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Chapter 24

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 24 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 24 | Summary

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Summary

With summer nearly over, school will soon be back in session. Before Dill has to leave he and Jem go to Barker's Eddy where Jem teaches Dill to swim. Since they are going to be swimming naked, Scout stays behind.

Aunt Alexandra is entertaining a circle of old missionary friends and invites Scout to join them. Fearing she'll drop something on her dress, Scout stays out of the meeting for the most part but offers to help Calpurnia with the refreshments. Aunt Alexandra seems pleased, and the ladies are delighted to talk with Scout, although they pepper her with questions. Miss Maudie, ever a dependable friend, helps Scout stay steady.

Halfway through the meeting Atticus comes home unexpectedly. He greets the ladies, excuses himself, and asks to see Aunt Alexandra in the kitchen. He reveals that while trying to escape prison, Tom Robinson has been shot. He takes Calpurnia with him to go see Tom's wife so they can break the news to her.

After Atticus and Calpurnia leave, Aunt Alexandra breaks down, overwhelmed by the weight she sees Atticus carrying. She wonders aloud to Miss Maudie how much more the town can take from him. In response Miss Maudie reminds Aunt Alexandra that whether they know it or not, the people of Maycomb's complete trust in Atticus is a tribute to him. With that Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie rise to the occasion and return to the ladies in the living room. Scout follows them, figuring if they are able to be ladies at the moment, she can do it, too.

Analysis

Chapter 24 brings the devastating news that Tom Robinson is dead—shot 17 times while attempting to escape from prison. Atticus has come home to ask Calpurnia to accompany him to tell Tom's widow. The episode provides another chance to see the Finch household rally to support each other. The moment at the very end of this chapter, when Miss Maudie, Aunt Alexandra, and Scout pull together to carry on in front of the missionary circle ladies, again suggests that there may yet be hope for Alexandra. As for Scout, it is apparent that she is becoming more and more like Atticus and Jem. Scout's wearing overalls under her dress can be compared to Dolphus Raymond's technique for getting society off his back. Scout is able to appease her aunt with the dress while still maintaining her identity with the overalls.

After Atticus and Calpurnia leave, Alexandra and Miss Maudie have a discussion that provides an opportunity to look at Atticus from outside the family circle. When Alexandra worries about what Atticus's position demands of him, Maudie turns her thinking, saying that the community is actually honoring Atticus by giving him the responsibility: "We trust him to do right. It's that simple."

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