Study Guide

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 23

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Chapter 23

  • Atticus just jokes about the attack, even though his kids are really terrified that Mr. Ewell will follow through on his threat.
  • He says that nothing can happen to Tom until the appeal, which might have a better result than the original trial.
  • Tom is now at the Enfield Prison Farm seventy miles away, where his family can't visit him.
  • If Tom loses the appeal, he'll go to the electric chair unless the governor grants him a stay of execution.
  • Jem and Atticus now have a fairly long discussion about the law and fairness, which covers rape, circumstantial evidence, the (non)inclusion of women on juries, and taking sides. Check it out—there are super important issues.
  • And Atticus knows who kept the jury from convicting Tom right away: a cousin of Mr. Walter Cunningham, part of the group who wanted to lynch Tom when he was in the Maycomb jail the night before the trial but was turned back by Scout.
  • Scout decides to make friends with the younger Walter Cunningham, but Alexandra has some things to say about that (apparently the Cunninghams are the wrong class).
  • Jem gives Scout a Tootsie Roll to calm her down (or at least shut her up by giving her a mouthful to chew on), and Scout notices that Jem looks different.
  • He's growing up.
  • Growing up has given him so new chest hair (or so he claims) and some new advice: instead of telling her to avoid annoying Alexandra, he tells her not to let Alexandra annoy her.
  • Scout just doesn't want to hear Walter called "trash," because that makes him sound no better than the Ewells.
  • Jem says that he thinks he's got it figured out, and there are four kinds of people: the ordinary (the Finches and their neighbors), the ones who live in the woods (the Cunninghams), the ones who live by the dump (the Ewells), and the African Americans.
  • Everyone hates the ones a step below them.
  • The pair try to puzzle out why Aunt Alexandra is so hung up on the notion of Family.
  • They end up by slinging some clichés around: Scout finally concludes that people are just people and that's all there is to it, and Jem asks that, in that case, why can't we all just get along?
  • Maybe this is why Boo Radley never comes out—because he wants to stay away from the weirdness that is humankind.

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