How does Lee use humor to change the tone of Atticus's conversation with the children about the jury verdict?

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After the guilty verdict, the children learn that Bob Ewell wants to harm Atticus and has already spit in his face. When they ask him about it, all he does is make the dry and humorous comment:

"I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco."

Jem, upset about everything that has happened, including the latest wrinkle with Bob Ewell's anger, bursts out that there shouldn't be jury trials, because the verdicts are unfair. Atticus replies that the main problem is that the laws need to change, but states that this is a long, slow process. As he discusses the legal system with the children, Scout becomes indignant when she learns that women are not allowed to serve on Alabama juries. To diffuse her outrage at the injustice of the system, Atticus cracks a joke:

“I guess it’s to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s. Besides,” Atticus grinned, “I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried—the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions.”

Jem and Scout laugh at this, showing they know that Atticus doesn't mean what he says about women interrupting and is only poking fun at social stereotypes.

Atticus realizes the system is unjust, and he knows he is in danger, but he tries to lighten the situation with some jokes.

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In Chapter 22 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem asks his father how it has been possible that with the evidence before them a jury could bring in a verdict of guilty against Tom Robinson.  It is a somber and discouraged Atticus Finch who answers, "I don't know, but they did it...seems that only children weep."  After this, he says "Good night" and goes to bed.  Scout narrates that things are always better in the morning, and Atticus, nevertheless, "rose at his usual ungodly hour."

Anotherhumorous remark occurs after Calpurnia shows Atticus all the gifts of food that the black community has brought Atticus in appreciation of his sincere and thorough defence of Tom:

....The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family....Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs' knuckles.  "Reckon Aunty'll let me eat these in the diningroom?"

By means of two of Scout's descriptions, and by Atticus's tongue-in-cheek remark about his sister's "persnickety" personality, Harper Lee injects humor into a melancholic situation.

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