In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Scout know what the verdict will be?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the jury returns with its verdict in Chapter 20 of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, the young daughter of defense attorney Atticus Finch, already knows what their verdict will be before that verdict is even announced. She assumes that the verdict will be “guilty,” and she is correct. Here is how she explains her accurate deduction:

A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.

Within a few moments, Scout learns that her assumption that Robinson has been found guilty is correct. Interestingly, the reaction of the jury differs significantly from the reaction of the black citizens seated in the balcony. They soon rise and, presumably, look directly at Atticus Finch with respect and admiration. The jury – whether because they feel a tinge of guilt, or because they feel a tinge of uncertainty, or because they simply feel sorry for any person who may face the loss of his life, or perhaps even because they are white and the defendant is black – do not look at Tom Robinson. In any case, in the final page or so of this chapter, Lee presents identically opposite behavior by two different groups: the jury and the black citizens in the balcony. The jury is seated; the black citizens stand. The jury members speak; the black citizens are silent; the jury members will not look at Tom Robinson; the black citizens look down on Atticus Finch with genuine esteem and gratitude.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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