Summary: Chapter 20

Mr. Dolphus Raymond reveals that he is drinking from a paper sack. He commiserates with Dill and offers him a drink in a paper bag. Dill slurps up some of the liquid and Scout warns him not to take much, but Dill reveals to her that the drink isn’t alcoholic—it’s only Coca-Cola. Mr. Raymond tells the children that he pretends to be a drunk to provide the other white people with an explanation for his lifestyle, when, in fact, he simply prefers Black people to whites.

When Dill and Scout return to the courtroom, Atticus is making his closing remarks. He has finished going over the evidence and now makes a personal appeal to the jury. He points out that the prosecution has produced no medical evidence of the crime and has presented only the shaky testimony of two unreliable witnesses; moreover, the physical evidence suggests that Bob Ewell, not Tom Robinson, beat Mayella. He then offers his own version of events, describing how Mayella, lonely and unhappy, committed the unmentionable act of lusting after a Black man and then concealed her shame by accusing him of rape after being caught. Atticus begs the jury to avoid the state’s assumption that all Black people are criminals and to deliver justice by freeing Tom Robinson. As soon as Atticus finishes, Calpurnia comes into the courtroom.

Summary: Chapter 21

Calpurnia hands Atticus a note telling him that his children have not been home since noon. Mr. Underwood says that Jem and Scout are in the "colored balcony"(a balcony that's been designated for Black people) and have been there since just after one in the afternoon. Atticus tells them to go home and have supper. They beg to be allowed to hear the verdict; Atticus says that they can return after supper, though he knows that the jury will likely have returned before then.

Calpurnia marches Jem, Scout, and Dill home. They eat quickly and return to find the jury still out, the courtroom still full. Evening comes, night falls, and the jury continues to deliberate. Jem is confident of victory, while Dill has fallen asleep. Finally, after eleven that night, the jury enters. Scout remembers that a jury never looks at a man it has convicted, and she notices that the twelve men do not look at Tom Robinson as they file in and deliver a guilty verdict. The courtroom begins to empty, and as Atticus goes out, everyone in the "colored" balcony rises in a gesture of respect.

Summary: Chapter 22

That night, Jem cries, railing against the injustice of the verdict. The next day, Maycomb’s Black population delivers an avalanche of food to the Finch household. Outside, Miss Stephanie Crawford is gossiping with Mr. Avery and Miss Maudie, and she tries to question Jem and Scout about the trial. Miss Maudie rescues the children by inviting them in for some cake. Jem complains that his illusions about Maycomb have been shattered: he thought that these people were the best in the world, but, having seen the trial, he doesn’t think so anymore. Miss Maudie points out that there were people who tried to help, like Judge Taylor, who appointed Atticus to the case instead of the regular public defender. She adds that the jury’s staying out so long constitutes a sign of progress in race relations. As the children leave Miss Maudie’s house, Miss Stephanie runs over to tell them that Bob Ewell accosted their father that morning, spat on him, and swore revenge.

Analysis: Chapters 20–22

It is easy to criticize Mr. Dolphus Raymond as an unreal, saccharinely nonracist character. Indeed, in a temporal and geographical setting in which the white community as a whole has so little sympathy for Black people, Raymond is not only anomalous but also somewhat preposterous—it seems that even the righteous and morally upstanding Atticus might view Raymond as having breached accepted notions of social propriety. The importance of Raymond’s character, however, lies in the nature of his preference for Black people. Raymond never explains precisely why he prefers Black people—he just does; similarly, the white community never explains why it hates Black people—it just does. The difference between these two ingrained attitudes, however, is that whereas the white community imposes its preferences unapologetically on the whole of Maycomb, Raymond acts on his preferences solely because he wants to live that way, not because he wants to dictate how others should live.

Mr. Raymond’s presence outside the courtroom is fitting: like Miss Maudie, he does not belong inside with the rest of the white people, because he does not share their guilt. Mr. Raymond is a harsh realist, and while he shares Jem’s outrage, he is too old to cry. In a way, Mr. Raymond is another illustration of an innocent destroyed by hatred and prejudice: a moral and conscientious man, he is also an unhappy figure, a good man who has turned cynical and lost hope after witnessing too much evil in the world. “You haven’t seen enough of the world yet,” he tells Scout, commenting on how special and good her father is, and her innocent belief in human goodness. “You haven’t even seen this town, but all you gotta do is step back inside the courthouse.”

Read more about prejudice and law as themes.

Whereas Mr. Raymond believes that Maycomb’s racist side is the real Maycomb, Atticus, less embittered, seems to hold out hope for the town—significantly, his eloquent closing argument is devoid of despair. Rather, he speaks to the jury with confidence and dignity, urging them to find confidence and dignity within themselves. Though To Kill a Mockingbird dramatizes the threat posed to goodness by evil, and though it frequently treats this theme by exploring the destruction of innocence, the novel’s ultimate moral outlook is not bleak; rather, it is characterized by Atticus’s wise understanding of both the goodness and the badness within people. Moral issues within the novel are often black and white, with a clear good side and a clear evil side, but the novel’s conclusion about humanity is not so simple. On the contrary, Atticus understands that people are capable of great goodness and great evil, which proves the key to his own admirable moral strength. Unlike the children’s outlook, Atticus’s understanding of the world is not innocent: he does not believe in goodness simply because he has never seen evil. He has indeed seen and experienced evil, but he is nevertheless capable of faith in the good qualities of humankind. This faith represents the adult perspective toward which Scout, who begins the novel as an innocent child, is forced to move as the story progresses. Although the jury strikes a blow for prejudice by convicting Tom, it is still possible for the town’s morally unblemished adult characters to hold out hope. Even after the verdict has been handed down, there is a sense that progress has been made: as Miss Maudie puts it, the town has taken “a step—it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step.”

Jem, however, is not able to see things this way. Scout is bewildered by the verdict, but, like Atticus, she is resilient and retains her positive view of the world. Her brother is crushed: his dearly held illusions about justice and the law have been shattered. In a way, Jem, like Tom Robinson, is a mockingbird. While the Ewells and the forces of hatred and prejudice do not take his life, they do strip him of his childhood and youthful idealism.

Read more about the symbolism of mockingbirds.