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To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 25 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

Most of chapter 25 of ''To Kill a Mockingbird'' happens in flashback, as Scout thinks about reactions to Tom Robinson's death. Scout recalls different people's responses, finally realizing the trial itself was not as fair as she thought.

Opening Scene

In the previous chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, we learned Tom Robinson died. Despite Atticus's belief that they had a chance with the appeal, Tom lost hope. He ran for Enfield Prison Farm's fence, and guards shot him seventeen times.

Chapter 25 opens some time later, on a September evening. The hot weather has not abated, and Jem and Scout are still sleeping on the screened back porch. Scout prepares to smash the roly poly bug she has been playing with, but Jem tells her to put it on the back steps instead. After doing so, Scout questions Jem's request. Despite Scout teasing him, Jem insists the bug did nothing to her to deserve death.

While laying in bed, Scout misses Dill, who left for home at the beginning of the month. She remembers he spent the last two days of his visit learning to swim with Jem. This thinking triggers the memory of Dill telling Scout about witnessing Helen Robinson, Tom's wife, learn of her husband's death.

'She Just Fell Down in the Dirt'

Wide awake now, Scout recalls Dill's story. He and Jem had begun walking home from a day of swimming when they saw Atticus driving. They waved to get his attention. When he stopped, Calpurnia was in the back seat. Atticus told the boys to get a ride with someone else since he will not be going home right then. After Jem begged, Atticus relented and allowed the boys to go with him. He made them promise to stay in the car. While driving, Atticus told the boys about Tom Robinson's death.

When they reached the Robinson home, a group of children were playing marbles in the front yard. Jem and Dill watched Atticus go up to them and ask for their mother. While one of the children ran to get her, a young girl tried to toddle over to Atticus. Seeing she was too small to walk down the stairs, Atticus helped her.

Helen quickly arrived and politely offered Atticus a seat. Though Dill heard no more of their conversation, he saw Helen crumple to the ground after learning her husband died. Dill recalled she 'fell down in the dirt, like a giant with a big foot just came along and stepped on her.' Atticus and Calpurnia had to help her stand, and half dragged her inside. After staying inside a long time, Calpurnia remained while Atticus drove home with the boys.

The Town Responds to Tom's Death

Maycomb citizens were 'interested by the news of Tom's death for perhaps two days' -- just long enough for everyone to hear the news. Scout remembers townspeople considered Tom's death 'Typical of a n---.' They assumed his death demonstrated his lack of care and impatience even though Atticus might have gotten him set free. Commentators criticized Tom for his actions, but also asserted it was not surprising for a black man.

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