believe conveniently for them that Tom’s attempted escape is typical of his race and supports the decision made by
the jury. Any other decision would cause a shift of power from the whites that they are unwilling to accept.
Jem reaches a new level of maturity at this stage in the book,
even stopping Scout from killing a bug, because it isn’t hurting anyone. Scout’s reaction is to accuse Jem of turning more and more like a girl every day.