To Kill A Mockingbird: Novel Summary: Chapters 23-24

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Chapter 23: Atticus discusses the finer details of the case with the children.  He admits that he never thought he would win the case but that he was satisfied with the fact that the jury took so long to return a verdict.  Normally, Atticus explains, juries judge against a black man in a manner of minutes.  The fact that it took this jury so long shows that attitudes are changing.  Atticus also reveals that a relative of Walter Cunningham's sat on Tom's jury.  He thinks that if one more Cunningham had sat on the jury it would not have been able to return a verdict at all.  This surprises Scout who thought the Cunninghams were against Atticus based on Walter's behavior at the jailhouse the night before.  Atticus has hope for the people of Maycomb.  He feels that some of the white people had done their best to protect Tom without explicitly admitting that they were on his side.  Tate, for example, didn't have to warn Atticus that Tom was being transported to the town jail.  The judge, could have assigned Tom's case to the younger, more inexperienced district attorney as was customary.  While Atticus had been the only white man to stand up for Tom publicly, others had worked behind the scenes to help Tom's cause.  Tom lost this case but Atticus was confident that he would win on appeal.
Chapter 24: Aunt Alexandra hosts a womens group at the Finch house and Scout attends dressed in her finest clothes and working hard to behave properly.  She has difficulty following the conversation as the women gossip and discuss various topics.  One thing is apparent, though, the women in the group hold diverse viewpoints and represent the various liberal, conservative, and hypocritical viewpoints found in the general population.  Atticus interrupts the event with the terrible news that Tom Robinson was shot and killed by guards as he tried to escape Enfield Prison Farm.  Atticus describes the situation, ".the guards called him to stop.  Thy fired a few shots in the air, then to kill.  They got him just as he went over the fence.  They said if he had two good arms he would have made it, he was moving that fast.We had such a good chance.I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own" (248).  Aunt Alexandra take the news hard and shows the first time of softening her prejudices.  She agrees to let Calpurnia stop serving her group to go with Atticus to visit Tom's widow, Helen.