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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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As expected, the verdict against Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird affects different people in different ways. What are some of the contrary reactions in Maycomb?

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Atticus.  Atticus has prepared himself for the expected guilty verdict, knowing even before he took on the case that he had no chance of winning since no jury could "possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'."

Scout Scout's narrative mostly describes the responses of the other characters, but she eventually recognizes that "in the secret courts of men's hearts, Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed."

Jem Jem is distraught, believing Atticus has been abandoned by the jury and his friends. Jem believes juries, and possibly the death penalty, should be abolished.

Aunt Alexandra.  Alexandra is primarily saddened for Atticus's sake, but Tom's death brings an unexpected emotional reaction--again, not so much for Tom but for how "It tears him [Atticus] to pieces."

Miss Maudie.  Maudie believes the jury's unexpectedly long deliberation is a "baby-step" toward racial fairness in the judicial system.

Miss Rachel.  Dill's aunt believes that "if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it's his head."

B. B. Underwood.  A man who "despises" Negroes, Underwood nevertheless believes in fairness, likening Tom's conviction and death to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children."

Grace Merriweather.  The "most devout lady in Maycomb" believes that it is Atticus's fault that his "misguided" decision to defend Tom only stirred up the Negroes in Maycomb.

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