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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, how does the trial affect Jem and Scout?

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hoodnigg | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM via web

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, how does the trial affect Jem and Scout?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:34 PM (Answer #1)

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Scout's narrative reveals far less about her own opinions of the Tom Robinson trial, and especially the aftermath, than it does about Jem's. Scout seems to be more upset before the trial begins, using her fists to retaliate when she and Atticus are called "nigger-lover" by her antagonistic friends. Although much of the trial is over her head (she has to have the term "nigger-lover" and the definition of "rape" explained to her), she does manage to recognize that Tom's crippled left arm could not have possibly inflicted the damage done to Mayella Ewell, and she sees that Tom is innocent of the charges--something the adult jury could not admit. At Aunt Alexandra's church tea, Scout wishes she were the governor of Alabama so she could

... let Tom Robinson go so quick the Missionary Circle wouldn't have time to catch it's breath.

Jem is more affected by the verdict. He sees the injustice in Tom's conviction as well as the dishonesty of the jury. He sympathizes with Tom, and he feels his father has been deserted by the townspeople that he serves--standing alone among the people Jem once thought were "the best folks in the world." Every little thing affects him for a while, from Scout's near-squashing of a doodlebug to her mere mention of the courthouse. Through his tears he tries to make sense of the verdict, but he can only repeat

"It ain't right, Atticus... How could they do it, how could they?"

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