In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus tell Scout about why the jury took so long to convict Tom?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 23 of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is explaining to Jem and Scout how and why the jury that heard the rape case of Tom Robinson took longer than normal to vote to convict the defendant despite his being a black man accused of raping a white woman:

"That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes ‘em just a few minutes. This time—” he broke off and looked at us. “You might like to know that there was one fellow who took considerable wearing down—in the beginning he was rarin’ for an outright acquittal.”

The juror who delayed the conviction for longer than usual in a case such as this was a member of the Cunningham clan, a "double first cousin" to Walter Cunningham, one of the leaders of the group that sought to break Tom Robinson out of jail in order to lynch him, but who was persuaded to back down by the innocence of Scout. As Atticus explains it to his children, he had earned the respect of the Cunninghams and, once that is accomplished, they will back you up in a challenge. This cousin of Walter Cunningham was sympathetic to Atticus' arguments in defense of Tom, but eventually had to acquiesce to the desires of the rest of the jury. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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