What causes Atticus to cry?
Atticus cries after losing Tom Robinson's case, and this is a powerful moment because Atticus is not one to show a lot of emotion, either positive or negative, throughout the book. He is a fairly subdued man.
He knows Tom Robinson is innocent, and he put on the best defense for him that he could. Although Atticus is realistic about the racism that exists in Maycomb and he does not have any reason to really expect that Tom Robinson would be found innocent, it does not make the conviction any easier to accept. Atticus is truly sad about the decision his fellow townspeople have made based on prejudice, and he is devastated that an innocent man has to be punished for a crime he did not commit in light of all of the evidence that exists proving his innocence.
So, Atticus is not simply crying because Tom Robinson has been found guilty; he is also crying because of the reasons he was found guilty.
The next morning after the Tom Robinson trial, Atticus is surprised to have chicken and rolls for breakfast and Calpurnia takes him into the kitchen when he gives her a puzzled look. When Atticus enters the kitchen, he sees a massive amount of food from hunks of salt pork to scuppernongs.
Calpurnia then explains to Atticus that the food is a gift from the African American community and it was sitting on the back steps in the morning. Scout then mentions that Atticus's eyes filled with tears and he did not speak for a moment. Atticus becomes emotional and cries after reflecting on the African American community's appreciation. Despite the fact that he lost a difficult case, they understand the courage it took for him to defend a black man against a prejudiced jury.
Atticus cries after the loss of Tom Robinson's court case. He knew that he had a slim chance of winning in the first place, but what is heart-wrenching to him is the fact that the people of Maycomb did not see fit to try Tom fairly, but rather, made their verdict based solely on skin color, despite Atticus's excellent defense and demonstration of Tom's innocence. The close-mindedness of Maycomb County is tragic in Atticus's mind, and this is what causes him to cry.