In Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, how does the end of Tom Robinson's trial affect Jem, Scout, and Calpurnia?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson's trial is covered in chapters 17-21 in Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Jem and Scout watch all of the proceedings of the trial, and they are thoroughly engaged in it too. Jem feels as though is father, Atticus, proves that Tom could not have raped Mayella Ewell; therefore, he honestly believes that the jury must find the defendant not guilty. To Jem's disappointment, Tom is not acquitted of the charges; rather, he is convicted. Scout describes Jem's reaction as they leave the courthouse that night in the following passage:

"It was Jem's turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. 'It ain't right,' he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting" (212).

Not only does Jem cry, but he loses a little bit of faith in humanity. Over the course of the months that follow, Jem has legal, social, and political discussions about the issues involved in the trial. Jem learns about reasonable men will sometimes act in the name of prejudice, and under social pressure, rather than support truth and justice, which is not a comfortable idea to realize.

Scout, on the other hand, is sad about the outcome of the trial, but she learns how to spot prejudice as a result of it. For example, Scout recognizes that her 3rd grade teacher, Miss Gates, is a hypocrite and a racist during a class discussion about the way Jews are treated by Hitler in Germany. When Scout goes home to talk about this with Jem in chapter 26, she reveals her quick mind as in the following passage:

"Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates . . . was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--" (247).

Scout makes the correct connection between how people are ugly to each other in Maycomb as Hitler is to Jews. She shows here that she is starting to see how people won't simply change because of the facts or logic. Consequently, Scout's understanding about people and life is maturing. Jem's response to Scout in this situation is less than mature because he is still upset over the outcome of the trial. He says the following:

"I never wanta hear about that courthouse again, ever, ever you hear me? You hear me? Don't you ever say one word to me about it again, you hear? Now go on!" (247).

As far as Calpurnia is concerned, not much is said about her opinions about the results of the trial. She shows up to work for Atticus and the children the next morning as usual. However, when she arrives at the house, she finds loads of food left on the back steps from people in the black community of Maycomb. Tom's father even sends over a chicken for Atticus and Calpurnia cooks it up for his breakfast. Then she asks Atticus if her community has overstepped its bounds, but he tells her to tell the people that he is grateful for their demonstration of appreciation. If Calpurnia is upset about the outcome of the trial, she doesn't show it negatively. She cooks up the chicken for breakfast, and by doing so, seems to show her own appreciation for Atticus taking Tom's trial seriously.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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