One September evening, Jem makes Scout put a pill bug outside rather than squish it. He insists that the bug isn’t bothering Scout, so there’s no reason to kill it. Scout lies back on her cot, thinking of Dill, and remembers suddenly what Dill told her. He and Jem had been swimming and, as is customary, waved to a car for a ride home. It turned out to be Atticus and Calpurnia, and Atticus grudgingly allowed them to come to the Robinson cabin and told them what happened. A child fetched Helen as Atticus played with a toddler. Helen collapsed before Atticus said anything. Scout says that Maycomb was only interested in Tom’s death for two days, and many believed that he showed his true colors when he tried to escape.
The assertion that Tom showed his true colors when he tried to escape speaks again to the racist stereotypes that propose that all black people are dishonest and untrustworthy. It’s far more likely that Tom didn’t see any other avenue to escape from his horrible, unfair circumstances and was broken mentally, something entirely understandable in his situation. That Maycomb is so disinterested in Tom’s death shows again how little the town thinks of its black residents.
Following Tom’s death, Mr. Underwood wrote a bitter article about how it’s a sin to kill disabled people. He likened it to senselessly killing songbirds. Scout was confused, since Tom received due process, but then she realized that Tom was always going to be convicted. Meanwhile, Jem and Scout hear from Miss Stephanie that Mr. Ewell is thrilled with Tom’s death and has said that there are “two more to go.” Jem swears Scout to secrecy about this.
Mr. Underwood’s article likens Tom to a songbird, which situates Tom as a kind of mockingbird in Atticus’s moral adage to his children. Like an innocent mockingbird, Tom never did anything but help others and go through the world kindly and compassionately. Disability or not, Atticus would suggest that Tom didn’t deserve to die, as he did nothing but good. In effectively sentencing Tom to his death, then, Maycomb has committed a terrible sin.