To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Describe what happened to Tom Robinson at the end of chapter 24. Where did it happen? What was the situation? Who did it?

In chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson attempts to escape the prison where he is being held as he awaits execution for the rape of Mayella Ewell. (He did not actually commit this rape; he was wrongfully convicted by a racist jury.) While he is fleeing the prison, he is shot in the back by guards seventeen times. He dies from his wounds.

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Inuk Lee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 24, during Aunt Alexandra's women's missionary society meeting, it was reported that Tom Robinson was shot in jail.

According to this report, the police guards in the prison shot Tom Robinson during the time for exercise. The report stated Tom ran for the fence to escape in a frenzy. The report also stated that the police told him to stop and then they shot a few times into the air to warn him, but it was to no avail. 

The police also stated that he would have made it over the fence, if he had two good arms. Finally, they shot him seventeen times.

The question is whether this report is accurate or not. In an unjust society what is said might not actually be what happened. And the very fact that Tom was shot seventeen times is suspicious. 

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Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 24 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, improperly convicted of raping a white woman by a racist jury in this southern Alabama town, has been sent to the Enfield Prison Farm where he awaits the final disposition of his sentence. As Atticus points out to Jem, “You know rape’s a capital offense in Alabama,” clearly implying that Tom will be executed for a crime he didn't commit. Once at the prison farm, Tom apparently has had enough of the racism that has ruined what life he had and understandably has no confidence in a criminal justice system that has railroaded him on the basis of flimsy, contrived circumstantial evidence. Even though Atticus is confident that he can win an appeal of Tom's conviction, the framed inmate cannot conceptualize such an outcome and—according to the prison guards—decided to make a run for it. As Atticus describes the chain of events,

“They shot him,” said Atticus. “He was running. It was during their exercise
period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them—”

Tom was shot seventeen times by the guards and died.

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom Robinson is shot trying to escape from the prison.  The prisoner gaurd said they were out in the exercise yard and Tom took off running toward the fence.  The guards shot Tom 17 times in the back as he tried to climb over the fence.  The guard told Atticus that if Tom had two good arms, he would have made it. They yelled at Tom to stop and shot several warning shots before they killed him.   Atticus tells Calpurnia that he had tried to tell Tom that they had a good chance on apeal, but he guessed Tom had simply "gotten tired of the white man's" justice and tried to run away.

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zumba96 | Student

Tom is trying to escape and from that the men shoot him 17 times in the back. Tom is also crippled and the fact that he was shot 17 times just showcases the extremely cruel nature of society. They could have stopped at a couple of shots but they just wanted a chance to kill him, mercilessly, and that is what they were able to do. 

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ardvark | Student

Tom was fed up with being treated like a criminal and decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided to attempt to escape from prison before the final appeal and was shot 17 times. Unfortunately in this case an innocent man had to die.

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