“When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t doneany of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .” His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
These words, from Chapter 31, conclude the novel. As Scout falls asleep, she is telling Atticus about the events of The Gray Ghost, a book in which one of the characters is wrongly accused of committing a crime and is pursued. When he is finally caught, however, his innocence is revealed. As Scout sleepily explains the story to Atticus, saying that the character was “real nice” when “they finally saw him,” Atticus gently notes the truth of that observation. In this way, Lee closes the book with a subtle reminder of the themes of innocence, accusation, and threat that have run throughout it, putting them to rest by again illustrating the wise moral outlook of Atticus: if one lives with sympathy and understanding, then it is possible to retain faith in humanity despite its capacity for evil—to believe that most people are “real nice.” Additionally, this passage emphasizes Atticus’s strong, loving role as a parent to Scout and Jem—he tucks Scout in, then goes to sit by Jem’s bedside all night long. Through Atticus’s strength, the tension and danger of the previous chapters are resolved, and the book ends on a note of security and peace.