To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What did Atticus tell Tom after the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 24, Atticus interrupts Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle to speak with her and Calpurnia in the kitchen. Scout follows her aunt, Atticus, Calpurnia, and Miss Maudie into the kitchen and Atticus tells them that Tom Robinson is dead. Atticus explains to the women that Tom Robinson attempted to escape from the Enfield Prison Farm and was shot seventeen times as he was climbing over the fence. Atticus then leans against the refrigerator and says,

"We had such a good chance...I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance" (Lee, 239).

Following Tom Robinson's wrongful conviction, Atticus attempted to instill hope in his client by telling him that they had a reasonable chance of winning an appeal. Atticus does not explicitly say what he told Tom, but it is implied that Atticus said they still had a chance of winning the appeal. Despite Atticus's hopes of winning the appeal and saving his client from the electric chair, Tom decided to take his own chances by escaping from the prison farm. After he was wrongfully convicted, Tom no longer trusted the corrupt, prejudiced justice system and felt that he would lose his appeal despite Atticus's advice.

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litgeek2015 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The trial ends in Ch. 21 and towards the end of the chapter it says Atticus went to Tom Robinson and

"whispered something to him. He put his hand on his shoulder and whispered something to him" (Ch.21).

We are not told what Atticus whispers to Tom. In Ch. 22 we know that Atticus plans to appeal, so it is possible that this is what he whispered to Tom, but we cannot know for sure. It is also not uncommon for a defense attorney, with an unfavorable outcome at hand, to offer his condolences to the defendant. Atticus might have been saying something along the lines of "I'm sorry about the outcome, but we'll keep fighting..." which would be typical in real-life and fit with what we know in the next chapter.

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