What does Scout mean when she says, "I thought Jem was counting his chickens"?
In chapter 17
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This sentence appears at the very end of Chapter 17. Scout sees that Jem "seemed to be having a quiet fit. He was pounding the balcony rail softly and once he whispered, 'We've got him.'" Scout realized that Atticus was trying to show that Ewell could have beaten up Mayella instead of Tom, whose paralyzed arm would have made it impossible to inflict the bruises on the right side of Mayella's face. But Scout is not convinced that Atticus has won his case. When she says, "I thought Jem was counting his chickens," she is referring to a folk saying that used to be common in America when more families lived on farms. The saying was: "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." If you have hens sitting on a dozen eggs, that doesn't mean your going to get a dozen chicks. The outcome of the novel shows that Scout was right. Just because Tom should have been declared not guilty didn't mean that he was going to be declared not guilty in that time and that place.
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