in To kill a Mockingbird, what reason does Atticus give about why the jury took so long to convict Tom?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Atticus reveals that the jury took so long because there was at least one juror who took a long time to agree with the guilty verdict passed by the others; in fact, Atticus discloses that to begin with this man 'was raring for an outright acquittal' (chapter 23). Jem, who has been sorely disillusioned by the trial outcome, is astonished to learn that there was anyone on the jury that even thought twice about convicting Tom. However, he and Scout are even more amazed to hear who it was: one of the Cunninghams, who, prior to the start of the trial, had been part of a mob intent on lynching Tom. As Jem remarks with awe: 'I'll never understand these people as long as I live.'

The fact that the all-white jury took several hours instead of just minutes to convict a black man is taken as an encouraging sign by Atticus. Despite the ingrained racism of the town and the grim result of Tom's trial, there are hints that, however slowly, things might be changing. Certainly Judge Taylor himself comes across as quite sympathetic and, as Miss Maudie observes at one point, it was no accident that he picked Atticus, a genuinely fair and unprejudiced man, to defend Tom's seemingly hopeless case. And there are others in the town who appear similarly enlightened and free from the taint of racial prejudice, like Sheriff Heck Tate and the editor Mr Underwood. With such inhabitants as these, there is hope for Maycomb and for the future.

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