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Chapter 16

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 16 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 16 | Summary



After a run-in the night before at the county jail between Atticus and a mob looking to kill Tom Robinson, the Finch home is filled with tension. Aunt Alexandra is particularly upset that Jem and Scout snuck out. Atticus, on the other hand, is grateful they showed up when they did.

Jury selection for the Tom Robinson case is starting, so Atticus asks Jem and Scout to stay away from the courthouse that day. But their curiosity is running wild, especially as so many people are passing their house on their way to the courthouse. Atticus comes home at noon, and they talk of the morning's events. When he goes back for the afternoon session, the children can no longer resist going, too. They stop by to pick up Dill and then head to town to join the festival-like atmosphere in the square. Inside the courthouse Jem, Scout, and Dill eventually find seats in "the Colored balcony" just as the trial begins.


The Finch family bond, always strong, has found even greater depth in Chapter 16: Atticus protects his children, but it is also evident that they protect Atticus. Dill, an honorary family member, feels this strongly as well. His comment about holding off "a hundred folks with our bare hands" illustrates his excitement and loyalty to the Finches; it also shows that he has not yet reached Jem's level of introspection.

As the book's characters come together for the trial, Maycomb is revealed as a complex web of prejudices and a symbol of the world at large.

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