What are the events that happen in Chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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The chapter begins with the account of how Bob Ewell spit in Atticus’s face and threatened him, and his only reaction was to say he wished Bob Ewell did not chew tobacco.  The children are frightened because Ewell seems to be holding a grudge, but Atticus is convinced that the man is all talk and that he has had his fun.

“Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. …” (Ch. 23) 

The conversation turns to Tom Robinson’s appeal.  Rape is punishable by the death sentence in Alabama.  Atticus believes that Robinson has a chance, but the first trial was not fair due to his race.  Atticus and Jem debate circumstantial evidence and reasonable doubt.  Atticus tries to convince Jem that the system isn’t perfect but is hard to change. 

The conversation changes to class.  Aunt Alexandra explains to Scout that Walter Cunningham and his family are not suitable for her company.  She calls them “trash.”  This supports Alexandra’s viewpoint that the Finches are superior.  Later, Jem tries to explain it to Scout. 

“…There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.” (Ch. 23) 

Scout struggles to understand the difference between the Cunninghams and the Finches.  Jem explains that “Background doesn’t mean Old Family.”  The Finches are better because they are landowning and have the right background.  

Jem tells Scout that he is beginning to understand Boo Radley. He does not stay in his house because he has to.  He stays inside because he wants to.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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