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Chapter 15

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 15 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

In the week following Dill's appearance, things seem to be looking up for Scout: Dill gets to stay for the summer; she's getting along with her aunt; and Jem, although he's outgrown the treehouse, helps Scout and Dill fix it up. And of course, Dill has come up with yet another plan to lure Boo Radley from his house.

One day, Sheriff Tate and a small group of men, including Dr. Reynolds and Mr. Avery, come to tell Atticus that Tom Robinson is being moved to the county jail in Maycomb. They're worried there may be trouble if he stays in the town jail the night before the trial. Their presence brings the trial's reality into the Finch home, and Jem begins to worry for Atticus.

The next evening Atticus goes into town after supper. Late that night Scout finds Jem sneaking out after him and insists on going too. The two of them, with Dill in tow, head downtown. They find Atticus camped out in an office chair in front of the Maycomb jail, reading by the light of a single bulb. As the children watch from a distance, cars approach the jail, and men empty out. They've come for Tom Robinson, but Atticus isn't budging.

Without thinking Scout runs for Atticus, and Jem and Dill are forced to follow. Although Atticus orders them home, Jem, in particular, refuses. Someone reaches out for Jem, Scout defends him, and Atticus struggles to keep the situation under control. Scout sees Walter Cunningham Sr., the father of the boy they invited for lunch earlier in the story. She asks him to say hello to Walter Jr. for her. The honest innocence of her request disarms the situation, and the men drive away.

Analysis

The Tom Robinson trial is becoming increasingly real in Jem and Scout's lives. To this point Atticus's involvement in the case has resulted in little more than a few sarcastic comments from classmates or neighbors. But with the trial imminent, the situation has become more serious.

Atticus's genuine concern upon hearing that Tom Robinson is being moved to the Maycomb County jail causes Jem and Scout to once again see their father in a different light. They are beginning to appreciate Atticus for the kind and humble person he is, not just for being their father.

The scene at the jail the following evening captures the strength of the Finch family bond. Jem, Scout, and Atticus stand up for each other, relying on their own strengths and personality. This is in stark contrast to the angry mob they're facing, whose members feel indistinguishable from one another. But when Scout recognizes Walter Cunningham Sr. and asks after his son, it breaks the mob mentality because one of the group has been seen as an individual. The men, who initially felt strong as a group, now feel vulnerable and ashamed as flawed individuals.

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