In chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the verdict of the trial? Describe Jem’s reaction when the jury comes back with the verdict.

Tom Robinson is ultimately found guilty of raping Mayella Ewell. After hearing the verdict, Jem is crushed by the decision, and he loses a great deal of his childhood innocence.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Robinson is a black accused of raping a white woman. In Maycomb, there is no way he will get a fair trial. Atticus knows this, but Jem still believes in justice. Throughout the entire trial, Jem believes that Tom will be found innocent. 

Atticus does his job in proving there was no way that Tom was guilty. Jem is sitting in the balcony with the other black people, waiting for the jury to come back. Scout is there with him as well. When the jury comes back, the judge starts polling them. One after the other repeats "guilty". Jem is stunned. He slumps in his seat. He never thought Tom would be found guilty. He runs out of the courtroom and cries. 

What is interesting about his reaction, is that, it is the culmination of everything Jem believed to be true, and he is now finding out they are not true. In a way, Jem has lost a very important innocence of his childhood. He will never again look at his town the same way. He won't ever think of his neighbor's in the same way either. Jem was so sure his father was going to win. Jem now has lost the gift of ignorance about social issues. Atticus wanted so badly to protect his children from the ugliness this trial was going to bring. In the end, however, he is unable to do this. Jem and Scout have forever been changed and shaped by these unfortunate events. Harper Lee had such a way of showing us how ugly people can truly be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Despite Tom Robinson's obvious innocence, he is convicted of rape as it is his word versus a white woman's. The social hierarchy must be maintained at all cost. If a "breach" in the system should allow a black man to contest the testimony of a white woman and win, then what might happen next?

Upon hearing the verdict, Jem goes out of the courtroom and cries. He has lost all faith in the citizens of Maycomb, in the sense of justice within the legal system, and in people in general. Jem's loss of innocence goes hand in hand with his increased understanding of just how powerful the pressure of social conformity can be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial