To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 24 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

In chapter 24, Scout witnesses the ladies of Maycomb County respond to the trial. Atticus receives news about Tom Robinson, and Scout sees a different side of Aunt Alexandra.


Previously, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus's sister, Aunt Alexandra, came to stay with the Finch family while Atticus prepared to defend Tom Robinson. Despite resistance from her niece, Aunt Alexandra has campaigned to teach Scout to be a lady. Since the conclusion of the trial, Jem and Scout have struggled to understand the unfair guilty verdict, and the town's continuing antagonistic attitudes. In this chapter, Scout experiences tea with Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, witnessing varied opinions from the ladies of Maycomb.

Refreshments with the Ladies

It is the end of August, and with Jem teaching Dill to swim, Scout has been spending her time with Miss Maudie and Calpurnia. As chapter 24 opens, Scout admires Calpurnia's grace while serving the ladies of Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle. Scout is avoiding the ladies by staying in the kitchen, but asks whether she can help Calpurnia. At first, Calpurnia instructs her that if she sits still, she can help load the trays. However, she eventually allows Scout to carry a silver pitcher. Aunt Alexandra smiles at Scout's help and invites her to join the group.

Scout joins the women, noticing they smell good while she grips the chair arms to keep her hands still. Miss Maudie compliments Scout's dress and asks where she has her usual britches. Scout answers honestly, 'Under my dress,' causing the other ladies to laugh. Embarrassed, Scout notes that Miss Maudie is the only one who does not join the laughter because Scout did not mean to be funny.

Scout is sitting next to Mrs. Grace Merriweather, the 'most devout lady in Maycomb.' In an attempt to be polite, Scout asks Mrs. Merriweather about their afternoon study. Mrs. Merriweather tells her at length about the poor Mrunas, and the work of J. Grimes Everett, a missionary working with them. However, she gets off topic when the woman beside her makes a comment that prompts her to say 'I always say forgive and forget,' and 'that church' should be helping that woman live a Christian life now. Scout interrupts to ask whether Mrs. Merriweather is talking about Mayella Ewell, but the woman in question is actually Tom Robinson's wife, Helen.

Mrs. Merriweather proclaims if 'we just let them know we forgive 'em, that we've forgotten it, then this whole thing'll blow over.' When Scout inquires what will blow over, she is told some 'cooks and field hands are just dissatisfied' after the trial verdict. Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Gertrude Farrow, the 'second most devout lady in Maycomb,' begin to speak about their view of the racial tensions in town. Mrs. Farrow said we're 'fighting a losing battle,' and 'we can try till we drop to make Christians out of 'em, but there's no lady safe in her bed these nights.'

Mrs. Merriweather agrees, and begins to speak about the 'good but misguided people' in town. She insists those people thought they were doing the right thing, but 'all they did was stir 'em up.' Miss Maudie interrupts her. Scout notes Miss Maudie is angry, though she does not understand why. Scout observes Mrs. Merriweather blush and look at her quickly before averting her gaze. She is puzzled when she sees Aunt Alexandra give Miss Maudie a look of thanks. While the women chat around her, Scout reflects that she feels more at home around men.

Atticus Bears Sad News

As Scout remembers hearing Calpurnia tell a friend that Tom Robinson was having a hard time with the verdict, Atticus returns home. Scout is surprised to see him so early, especially on a day the ladies are convened in his home. He asks Aunt Alexandra to accompany him to the kitchen because he wants to 'borrow' Calpurnia. Scout accompanies them to the kitchen, followed by Miss Maudie. Atticus tells Calpurnia he wants her to go with him to see Helen Robinson, Tom's wife. When Aunt Alexandra asks what is wrong, he tells her Tom is dead.

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