In To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus informs on the death of Tom Robinson, Aunt Alexandra tells Miss Maudie that the case is breaking up her brother. She says: "I've seen him when..." Does she mean the death of his wife?
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This is a good question. In this instance, Aunt Alexandra is talking about how much Atticus takes on himself. During the whole trial, Atticus has been focused entirely on Tom and getting him acquitted. Atticus has spent long days and long nights working on his defense. Aunt Alexandra has come to Maycomb to be with the children while the trial is going on, and she sees how much stress Atticus is under. She sees what her brother is going through emotionally. Atticus tries to be the strong person for everyone, but there are moments when he feels fragile. He knows it will be almost impossible for Tom to get a fair trial, but he pushes forward anyway. When Atticus comes and tells Calpurnia that he needs her to go with him to tell Helen that Tom has been killed, Aunt Alexandra realizes how hard this has hit her brother.
"I can't say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he's my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end." Her voice rose: "It tears him to pieces. I've seen him when- what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?"
Atticus is a good man. He has the biggest heart and wants to help everyone he can help. He takes on so many responsibilities and everyone continues to demand more from him. Aunt Alexandra realizes that her brother is wearing himself thin and worries about him. Aunt Alexandra is mad at the town for putting so much pressure on Atticus, but Atticus will continue to do what he does and the world will be a better place for it.
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