What does Atticus tell Scout about why the jury took so long to convict Tom in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?
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Atticus tells Scout and Jem that the jury took longer than he expected to come to a verdict because "there was one fellow who took considerable wearing down - in the beginning he was rarin' for an outright acquittal". To the children's surprise, that fellow was a relation of the Cunninghams.
Atticus says that the verdict was inevitable, and that usually, it would have taken the jury "just a few minutes" to convict Tom Robinson. This time, however, because of the one holdout, it took "a few hours". Atticus is heartened by this fact; he thinks that "this may be the shadow of a beginning" of change in attitudes and social realities concerning the relations between blacks and whites in Maycomb.
Even though the night before the trial Walter Cunningham had been among those who wanted take justice in their own hands and lynch Tom Robinson, Atticus "had a feeling" that after tangling with Atticus and Scout that night, the Cunninghams left with "considerable respect" for the Finches. Atticus could have stricken the Cunningham kin from the jury, but, knowing that "once you earned their respect (the Cunninghams) were for you tooth and nail", he decided to take a risk. Atticus had reasoned that "there's a faint difference between a man who's going to convict and a man who's a little disturbed in his mind". As it turned out, the Cunningham relative was "the only uncertainty on the whole list", and he did indeed stand up for the truth by holding out in favor of acquittal for Tom Robinson (Chapter 23).
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