How does Mr. Underwood react to Tom Robinson's death?

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schulzie's profile pic

schulzie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Mr. Underwood was editor of the Maycomb paper.  He was outraged with the death of Tom Robinson and decided that it was a good topic for the editorial.  Because he was so angry, he didn't care if he lost advertising or not, he was going to have his say. Scout tells us that he was writing so children could understand what he was saying. 

"Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping.  He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children, and Maycomb felt he was trying to write an article poetical enough to be printed in The Montgomery Advertiser." (pg 241)

Scout feels that Tom had been given due process of law, but then she thought about it and realized what Mr. Underwood was really saying.

"Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case.  Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed." (pg 241)

In some ways, this image of the slaughter of songbirds is also the killing of a mockingbird.  Atticus tells the children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because all they do is bring joy. Mr. Underwood says it is a sin to kill cripples.   

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 25, Scout mentions that the death of Tom Robinson was relatively insignificant throughout the town of Maycomb. Many of the white citizens felt that it was "typical" of Tom Robinson to try to escape without a plan. However, Mr. Underwood was bitter about the entire ordeal. As was mentioned in the previous post, Mr. Underwood voiced his opinion in the editorial section of his paper The Maycomb Tribune. He felt that it was simply a sin to kill cripples, and likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds. Mr. Underwood understood that Tom was an innocent man who was wrongly convicted and was disgusted by the fact that Tom was gunned down by prison guards. His comparison to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds" is significant because throughout the novel mockingbirds represent innocent individuals like Tom Robinson. This quote also alludes to Atticus's rule that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, which essentially means it is wrong to hurt innocent beings. 

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