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In subsequent years, Dill and Jem try many things to get Mr. Radley to come out of his house, but absolutely none of them succeeds. Scout, however, finds that she has had a very close encounter with him; while her neighbor’s house was burning, Scout was forced to remain outside. It was the dead of winter, so she was violently cold. When she comes back into her own house, Atticus, her father, sees that she has a blanket around her that wasn’t there before, and most certainly did not belong to the Finch family. They discover that her back was turned to the Radley house the entire time, and that it must have been Arthur that had given her the blanket.
Atticus’ role as the town’s best lawyer comes into play when he is asked to defend a Negro man in a court of law. The man is accused of raping the daughter of one Mr. Bob Ewell; the Ewell family is considered to be the scum of the town. They are equally hated and pitied by everyone; they pity the children but despise the father. Bob is an alcoholic who has no job. He gets relief checks from the government, but spends it all on liquor. The trial lasts for all of two days, but the process leading to the trial took at least a year.
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The trial is a clear cut case for the reader, as well as Atticus and his children, but the jury’s verdict shocks everyone. Atticus has proven that any and all evidence in the case is circumstantial, word against word, and that no one can be convicted under those circumstances. However, the jury finds Tom guilty simply because he is a black man, and in that time period, even a scummy white person’s word was still worth more than that of a black man. Somewhere during the trial, Mr. Ewell felt humiliated and swore he’d have his revenge on Atticus for making him look like a fool.
Mr. Ewell’s chance for vengeance arrived on the night after a school pageant. It was pitch black as Jem hurried Scout towards home. Mr. Ewell leaped from behind a tree and attacked Scout. The only thing that saved her from his knife was her costume. Mr. Ewell knocked Jem unconscious, and Scout thought she would die, until she heard a rustling sound; someone had come to save her. Boo Radley tackled Bob Ewell and stabbed him with his own knife; a miserable ending to a miserable life. Mr. Radley was not convicted. The Finches and the sheriff thought it too much like killing a mockingbird; as Miss Maudie says, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee, 90).