To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

The trial starts today, and it seems like the whole population of Maycomb is filing into the courthouse, including Scout and Jem, despite Atticus's orders to not attend. In this lesson, we will summarize chapter 16 of ''To Kill a Mockingbird''.

The Morning After

Have you ever had an experience where something dangerous happened, but you did not realize how much danger you were in until after it was over? How did you feel when you realized it? Shaky? Maybe even a bit tearful?

That is how Scout feels at the beginning of chapter 16 in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird when, as she says, ''the full meaning of the night's events hit me and I began crying.'' Though the standoff at the jail between Atticus and a group of men who wanted to get to Tom ended without any injuries, Scout is just now understanding what a tense situation it had actually been. Jem comforts Scout, allowing her to cry, though both are careful to keep Atticus from hearing.

At breakfast, Aunt Alexandra ''radiated waves of disapproval.'' While Atticus may be grateful the children snuck out - after all, Scout's intervention was directly responsible for breaking up the mob - Aunty insists it would have been all right anyway since Mr. Underwood was there. When she points this out, Atticus says that he finds it interesting that Mr. Underwood ''despises Negroes.''

Atticus's response triggers even more discomfort for Aunty, who wishes he would not say things like that in front of Calpurnia. She claims it ''encourages them.'' Scout notices Atticus is standing up to his sister when he insists ''anything fit to say at the table's fit to say in front of Calpurnia.''

Just a Man

Sometimes it can be hard to accept that people are people, that we all have flaws. This is something Scout and Jem struggle with as they talk with their father about Mr. Cunningham, one of the men in the mob the previous night. How could a friend be part of a mob that would have hurt Atticus? Their father tells them that ''Mr. Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man.'' When Scout expresses her intention to take it out on Mr. Cunningham's son Walter when school starts again, Atticus forbids either from ''bearing a grudge.''

Everyone is on Their Way

Dill arrives just as Atticus leaves, after telling Scout and Jem he does not want them to attend the trial. Outside, it seems as though everyone is passing by on their way into town. They see a ''wagonload of unusually stern-faced citizens'' pause as they pass Miss Maudie's home. The people on the wagon call out a Bible verse condemning Miss Maudie's garden, but she cheerfully calls back another verse defending it. Scout does not understand why they disapprove of the garden, or why they would tangle with Miss Maudie, whose ''command of Scripture was formidable.''

The children manage to hold off until after eating lunch with Atticus, but after eating they head into town. The town is packed: animals are parked in every possible space, and the square is covered with picnicking people. Across the square, Mr. Dophus Raymond sits with the black people of the town while they eat their own lunches. Dill points out Mr. Raymond and his paper bag.

Jem explains that Mr. Raymond keeps a bottle full of alcohol in that bag, and everyone believes he is always a bit drunk. He also explains that Mr. Raymond always sits with the black people of the town, and lives and has children with a black woman. Dill comments that the man does not ''look like trash,'' to which Jem replies he is not. For some reason, he just prefers the company of the black population.

Despite his being intoxicated most of the time, Jem notes that Mr. Raymond is ''real good'' to his children. When Scout asks what a mixed child is, Jem explains they are half white and half black. He says it is a sad situation for them, because neither side wants anything to do with them because of that mix, and ''so they're just in-betweens, don't belong anywhere.''

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