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What does Atticus tell Jem about why the jury took so long to convict Tom?Chapter 23 o...

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carlycaper | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 21, 2009 at 2:21 PM via web

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What does Atticus tell Jem about why the jury took so long to convict Tom?

Chapter 23 o "To Kill a Mockingbird"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 21, 2009 at 3:14 PM (Answer #1)

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Deeply affected by the testimony and outcome of the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem discusses the death sentence for Tom, the selection process of a jury, and its decision with Atticus in Chapter 23 of "To Kill a Mockingbird."  When Jem remarks that "Tom's jury sho' made up its mind in a hurry," Atticus contradicts this statement.

'No, it didn't,' he said, more to himself than to us. 'That was the one thing that made me think, well, this may be the shadow of a beginning.'

Atticus hoped that the people of Maycomb were about to cure themselves of their "usual disease," but they did not.  However, as Atticus explains to Jem, by the fact that the jury deliberated for some time, there was an indication that someone disagreed with the general consensus and "took considerable wearing down--in the beginning he was rarin' for an outright acquittal."

When Jem asks who this person is, Atticus tells Jem, "He was one of your Old Sarum friends."  Jem figures it must be one of the Cunninghams, but he does not understand since Mr. Cunningham was one of the mob that accosted Atticus at the jail before the trial.  First, Jem comments, they wanted to kill Tom, then they were ready to acquit him.  Atticus explains,

He said the other things about them was, once you earned their respoect they were for you tooth and nail.  Atticus said he had a feeling...that they left the jail that night with considerable respect for the Finches....'If we'd had two of that crowd, we'd've had a hung jury.'

Jem is surprised that Atticus put a man on the jury who "wanted to kill" him, but Atticus explains that Cunningham was the only "uncertainty on the whole list."  This discussion of the Cunninghams makes Scout feel pride in her having defended Walter Cunninghams at school that first day, for she realizes that the Cunningham have character.

 

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