To Kill a Mockingbird – Chapter 16

Scout remembers Atticus “calmly folding his newspaper and pushing back his hat” when the mob of men approached the jailhouse the night before.This image merges into another one: that of Atticus “standing in the middle of an empty waiting street, pushing up his glasses.” The second image refers to the scene in Chapter Ten just before Atticus killed the rabid dog: What two images come to mind as Scout is falling asleep?
“Jem and I watched our father take the gun and walk out into the middle of the street…Atticus pushed his glasses to his forehead….” In the first image, Atticus is being threatened by the townspeople; in the second one, he is saving the town from peril. What is the significance of the two images?
Scout cries because she suddenly realizes the extent of the danger that Atticus had been in as he faced the angry mob. Moreover, the images cause her to become conscious of the injustice inflicted upon her father: Atticus had bravely protected the town by killing the rabid dog; now he must defend himself from the menacing threats of some of the very same people he had so selflessly aided. Why do the images make Scout cry?
Atticus says that Mr. Underwood “despises Negroes, won’t have one near him.” This may sound surprising because Mr. Underwood had protected Atticus at the jail the previous night, keeping watch on the mob from his window with a shotgun. However, his behavior emphasizes the theme that good and evil coexist in all people. Mr. Underwood may be a racist man, but he has at least one good quality: he is loyal to his friends. Additionally, in protecting Atticus from the mob, he essentially protected Tom Robinson as well. What surprising fact does Atticus reveal about Mr. Underwood at the breakfast table?What previously mentioned theme is emphasized by this information?
He says that mobs are made up of men and that men have “blind spots” about some things, meaning that they apparently are sometimes unable to see the wrongness of their actions. His statement about needing a police force of children refers to the events of the previous night, when Scout brought the angry mob to its senses. Atticus says her actions proved something— What does Atticus say about mobs and men over the breakfast table? What does he mean by the statement, “[M]aybe we need a police force of children…”?
The mood is almost festive, as if the occasion were a party or a holiday. The square is packed with people. Children are playing, and everyone is eating and drinking as if they are having a picnic. As Scout notes, “It was a gala occasion.” Opinions will vary on the second part of the question but students may note that the mood is incongruous and inappropriate to the occasion. While people eat, drink, and gossip, they appear to have lost sight of the real reason that has brought them to the square: a woman has been raped, and a man’s life hangs in the balance. What is the mood in the courthouse square on the first day of the trial? What, if anything, do you find disturbing about it?
He is white but prefers the company of black people. According to Jem, he has a black mistress and several children by her. Jem adds that Dolphus is a rich man and “from a real old family to boot.” What is significant about Mr. Dolphus Raymond?
Mixed children are half black and half white. Jem says they are sad because they do not belong anywhere: “Colored folks won’t have ’em because they’re half white; white folks won’t have ’em ’cause they’re colored, so they’re just in-betweens, don’t belong anywhere.” According to Jem, what are “mixed” children, and why are they sad?
Outside the courthouse, the white people convey a more festive atmosphere, while the black people sit quietly in a far corner of the square. Scout notes, “There were few women and children among them, which seemed to dispel the holiday mood. Compare and contrast the behavior of the white spectators to that of the black spectators.
When everyone begins moving into the courthouse, the black people wait patiently behind the white people, letting them in first. Inside the courthouse, the whites and blacks are separated. Because the whites are allowed to enter first, they take up the first floor. Blacks must sit up in the balcony in a section labeled “Colored.” There are no seats left when Scout, Jem, and Dill make their way into the courthouse. Reverend Sykes, the preacher from Calpurnia’s church, kindly leads them to the Colored section of the balcony, where four black people generously give up their seats to Sykes and the children. How are blacks and whites segregated inside the courthouse? Where do Scout, Jem, and Dill end up sitting?
The courthouse is a mixture of several different architectural elements. The original courthouse burned down in 1856 but the pillars from one part of it survived the fire and were incorporated into the new courthouse. Presently, one side of the courthouse is mainly of Victorian design, while the other side is a hodgepodge of different styles. This suggests to Scout that the people of Maycomb are unwilling to let go of the past, a major concept in the novel. According to her description of the courthouse, “Greek revival columns clashed with a big nineteenth-century clock tower housing a rusty unreliable instrument, a view indicating a people determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past.” How does Scout describe the Maycomb County courthouse? According to her, what do the Greek revival columns and the old clock tower suggest about the people of Maycomb?
The Idlers’ Club is made up of a group of old men who have nothing better to do than hang around the courthouse critiquing the proceedings of the court. According to Scout, these men “had spent their lives doing nothing and passed their twilight days doing same on pine benches under the live oaks on the square.” Scout learns that the court had appointed Atticus to defend Tom Robinson. This is news to her, as she previously had assumed that Atticus had a choice in the matter: “I thought it odd that he hadn’t said anything to us about it—we could have used it many times in defending him and ourselves. He had to, that’s why he was doing it, equaled fewer fights and less fussing.” She becomes confused, however, by the contradictory things that the men of the Idlers’ say. When one of them states that the court had appointed Atticus to defend Robinson, another replies, “Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That’s what I don’t like about it.” The second man is basically stating that Atticus should not really do his job. He should show up, as the court has instructed him, but he should not try to actually defend Tom Robinson. Scout is completely confused by the irrationality of what she hears: “The court appointed Atticus to defend him. Atticus aimed to defend him. That’s what they didn’t like about it. It was confusing.” Describe the members of the Idlers’ Club. What information does Scout get from them? What is it that confuses her?

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