Chapters 14 and 15
trial of Tom Robinson is on everyone's mind and that Atticus is
the Defense Lawyer causes a stir in the town.
Aunt Alexandra is concerned about the influence that Calpurnia has
over Jem and Scout. She tells Atticus that it is no longer necessary
to have a black woman take care of the children and tells him to
get rid of her. He does not agree with and refuses to do so. Jem
tells Scout to try and keep on the good side of Aunt Alexandra,
but Scout tells him that he shouldn't lecture her and has a fight
Atticus comes in to put them to bed. Scout hears some noise from
underneath her bed and discovers Dill hiding there. He has run away
from home because he feels that his mother no longer loves him now
that she has remarried. He tells them that he took a train for part
of the distance but walked the rest of the way. Jem tells Atticus
what has happened and Dill is given something to eat. They then
go next door to tell Dill's aunt of his whereabouts.
Sheriff Heck Tate and a posse of townspeople congregate on the Finch's
front yard to discuss moving Tom Robinson to the Maycomb jail in
preparation for his impending trial. The children overhear only
pieces of the conversation but it is apparent that Atticus and the
other folks are worried about the trouble the move might cause.
Atticus says nothing about the issue when he returns to the living
room but the following day, Sunday, he mysteriously leaves after
supper with a light bulb and an extension cord. The children notice
he has also taken his car so they decide to find Atticus in town
after Aunty thinks they've gone to bed.
That night, Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak out of the house and walk
into town. Sure enough, they find Atticus's car parked near the
jailhouse and when the move in that direction they find Atticus
sitting in front of the jail reading a book under the lightbulb
he had brought. Scout's first instinct is to run to him but Jem
fears Atticus would not approve of their leaving the house without
permission. Right as the three decide to return home several cars
pull up in front of Atticus. The children stay to watch. A group
of men, mostly farmers, exit the cars and approach Atticus with
guns and weapons. They want to get to Tom Robinson but Atticus stands
in their way. The tension between the farmers and Atticus grows
as the men confront one another. After several minutes Scout cannot
handle the tension anymore so she leaps from her hiding place and
runs to Atticus's defense. The other children follow her. When Atticus
sees the children he demands that Jem take Dill and Scout home but
Jem refuses. Scout, meanwhile recognizes Walter Cunningham's father
(Walter Sr.) in the crowd and proceeds to engage him in conversation.
Embarrassed that Scout has singled him out, Walter refuses to answer
Scout's questions. Finally, Scout turns to Atticus and asks him
why the men won't talk to her. She has succeeded in diffusing the
tension and she has reminded Walter and the other farmers that they
are all neighbors and friends. Walter motions the group to retreat
and acknowledges Scout as he leaves. Grateful to the children for
intervening, he lets them return home without reprisal. Alone again
in front of the jail, Atticus mentions to Tom that the farmers have
left and notifies B. B. Underwood, who had been hiding above Atticus
with his gun ready to fire on the farmers, that all is clear.
People’s prejudices are now coming to the fore, in particular at this time
Aunt Alexandra’s who refuses to allow Scout to visit Calpurnia’s house, saying ‘Young white girls don’t spend time in black people’s neighborhoods and definitely not inside their houses’.
She further tries to have Calpurnia dismissed, but Atticus defends her saying ‘I don’t think the children have suffered one bit from her having brought them up. If anything, she has been harder on them in some ways than a mother would have been.’
The reappearance of Dill at this stage offers Scout a fleeting opportunity
to fly back to her childhood of the previous two summers and the security, which that offered. The fact that Jem tells Atticus of Dill’s presence is the final indication that he has made the transition to the
adult world as Scout thinks him to be a traitor for doing this. Of course, it all turns out all right in the end as Dill is allowed to stay with his aunt for the remainder of the summer.
Things are becoming really nasty with the threat of a lynching, but it is
the innocence of a young girl, which prevents the storm breaking.