Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What is foreshadowed at the end of Chapter 9 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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At the end of Chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus purposely speaks about his role in the approaching controversial trial so that Scout, who is eavesdropping, will hear him. He knows she and Jem will be subjected to pejorative comments about their father, as well as derogatory remarks directed purposely at them.

Jack asks Atticus, "How bad is this going to be? You haven't had too much of a chance to discuss it." Atticus answers, "It couldn't be worse, Jack. The only thing we've got is a black man's word against the Ewells—are you acquainted with the Ewells?" Atticus asks this question because the Ewells have a reputation for being shiftless and untrustworthy.

What this discussion of Jack and Atticus's does is bring to light the racial feelings of many in Maycomb. The Ewells, though unfavorably looked upon by some and vilified by others, are not made to provide any real proof that Tom sexually assaulted Mayella Ewell. When he is on the witness stand, Tom is ridiculed for feeling sorry for Mayella. Thus, the trial comes down to what Atticus has observed as he talks with his brother: "The jury couldn't be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'."

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In Chapter 9, Scout begins to be teased at school, and later by her cousin Francis, because Atticus is defending a black man. This is another obvious example of the embedded racism in Maycomb at this time. It also foreshadows how significant the trial will be for the town and how difficult it will be for Atticus and his family. Late in the chapter, after Scout's fight with Francis, she overhears Atticus and Uncle Jack talking about the upcoming trial. This is where Atticus overtly talks about the embedded racism and social traditions of Maycomb. Atticus hopes his children will not adopt the traditional Maycomb way of thinking and foresees that they will hear a lot about that way of thinking ("usual disease") as the trial approaches. 

You know what’s going to happen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease. Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand… I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. 

Scout notes that Atticus knew she was listening. She realizes years later Atticus wanted to her to hear him. 

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