Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does the verdict in the court case reveal?

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Atticus shows in court that Tom Robinson, without a doubt, did not rape Mayella Ewell. Nevertheless, Tom is convicted, which was not a surprise to anyone in Maycomb, including Atticus, since Tom was a black man accused of raping a white woman. What was surprising, however, was that the jury took several hours to reach its verdict. As Atticus said, "[U]sually it takes 'em just a few minutes." As the children learn, it was Walter Cunningham who had fought in the jury room to find Tom innocent. Miss Maudie explained to Jem and Scout the significance of the length of time it took to convict Tom:

I was sittin' there on the porch last night, waiting . . . and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won't win, he can't win, but he's the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. And I thought to myself, well, we're making a step--it's just a baby-step, but it's a step.

Social change in the form of racial justice was coming to Maycomb--far too slowly after far too long--but it was coming. As Atticus phrased it, "the shadow of a beginning."

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