How are the different characters affected by the outcome of the trial in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the glaring injustice of Tom Robinson's trial, there is a sense of moral corruption that looms over the town of Maycomb.

Because Bob Ewell has been the instigator of the flagrant miscarriage of justice, he is perceived as the cause of the resulting ills of the society of the town. For one thing, his false accusations against a quiet, hardworking black man have strained the dynamics of the two races in Maycomb. As a result of people's low opinion of him, Ewell blames Atticus, and he lashes back by spitting at Atticus. Furthermore, he attempts the murder of Jem and Scout.

Mrs. Merriweather is one of the first to vocalize her outrage toward Atticus Finch, who has dared to defend a black man against white people. With a none-too-subtle insinuation, Mrs. Merriweather voices her opinion at the Missionary Tea in the Finch home, complaining that since the trial the black people have been unsettled:

"I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good but misguided....Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up." (Ch.24)

Such criticisms against her brother Atticus cause Alexandra to become distraught. She tells Miss Maudie, "It [the criticism] tears him to pieces. He doesn't show it much, but it tears him to pieces. I've seen him when—what else do they want from him, Maudie?" 

Jem, who has followed the entire trial and has a logical mind, knows that the verdict has been unjust. As a result, he is very disturbed and suggests to his father, "We oughta do away with juries." Atticus explains that "something came between them and reason." He adds, 

"There's something in our world that makes men lose their heads--they couldn't be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's the white man always wins. (Ch. 23)

Further, Atticus tells Jem that a day of reckoning will come because there have been those that have taken advantage of a black man's ignorance:

"It's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it's not in you children's time." (Ch. 23) 

On an encouraging note, though, one of the Cunninghams sat on the jury, and it was he who kept the jury out for some time because he did not think Tom was guilty of all the charges.

writergal06 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Overall, the town as a whole was somewhat subdued after the trial. They knew that Bob Ewell was guilty, and they knew that race had kept them from making the right decision.

Jem was the most clearly affected. This moment marked the shattering of his child-like innocence. For the first time he experienced the hatred and brutality of man. In his mind, Tom was clearly innocent and he did not understand why the town did not see it that way as well. Knowing the Tom was innocent and that Atticus's defense was superior to the prosecution's, Jem was completely confident that Atticus would win the trial.

Tom was also affected. He lost all hope for appeal, and let the outcome of the trial dictate his actions in trying to escape, which lead to his death.

The outcome, though technically in Bob Ewell's favor, also destroyed what little reputation Bob had. This caused him to come after Atticus and the children, seeking revenge on Atticus for ruining him in the town's eyes.

Lastly, there was a positive reaction among the African American community. Though Atticus lost the case, they recognized the amount of time and effort that Atticus put in, and they knew that it was not Atticus's fault that the case was lost. They brought him and his family food in order to show their gratitude towards him.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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