In chapter 20
, Dolphus Raymond overhears Dill crying about the way Mr. Gilmer spoke to Tom Robinson and treated him with contempt while he was on the witness stand. Dolphus Raymond understands that Dill is too naive and young to comprehend the extent of Maycomb's racial prejudice and offers him a sip of Coca-Cola to settle his stomach. After Dolphus tells the children his secret that he is not actually an alcoholic, he elaborates on Dill's emotional state by saying,
"Things haven’t caught up with that one’s instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe things’ll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won’t cry, not when he gets a few years on him." (Lee, 205)
Dolphus's comment describes the way prejudiced ideology is passed down through generations, which explains Maycomb's racist society. In the same chapter, the children listen to Atticus
's closing remarks. After Atticus reviews the main points of the case, he describes Mayella Ewell's primary motivation to falsely accuse Tom Robinson of assaulting and raping her. Atticus tells the jury,
"She [Mayella] has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with." (Lee, 210)
Mayella broke the "'time-honored code'" of tempting a black man, which is considered a taboo in Maycomb's prejudiced society. Mayella experienced guilt and shame for breaking the "time-honored code," which is why she decided to falsely accuse Tom Robinson in order to protect her reputation.
In chapter 25
reads Mr. Underwood's editorial regarding Tom Robinson's tragic death. Mr. Underwood poetically likens Tom Robinson's death to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds," which underscores Tom's character as a symbolic mockingbird in the story. As Scout thinks about Mr. Underwood's article, its meaning becomes clear and Scout says,
"Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but 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." (Lee, 245)
Scout's epiphany indicates that she has lost her childhood innocence and is developing into a mature, insightful young girl. Scout's ability to critically analyze Mr. Underwood's article displays her maturation and understanding of the outside world.