In Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what's really happening when Atticus moves back toward the porch and the crowd draws in?
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What happens in this chapter is that a group of men come to Atticus' house to remonstrate with him and to try and persuade him that there is going to be trouble. Link in particular almost threatens Atticus, suggesting that he has "everything to lose" by taking the case and trying to protect Tom. Even though the group of men say they fear the problems that other men in the town might cause, it is clear that they become threatened, especially when Atticus seems to stand up to them and challenges them. Note how they respond when Atticus asks his "dangerous question," which is "Do you really think so?" The men, obviously detecting that Atticus is not going to back down, begin to make rather disturbing noises:
There was a murmur among the group of men, made more ominous when Atticus moved back to the bottom front step and the men drew nearer to him.
Atticus is clearly beginning to become slightly worried, and so feels the need to draw back as the men press in on him, which only makes the sound that Scout can hear from them more worrying. Atticus is threfore drawing back at this point out of concern, as it is clear that the crowd is upset with his response and the fact that he will not change his stance towards the case at all.
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