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In chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem misinterpreted Atticus's, "but I expect...

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carolineebabee | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:35 PM via web

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In chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem misinterpreted Atticus's, "but I expect it'll be over before you get back." Explain.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 4, 2012 at 6:51 PM (Answer #1)

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At this point in the story, the trial is all but concluded.  The jury is still out and the entire courtroom waits silently for a verdict.  When Calpurnia enters and alerts Atticus to the fact that his children are missing, he realizes for the first time that they have been in the courtroom all along.

Atticus immediately sends the children home with the promise that if they eat, they can come back to hear the verdict.  He is sure, however that "it'll be over," before they get back.  To this, Jem replies, "You think they'll acquit him that fast?"

Jem, who has been following the entire trial very closely, is convinced that Atticus has proven Tom Robinson's innocence.  He misinterprets his father's words because he is too young to understand the underlying issue of prejudice present.  Despite the fact that he tried the case to the best of his ability, even Atticus knows the jury will not rule in Tom Robinson's favor.  He assumes a quick verdict of "guilty."  His son, hopeful, somewhat starstruck by his own dad, and yet untouched by any societal pressure toward bias and racism, feels confident that "we've won it."

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