To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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As Scout waits for the verdict, she thinks of earlier events. What are these events and how do they remind us of the novel's central themes?

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tinicraw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 21, Scout does her best to stay awake while the jury takes a few hours to deliberate on the Tom Robinson case. Scout says that she gets a premonition or "impression" that makes her shiver even though the courtroom is hot and it is summertime (210). The best way Scout can describe this shivering feeling is to compare it to times in her life when the mockingbirds are still, carpenters aren't working on Maudie's house, and everyone on the street shuts themselves in their homes on a cold winter day. These images create a sense of coldness and desertion as people wait for the cold to go away. In the courthouse that night, everyone is waiting for the same thing—a break in the cold. For a year or so, the whole county has been anxiously waiting for the outcome of this trial, so it's as if the whole world stops.

Scout then says that the courtroom is like "A deserted, waiting, empty street," much like the one when everyone closed their doors and waited for Atticus to kill the mad dog Tim Johnson on that February day. It's as if everyone is waiting for the metaphorical mad dog, Tom Robinson, to be officially shot with a verdict. Everyone knows what the outcome will be, but they wait anyway. White men wait to get the verdict over with so they can move on with life and black men wait to support Tom in his predictable plight.

Scout's reference to the mockingbirds can certainly point towards the theme that people shouldn't shoot them because they are harmless and good. People shouldn't convict harmless Tom Robinson, either, but they do. The sin is on their heads when they convict him because it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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Brayan Effertz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While waiting for the verdict, Scout recalls the incident back in February when her father shot dead the mad dog, Tim Johnson, with a single gunshot. Now, when Atticus returns to hear the verdict along with the rest of the court, she feels somehow that it was like that earlier time, but with a...

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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