To Kill a Mockingbird – Chapter 21

The note is from Alexandra. She writes that Jem and Scout are missing; they have not been seen since noon. Calpurnia comes into the courtroom to hand a note to Atticus. What does the note say?
He thinks the jury will decide the case based on the evidence, not on its prejudices. As he tells Reverend Sykes, “…don’t fret, we’ve won it…Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard—.” Why is Jem certain that Tom Robinson will be acquitted?
He says that he has never seen “any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man.” What does Reverend Sykes say about his experiences in court?
Scout is once again remembering the day that the rabid dog stalked down the street, terrifying the neighborhood. She is comparing the fear, anxiety, and apprehension in the air that day to the current atmosphere in the courtroom. Significantly, this is the second time that Scout has recalled the scene with the mad dog. The first occurred as she was dropping off to sleep the night that Atticus was threatened by the angry mob. The presence of evil connected with the mad dog and the deserted street is felt in the courtroom. In both instances, the mood is one of anxiety and dread. Everyone is silently waiting, as if something terrible is about to happen. Students may recall that the mad dog represented the evil that exists in Maycomb, specifically the racism of the town. In that scene, the evil was implied through the use of symbolism. In the present scene, however, the evil in Maycomb is no longer hidden or latent. The trial has brought it out into the open; it can no longer be denied or ignored. As everyone waits for the verdict, a certain impression creeps into Scout’s mind. What is she remembering? What is the significance of the impression?
As the jurors file in, Scout notes, “A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.” This signifies to Scout that the jury has found Tom Robinson guilty. When the jury comes in, what does Scout notice about the jurors’ behavior? According to her, what does their behavior signify?
Jem is obviously shocked and bewildered. He had been certain that the jury would not convict Tom. As the judge polls the jury members and each states, “guilty,” Scout looks over at her brother: “…his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each ‘guilty’ was a separate stab between them.” Atticus is calm, professional, and businesslike. Inside, he may feel as much anger anddisappointment as Jem does, but he is able to conceal it. Additionally, he knew the case was virtually unwinnable before the trial even began, so the verdict most likely comes as no surprise to him. He coolly collects his papers, picks up his briefcase, whispers something to Tom Robinson, acknowledges the court reporter and Mr. Gilmer, and leaves the courtroom. The novel’s climax occurs when the jury gives its verdict. How does Jem react to the verdict? How does Atticus react?
Answers may vary, but most students should realize that Atticus is likely telling Tom that they will appeal the case. This had been Atticus’s plan from the beginning, as he knew that the case would be unwinnable the first time. What do you think Atticus whispers to Tom Robinson just before he leaves the courtroom?
As Scout looks around, she notices that all the black people are standing up as Atticus walks down the aisle below: “They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet.” This gesture signifies their deep respect for Atticus. Reverend Sykes makes it clear when he tells Scout, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” What do the black spectators do as Atticus leaves the courtroom? What does their gesture signify?

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