How does the town of Maycomb react to Tom's death? Whom do they blame?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are various reactions from residents of Maycomb when they learn of Tom Robinson's death.

  • Atticus

When Atticus interrupts the Missionary Tea, he speaks to Calpurnia, asking her to accompany him to Helen Robinson's house. Aunt Alexandra asks what is wrong. "Tom's dead." Then, he reacts by saying,

"We had such a good chance [on the appeal]...." I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own."

  • Aunt Alexandra

Aunt Alexandra is concerned about what the ordeal with Tom Robinson has done to Atticus. Of the town, she says,

"They're perfectly willing to let him do what they are afraid to do themselves....to let him wreck his health doing what they're afraid to do."

  • Miss Maudie

Miss Maudie tells Alexandra that there are a "handful of people who say that fair play is not marked White Only, and they have sympathy for the black community. They are the "handful of people with background."
She adds that these people trust him to do right. 

  • Helen Robinson 

When Atticus tells her the sad news, poor Helen falls to the ground.

  • Mr. Underwood

Mr. Underwood writes a bitter editorial in the section marked "The Colored News." He writes that it is wrong to kill cripples, no matter what they are doing. Scout observes, "He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children. As Scout reads on, she comprehends Mr. Underwood's meaning. Although Atticus had done all that he could,

...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.

  • Bob Ewell

The reprobate Ewell is reported to have said that it "made one down and about two more to go."

  • The townspeople

"To Maycomb, Tom's death is typical.  Typical of a n****r to cut and run.  Typical of a n*****s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw...." Some have said that Atticus could have gotten him off on the charges; others say you know how they are."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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