In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus mean when he says, "Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight in one way or another"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a most unfortunate occurrence: Miss Maudie's house catches fire and is razed. When this occurs, there is quite a stir in the community. The greatest problem is that the temperature is a record-breaking sixteen degrees, and no town in southern Alabama would expect such a temperature; normal lows in the winter at night would probably be around forty degrees. Certainly it would be rare to have freezing temperatures. So the fire trucks were ill-equipped for such temperatures and the hoses froze.

Atticus awakens the children and has them bundle up by putting their robes under their coats, giving them strict instructions to walk over to the Radley place and wait there for him in front of the gate. After the fire has consumed Miss Maudie's house, Atticus comes for Jem and Scout and takes them home where he makes some hot chocolate. As he does so, he stares at Scout with curiosity, then with a stern voice, he scolds the children for not staying in place as he had instructed and asks Scout whose blanket is on her shoulders. Neither of the children have noticed. Jem insists that Nathan Radley was helping at the fire, so they do not know who placed this blanket upon Scout.

"That's all right, son," Atticus grinned slowly. "Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight, in one way or another."

Atticus realizes that Boo Radley has placed the blanket upon Scout's shoulders. The shy recluse has stepped outside to protect the children to whom he gave little gifts in the tree hole until Nathan filled it with cement. This passage is significant as it foreshadows a future effort on the part of Boo Radley to protect Scout.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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