In Chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, why was Atticus's face white?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In chapter twenty-four of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus has reason to turn white.

The trial of Tom Robinson is over. Aunt Alexandra is having the ladies over for tea. Scout, in a dress (with pants rolled up underneath), is helping to serve their guests, and Miss Maudie is doing her best to keep the members of the missionary circle "civil."

Atticus interrupts the meeting to ask his sister if he can borrow Calpurnia. When the Aunt Alexandra, Calpurnia, Scout, and Miss Maudie join Atticus in the kitchen, Scout studies her father's face and sees that it is white. He has learned that Tom Robinson tried to escape from the prison yard and was killed—by seventeen bullets to his back.

Atticus is devastated that Tom is dead, killed brutally. But he is equally distraught because Tom's death was needless: Atticus had foreseen—had good reason to hope—that the guilty verdict against Tom would have been overturned in appeals court.

This is the one time in the story where Atticus is unable to fully hold himself together in the face of such horrific news.

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