Why is Jem unable to speak about the trial without becoming angered in chapter 26 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 22 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, after Atticus responds to Jem's question regarding the verdict of Tom Robinson's trial, "How could they do it, how could they?" by saying,

I don't know, but they did it.  They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it--seems that only children weep....

Atticus's mention of children weeping points to Jem's having trouble reconciling his childish idealism with his maturing recognition of reality.  When Scout asks about Miss Gates's seemingly hypocritical remarks about Negroes in light of her school speech on the equality of all people, Jem becomes "furious" as he is reminded of the terrible hypocrisy of the jury in Tom's trial.  Atticus, of course, recognizes Jem's dilemma and tells Scout that Jem is "trying hard to forget something," but Scout feels that he is storing the incidents of the trial until he can "sort things out."

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