Discuss the irony of the following statement and the situation which it describes (on page 153) of To Kill a Mockingbird.
".....there followed what I later realized was a sickeningly comic aspect of an unfunny situation: the men talked in near-whispers."
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The three children--Jem, Scout and Dill--have stumbled unknowingly into a life or death situation: The group of men confronting Atticus is a lynch mob, determined to take Tom from the jail and hang him. Atticus's life may also be in danger, since he plans to defend Tom alone if necessary. The children understand that something is not right about the situation, but they are clueless about the men's true intent. Despite their drunken state and their lawless decision to commit murder, the lynch mob still has respect for Atticus. When they demand to know if Tom is inside the jail, Atticus warns them that
"... he's asleep. Don't wake him up." (Chapter 15)
Although the men are willing to beat or even kill Atticus in order to get to Tom, they respect him enough to obey his request. The next few minutes are spent in "near-whispers" as the men debate Tom's future while carefully avoiding making enough noise to awaken him. Although it may not have seemed humorous to Scout at that moment, she later recognized the comic irony of the situation as the men moved in upon Atticus, told him about the "snipe hunt" on which they had sent the sheriff, and theatened to overwhelm him--all in whispers so as not to awaken the man they planned to kill.
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