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What you are referring to takes place in chapter 12. Atticus leaves for two weeks, because there was an emergency session of the state legislature. The governor, according to Scout, wanted to do some work to help the poor. Here is the quote:
As if that were not enough, the state legislature was called into emergency session and Atticus left us for two weeks. The Governor was eager to scrape a few barnacles off the ship of state; there were sit-down strikes in Birmingham; bread lines in the cities grew longer, people in the country grew poorer. But these were events remote from the world of Jem and me.
The more important point about this development (Atticus leaving for two weeks) is that Calpurnia had to watch Scout and Jem. This allowed Jem and Scout to see Calpurnia's world. This is the chapter that they went to Calpurnia's church. They were able to see Tom Robinson's community. They also met Reverend Sykes, who plays an important role among the black community. Jem and Scout also experience things like "lining," the method that the black community uses to sing.
All of this opens their eyes. In this way, they are able to walk in another person's shoes for a while. This experience will also help them to have a context for the trial that they will witness.
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