Jem cries angrily as he, Dill, and Scout find Atticus outside. He says that it’s not right and Atticus agrees. At home, Aunt Alexandra apologizes to Atticus and asks if Jem will be okay. Atticus insists he will be and says that the children may as well learn to deal with Maycomb County as it is. He excuses himself to bed, but Jem catches him and asks how the jury could’ve done this. Atticus says he’s not sure, but they’ve done it before, they’ll do it again, and only children cry about this. In the morning, Atticus assures Jem that there will be an appeal. Calpurnia shows Atticus the huge amount of food people left on the porch to thank him. Touched, Atticus excuses himself to go to work.
Atticus’s insistence that the children can learn to deal with Maycomb County shows again that like Mr. Raymond, Atticus has no delusions about his community. He knows that it’s overwhelmingly racist, classist, and willing to do unthinkably horrible things in order to maintain racial segregation and class order. When he suggests that only children cry in times like these, he implies that adults have been conditioned to passively accept these things as facts of life, while children see them for the injustices they are.
Dill arrives, eats Atticus’s breakfast, and says that Miss Rachel said that Atticus can bang his head against a wall if he wants to, but he decided not to set her straight since she was so worried about him. Jem tells him to stop going off without telling Miss Rachel, but Dill insists he did tell her—she just drinks too much and forgets. Aunt Alexandra deems this observation cynical and unbecoming, so Jem leads Dill and Scout outside. They see Miss Stephanie talking to Mr. Avery and Miss Maudie. Miss Maudie yells for Jem. Miss Stephanie starts asking why the children were in the balcony at court, but Miss Maudie hushes her and shoos the children inside for cake.
Jem’s choice to again reprimand Dill for making the adults worry speaks to how mature and adult Jem feels right now. Given the way that Atticus and Mr. Raymond suggested how children see the world, it’s likely that Dill’s assessment of Miss Rachel’s drinking habit has some truth to it. Aunt Alexandra’s scolding, however, shows how as children grow into adults and enter polite society, it’s no longer acceptable to make such observations, even if they’re true.
Miss Maudie baked two small cakes and one large one, which seems wrong until Miss Maudie cuts Jem a piece out of the big cake. She tells Jem that Atticus is a man who does unpleasant jobs for them all. Jem says that he thought Maycomb was good and safe. Miss Maudie says he’s not wrong, but Maycomb isn’t often called on to act Christian, so Atticus acts Christian for them. Jem asks if there’s anyone else, and Miss Maudie points out that the black neighborhood, Mr. Tate, and Judge Taylor stepped up—Judge Taylor didn’t give Tom’s case to the newest lawyer, for instance. Miss Maudie insists that she knew Atticus wasn’t going to win, but it’s a step in the right direction that the jury took so long to decide.
Here, Miss Maudie encourages Jem to look for all the individuals in Maycomb who are fighting for good, even if Maycomb as a whole is racist and closed-minded. When she notes specifically that Judge Taylor did Tom a major favor by giving Atticus the case, it shows how some of these kind and courageous acts often go unnoticed by many. But in actual effect, these gestures are more meaningful than, for instance, Mr. Deas’s unsolicited character assessment of Tom that just got him thrown out of court.
Outside, Miss Stephanie and Mr. Avery are still talking. Miss Rachel heads toward them as Dill says he’s going to be a clown and laugh when he grows up. He suggests that everyone else should be riding broomsticks as Miss Rachel waves wildly at them. They approach and Miss Rachel sends the children into the yard. Before Miss Rachel can stop her, Miss Stephanie shares that earlier, Mr. Ewell stopped Atticus, spat in his face, and threatened him.
Dill’s newfound cynicism reflects his growing understanding that the world he once thought was safe and delightful actually has a very real dark side. He, Jem, and Scout now know that men will go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit, while horrible people like Mr. Ewell are able to go on with their lives.