To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How did the Cunninghams react to the verdict?

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ajmayes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 23 of the novel, readers may infer that the Cunninghams did not agree with the verdict of the trial. In a conversation with Jem, Atticus notes that not all of the jurors wanted to convict Tom Robinson, and there was at least one jury member who wanted an acquittal. Atticus confirms that the jury member was the double first cousin of Walter Cunningham.

In Chapter 15, Atticus had left the house in the evening to sit outside of the jail house to prevent Tom Robinson from being harmed. Curious about where Atticus was going so late at night, Jem, Scout, and Dill follow him, only to find him reading a newspaper. At this point, the Old Sarum mob show up to injure, if not lynch, Tom Robinson. As the mob members close in on Atticus, Scout recognizes one of the men as Mr. Cunningham. She interrupts the men and goes on to ask Mr. Cunningham about how his entailment is going as well as tell him to say "hi" to Walter.

This conversation between Scout and Mr. Cunningham relieves the tension outside of the jail house, and the Old Sarum group leaves. This scene reveals a change of heart and attitude in Mr. Cunningham, whose relative later serves on the jury during the trial.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 23, Atticus is discussing the trial with Jem and mentions that one of the jurors was arguing for an outright acquittal. When Jem asks who the juror was that voted for an acquittal, Atticus tells him it was a member of the Old Sarum bunch. The Old Sarum bunch consists of members of the Cunningham family, who reside in the northern part of the county.

Jem is shocked to learn that one of the Cunninghams actually does not agree with the verdict and believes that Tom Robinson is innocent. Atticus proceeds to explain to Jem that he earned the Cunningham family's respect that night outside of the jailhouse. Atticus also mentions that if there were another member of the Cunningham family on the jury, there would have been a deadlocked decision, which would have resulted in a hung jury. Based on Atticus's information, the reader can infer that the Cunninghams were not pleased with the final verdict and believed that Tom Robinson should have been acquitted. 

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