Please note that Tom Robinson does not get killed until Chapter 24 and the discussion of the reaction is in Chapter 25.
In Chapter 25, the author says that most of the people (white people, at least) in Maycomb think that Tom's death just shows how stupid black people are. They say that it shows black people have no patience or discipline. They say Tom might have gotten off on appeal, but he was too dumb to think ahead. Here's a quote:
To Maycomb, Tom's death was typical. Typical
of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw.
I think that the author gives a bit of both sides to show that there were a few "decent" people in Maycomb, but to show that they were a very small minority.
The two opposing viewpoints we get to see are those of Mr. Underwood and Mr. Ewell. I think the opposing viewpoints show the true sentiments of the American public as we've moved from slavery to Civil Rights. I also believe these are two points of view that still exist today.
Mr. Underwood represents the part of society that may not have been brave enough, like Atticus, to take on the task of defending Tom, but who nevertheless believed he was innocent. Mr. Underwood writes in the paper that Tom's death was "like the senseless slaughter of songbirds." Mr. Underwood's reaction shows that there is forward movement in the minds of some - towards racial tolerance and equality.
Mr. Ewell's response on the other hand is is "one down, about two more to go." Mr. Ewell represents the group of people who will never learn tolerance for racial (or other) differences.
Ironically, aside from the comments concerning the fact that he was "running" there isn't a lot of comment on how many times he was shot - and the fact that it was all in the back. This is a subtle detail Harper Lee throws in, presumably as an additional shock to a modern audience.
As one of the previous posts mentioned, there is actually very little commentary concerning the death of Tom Robinson aside from Mr. Underwood's editorial and the gossip that went around the town of Maycomb, which "was interested by the news of Tom's death for perhaps two days." Other comments:
- An obituary appeared in the newspaper's Colored News.
- Aunt Alexandra "put her hands to her mouth" and her "voice shook" when she heard the news. " 'This is the last straw,' " she said.
- Miss Maudie said nothing, but "was breathing as if she had just climbed the steps." She commented that there were a " 'handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only.' "
- According to Dill, Tom's wife, Helen, " 'Just fell down in the dirt like a giant with a big foot just came along and stepped on her.' "
- Atticus described the events in a matter-of-fact manner. He "leaned against the refrigerator, pushed up his glasses and rubbed his eyes." " 'We had such a good chance,' " he said.
Bob Ewell does not comment in the story about Tom's death.
What Tom did makes perfect sense to me because if he was proven innocent and still charged guilty because he black, then it would be the same in the next appeal. So he had more chances escaping than hoping to pass the courts, and he would espace if he had his other arm