In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does most of the town react to Tom's death?
In Chapter 25
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The fickle nature of the town and the way that their response to what to us is a tragedy is conveyed by the narrator, who assumes the persona of the average townsperson of Maycombe. Tom's death became hot news for "perhaps two days," which shows the way that it was just passing news and something to gossip about rather than a cause of real tragedy and sadness for Maycomb. Note what the narrator says:
To Maycomb, Tom's death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw...You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went ot church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer's mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in 'em.
This is an excellent example of how the white residents of Maycomb use the facts to support their stereotypes and prejudices. It doesn't matter to them that Tom Robinson lived an overtly respectable life. They are just waiting to find any evidence that will show the "Nigger" in him that he is covering up with an outward "veneer" of respectability. Prejudice and discrimination are important themes that run throughout this book, and we can see them rear their ugly head once again like a many-headed hydra in how Maycomb as a whole responded to this news.
I am sure you want some quotations to go with this answer! I will give you several. In short, most of the town has no love for Tom Robinson.
Here is the most significant from chapter 25:
“Maycomb was interested by the news of Tom’s death for perhaps two days; two days was enough for the information to spread through the county. “Did you hearabout?… No? Well, they say he was runnin‘ fit to beat lightnin’…” To Maycomb,Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw."
Not everyone in town necessarily felt that way, but for enough of them it was the same.
Atticus sums up most of the town’s opinion when he discusses Atticus’s death with Aunt Alexandra in chapter 24, when we first learn of it. Aunt Alexandra is shaken, and says it’s the last straw. She is very distressed by Tom’s death. Atticus tells her:
“What was one Negro, more or less, among two hundred of ‘em? He wasn’t Tom to them, he was an escaping prisoner.”
Miss Maudie says,
“The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; thehandful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, therebut for the Lord’s kindness am l.”
To me, the key point for Tom Robinson’s death is the following quotation from the end of chapter 25:
“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. Tom was a dead man theminute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”
Some people do feel that Tom's death is a tragedy. As Heck Tate says in Chapter 30:
“There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch.”
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