What are three reasons why many Maycomb citizens do not want to serve on the jury?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 23, Jem voices his frustration regarding the Tom Robinson trial. During the conversation, he wonders aloud why Maycomb residents don't sit on juries.

Atticus responds that there are three reasons for this. First, he states that most people in Maycomb aren't interested in serving on juries. Second, he states that some Maycomb residents are afraid of the consequences of serving on one.

Atticus provides an example to explain the second reason. He states that businessmen like Link Deas would find it difficult to decide on cases that could potentially involve regular Maycomb customers he will have to face on a daily basis. If Link serves on a jury, he may find himself offending a customer, and his business may suffer. Fear is a very powerful deterrent against serving on a jury in a town like Maycomb.

Third, Atticus states that "Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something. Men don’t like to do that. Sometimes it’s unpleasant." Here, Atticus suggests that those who serve on juries will eventually have to face their own biases candidly, and this can be a very difficult thing to do.

Although jury votes are supposed to be secret, word often gets out on how cases are decided. This has the potential to expose how individual jurors voted on specific cases. Sometimes, this can be a positive development; at other times, because individual jurors may be ambivalent about their own stances, exposure can lead to embarrassment and possible ridicule. The second and third reasons have to do with fear of exposure and having to face the ugliness inherent in the human soul.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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