To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 23 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
"Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that's something I'll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I'd rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?" (23.15)
Maybe Atticus really is so selflessly good that he can feel compassion even for Bob Ewell. Or maybe compassion really is based on a sense of superiority. Atticus can afford to be so generous because he knows he's so much better off than the Ewells will ever be, just because he was born a Finch instead of a Ewell. Or… both?
"In the second place, they're afraid. Then, they're-"
"Afraid, why?" asked Jem.
"Well, what if—say, Mr. Link Deas had to decide the amount of damages to award, say, Miss Maudie, when Miss Rachel ran over her with a car. Link wouldn't like the thought of losing either lady's business at his store, would he? So he tells Judge Taylor that he can't serve on the jury because he doesn't have anybody to keep store for him while he's gone. […]
"Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something. Men don't like to do that. Sometimes it's unpleasant." (23.47-52)
Atticus suggests that it's not just the actual fallout they would have to face from the community that keeps Maycomb's residents with background, as Miss Maudie would say, from serving on juries, but also fear of publicly taking a stand. Maybe this fear also influenced Tom's jury—declaring an opinion that goes against the common view can be pretty scary.
"For one thing, Miss Maudie can't serve on a jury because she's a woman-"
"You mean women in Alabama can't-?" I was indignant.
"I do. I guess it's to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom's. Besides," Atticus grinned, "I doubt if we'd ever get a complete case tried—the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions."
Jem and I laughed. Miss Maudie on a jury would be impressive. I thought of old Mrs. Dubose in her wheelchair—"Stop that rapping, John Taylor, I want to ask this man something." Perhaps our forefathers were wise. (23.43-46)
The "polite fiction" of the South is that women are delicate and need to be protected. Maybe the men are really just afraid that women would use power in a way that men wouldn't like.