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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE STORY

PART TWO

CHAPTER 23

Atticus is not unduly upset by Bob Ewell's threat. He knows that Bob is angry because even though he won the case, he was shown up as a liar in front of the whole town. But Atticus feels sure- wrongly it turns out- that Mr. Ewell won't act on his threat.

What bothers Atticus more is Jem's bitter reaction to the verdict. Atticus defends the jury system, although he does comment that perhaps it ought to be up to a judge to set the death penalty. Atticus also explains why most juries in Maycomb tend to be made up of uneducated farmers. Women did not serve on juries at all, this being the law in Alabama in 1935.

Furthermore, most of the better-educated, well-off men in town avoided jury duty. They did not want to take sides in any controversy because they might make enemies. Atticus does give Scout one hopeful piece of information: The one juror who wanted to find Tom Robinson innocent was a Cunningham, a member of the same family whose men tried to lynch Tom the night before the trial. Perhaps Atticus' appeal to the consciences of the jurors did not go completely unheard.


Jem is starting to become more aware of the class differences that separate the people of Maycomb. He considers young Walter Cunningham to be basically a good person, yet Aunt Alexandra calls all the Cunninghams "trash" because of their poverty and uncultured ways. The Ewells are even lower on the social scale than the Cunninghams. And, of course, the blacks are in a different category altogether. No wonder there is so much trouble, Jem thinks, since people are constantly looking for reasons to despise each other.

Jem tells Scout that for the first time he thinks he can understand why Boo Radley never leaves his house- "it's because he wants to stay inside."  

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