In "To Kill a Mockingbird" what is Atticus's explanation of Tom's attempted escape?
In chapter 24, during one of Aunt Alexandria's missionary meetings, Atticus came home and took her and Cal into the kitchen to explain what happened. He said,
"They shot him...he was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them...they got him just as he went over the fence. They said if he'd had two good arms he'd have made it, he was moving that fast. Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn't have to shoot him that much."
Those were the tactical details of what happened, but you could tell that it really impacted him; he was tired, rubbing his eyes, and weary. His comments afterwards reflected his true attitude and bitterness at the situation:
"What was one Negro, more or less, among two hundred of 'em? He wasn't Tom to them, he was an escaping prisoner...We had such a good chance...I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own."
Atticus was completely downtrodden; he had been hopeful of getting Tom out of prison and winning the case, but now would never have the chance. From here, he went on to Tom's family to tell them the news; a sad job for which he took Cal to help out.