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At the end of Chapter 24, Atticus interrupts Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle to give her some shocking news. Atticus requests Alexandra's presence in the kitchen, and Miss Maudie follows. Atticus then asks Calpurnia to go with him to Helen Robinson's home and explains to the women that Tom was shot dead while he was attempting to escape from the prison yard. The women are shocked and disgusted that Tom was shot seventeen times by the guards. Atticus is visibly upset and shaken by Tom's tragic death. After Atticus leaves the kitchen with Calpurnia, Scout mentions that Alexandra looks worn out and tired. Alexandra proceeds to express her concerns for Atticus to Miss Maudie. Maudie offers Alexandra encouragement and says that the citizens of Maycomb are paying Atticus the highest tribute by entrusting him to do the right thing. Despite hearing the tragic news of Tom's death and sharing in Atticus's anguish, Alexandra and Maudie display their courage by composing themselves before returning to the living room to socialize. The two women enter the missionary circle and do not reveal their internal distress.
Aunt Alexandra displays courage by coming to Maycomb to help her brother raise Scout and Jem during the trial. She knows she is stepping into a hornet’s nest, and that Atticus is the target of all kinds of controversy. She worries constantly about him, and about the children. She also has to stand up to the town ladies of the Missionary Circle.
After Atticus comes in to tell her about the death of Tom Robinson, she gathers herself together and goes back out to face the pleasantries. That is truly heroic. Scout is very impressed and inspired. She notes:
After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.
Miss Maudie shows courage in some of the same ways. She, like Alexandra, has social courage. She is not afraid to be herself and say what she thinks. She is independent. She also shows courage during and after the fire. She is brave throughout, and just picks up the pieces and moves on with her life. She displays this same courage at the Missionary Circle meeting. She asks:
“His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?”
Miss Maudie stands up to the ladies, letting them know she thinks they are hypocritical.
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