Atticus has been receiving threats and warnings for defending Tom Robinson in this section of the novel. In this scene, a heated disagreement is introduced and part of the town’s true feelings and prejudices is exposed.
In chapter 15, the children, Jem and Scout, go up to the jail and see Atticus sitting outside Macomb jail, where Tom Robinson is at the time, and he is reading a newspaper. Jem, Scout and Dill all sneak out of the house and follow Atticus to the town center where the Maycomb jail is. At that moment, four cars drive into Maycomb and park near the jail. A group of men get out of the cars, and demand that Atticus move away from the jail door so that they can get to Tom Robinson. Atticus refuses, so Scout comes running over, trying to help her father, followed by Jem and Dill. Atticus thinks that the children are no help in the situation and doesn’t want them to be hurt, so tries to get them to go home.
One of the men tells Atticus that he has fifteen seconds to get his children to leave before a fight breaks out. Harper Lee describes how the children are unfamiliar with these men. Until, Scout sees Mr. Cunningham, she talks to him politely and innocently but Mr. Cunningham doesn’t respond, so Scout wonders if he recognized her. She starts talking about his son, Walter and asks him to say ‘hey’ to him from her. Mr. Cunningham then orders the crowd to leave. I think this is because he is brought back to his senses, realizing that what he is doing is wrong and it shows him Scouts politeness and kind intensions. As Atticus says “a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human.” This suggests that Scouts innocence made Mr. Cunningham guilty about being part of this mob when he was just the same as Atticus; a man with children, yet was doing wrong and being prejudice.
In this mob episode Scout breaks up the mob by her innocence without even realizing, making the members of the mob put themselves in Atticus’s shoes and realize why he was doing what he was by defending Tom Robinson. She destroyed the mob mentality, and caused each of the men to think as individuals instead of as a mob/large crowd, so that the men could understand the situation and get rid of any other judgments.
Atticus’s bravery and courage is also shown in this episode. Firstly, he stays outside of Tom Robinsons cell all night, alone, and then even when the mob arrive, even though he knows that they are stronger than him as a group and would win a fight her is un-phased and doesn’t show any anxiety in the situation because doesn’t want them to feel stronger than him. He tries to defend his children from any danger whilst also protecting Tom Robinson at the same time. This shows how kind and brave Atticus is.