Chapter 15

Dill is given permission to stay at Scout’s house for the summer. One evening, as the family is relaxing, Heck Tate arrives with a few men. A discussion is held over the forthcoming trial, and whether Tom Robinson is safe in their custody. To the children it sounds like a fracas, but Atticus pacifies them. The next day, being a Sunday, is spent in Church, but in the evening Atticus declares that he is going out. In the night Jem prepares to follow his father. Dill and Scout join him in this venture. They find their father going to the Maycomb jail. As they watch, a group of men join Atticus and get around to talk to him. Scout interrupts them at an inopportune moment and Atticus instructs them to leave. Scout attempts at a conversation with Mr. Cunningham but fails to elicit any response. Finally they leave. Atticus had been protecting Tom Robinson, in the jail, but it turns out that Mr. Underwood had also been covering him (Atticus), with a shotgun, from his window above the Maycomb Tribune office, in case anyone would attack him. Finally, they all return home.

Tom Robinson’s trial is a hot topic for discussion in the Maycomb County, and various stands have been taken over the trial. Atticus demurs from leaving the case, even after some warning. To safeguard Tom’s life before the trial, Atticus even goes out to guards him in the Maycomb jail.

Jem has matured enough to understand his father’s frame of mind. But Scout is still quite immature and her attempts of making conversation with Mr. Cunningham about his entailments, causes a little embarrassment. Scout had earlier overheard her father and Mr. Cunningham discuss about entailments in their house. Atticus had legally solved Cunningham’s problems about his land and Cunningham had been voicing his gratitude. On asking what entailments means, she had been sidetracked by Jem. Hence although she does not know its meaning and the background behind it, she had just mentioned the word to Cunningham. She probably wishes to show that she too is adult enough to participate in a mature conversation. Cunningham, however, gets embarrassed and being reminded of Atticus’ favor, is unable to continue threatening him. Thus, Scout’s innocent remarks, in a way, does prove beneficial to her father.

As the facts stand, Tom, a black man, has raped a white girl. The fact that a black has assaulted a white make the trial extremely precarious. Moreover, that Atticus has determined to take the case (and therefore defend Tom) is not approved by the people in general. Though the supposed victim in the case, Bob Ewell’s daughter, is what they call ‘white trash’, she is a white, and so the chances of Tom being excused are extremely remote.

Chapter 16

Aunt Alexandra is disapproving of the children having had a rendezvous in a jail in the middle of the night. The children are worried for their father, especially for the fact that Mr. Cunningham would have tried to kill Atticus, if it had not been for Scout’s timely intervention, with her small talk about entailments.

A group of Mennonites pass by in wagons. As they pass Miss Maudie’s house, they comment upon her love for gardening, considering it a sin. But Miss Maudie is stubbornly unmoved.

It is the first day of the trial, and the place is crowded with people who have come to witness the trial of Tom Robinson. Mr. Dolphus Raymond is noticed sitting with the colored folk, sipping from a brown paper pack (which allegedly contains whisky).

Since the courthouse is fully packed, the children join Reverend Sykes at the balcony, along with the blacks.

The judge is none other than Judge Taylor. Though he gives the impression of dozing through the hearing is actually very sharp in his dealings. The Tom Robinson case begins with Mr. Heck Tate being the first witness.

Aunt Alexandra’s disapproval is an expected one but Atticus, is depicted as a person who doesn’t necessarily take his sister’s side always. He does show his slight irritation at her, once in a while.

The Mennonites were a strict Christian sect who accept no authority except for the Bible and are opposed to anything modern. Miss Maudie’s spending more time in gardening and less time in reading the Bible is considered as sacrilegious behavior, but Miss Maudie is unmoved by their comments.

A brief description of the courthouse and the gathering is given. Whites and blacks have arrived in equal numbers to witness the trial. The scene outside the courthouse, before the initiation of the trial, resembles a picnic spot. However, once the trial begins, there is absolute silence in the courtroom.

The Finch children sitting in the colored balcony with the blacks, is probably symbolic of how their family values endorse equality. However, they are also eager to watch their father handle the case, knowing full well that he would disapprove of their presence if he knew they were inside the courtroom.

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