Atticus - "They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep?”
Atticus says that it "seems that only children weep" in Chapter 22, which takes place after the verdict of the trial. What does the quote mean and why is it significant?
Atticus is referring to Jem, who cried upon hearing the verdict. No others were crying--no adults, no jurors, not even the Blacks in the balcony.
This is significant because everyone has grown accustomed to the prejudice in Maycomb. It's accepted. Even after Atticus proved Tom to be innocent, the jurors found him guilty. There are a few who see Tom as a man, not as just another "Black." Atticus, Miss Maudie, Heck Tate, and even the judge wanted Tom to have a fair trial. However, they are all adults and have seen it before, and will unfortunately see it again. Only children are innocent to the ugliness of racism and prejudice. That is why they cry. Adults are numb to it.
The small towns of the south were known for their prejudice and cold feelings. Jem and Scout were so innocent to the ways of the world. Throughout the trial, the kids begin to see the harshness of their neighbors. They hadn't realized this before, but now they are seeing them for who they truly are.
After the verdict is read, Jem and Scout are in shock. Jem was sure that his father was going to get Tom Robinson set free. Atticus had proven that the man was innocent. The people of Maycomb, decided long before the trial even started, that Tom was guilty. Tom was a black man and there was no way he could have gotten a fair trial. Atticus knew this, but he did everything he could do to try. Jem cries when he hears the verdict. Atticus tries to tell him that this has happened before and will happen again, and that only the truly innocent of heart, like children, will cry of such an injustice. This is one of the most important quotes from the book.
Jem's crying, shows us that he knew Tom was innocent and it didn't matter to him that Tom was black. All that mattered to Jem, was that Tom didn't do it and they convicted him anyway, and it will continue to happen.