What did Atticus tell Jem about the jury in the Robinson case in chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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This is a great example of Atticus being open and honest with his children. He could've tried to sugarcoat the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial, telling Jem that everyone's equal in the eyes of the law and that Tom has as much chance of being acquitted as anyone else in...

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This is a great example of Atticus being open and honest with his children. He could've tried to sugarcoat the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial, telling Jem that everyone's equal in the eyes of the law and that Tom has as much chance of being acquitted as anyone else in his position. But that would've been a total lie. Atticus knows full well that, as a black man accused of rape, Tom doesn't stand a chance.

The jury, composed entirely of white men, share society's racial prejudice. As such, they won't examine the evidence put before them dispassionately as they're supposed to do; instead, they'll take their prejudices with them into the jury room and decide accordingly. Atticus is perfectly frank about this, and though Jem's still too young to understand what any of this means, in due course he'll come to appreciate just why his father had to tell him the full unvarnished truth.

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By the time we get to chapter 23 in To Kill a Mockingbird, we know that Tom Robinson has been found guilty, although Atticus has proved that there was no way Tom could have committed the crime. Bob Ewell is still terrorizing Atticus and anyone he thinks wanted Tom to be set free. Jem knows that Tom's appeal is coming up and wonders why the jury didn't decide the penalty for Tom. 

"Given," said Atticus. "Tom Robinson's a colored man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world's going to say, 'We think you're guilty, but not very,' on a charge like that. It was either a straight acquittal or nothing."

Atticus knows that the chances that Tom will be acquitted are slim, but he is trying to explain to Jem that because Tom is black, the jury had already made up their mind. It didn't matter what the crime was, or that Atticus had proved that he was innocent; Tom was black, and that was all the jury needed to know. Atticus is telling Jem that in the part of the country they live in, the south, the people are very narrow-minded and judge someone just on the color of their skin. If you turn on the news today, you will see that we still have a long way to go. 

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