In chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird, why did Atticus need the extension cord? How did Scout help disperse the crowd?
In chapter 15, Atticus travels to the Maycomb jailhouse at night to sit outside of Tom Robinson's cell as a precaution to prevent anyone from harming Tom before the trial. Atticus needs an extension cord with a light bulb attached to one end so he can read his newspaper in the dark while waiting outside of Tom's cell.
When the Old Sarum bunch arrives and attempts to lynch Tom Robinson, Atticus refuses to move out of their way. Scout, who has been watching from across the street, is curious and ends up running into the middle of the group of men. As Scout searches for a familiar face, she spots Walter Cunningham and attempts to have a conversation with him. She begins by talking about his entailment, then mentions that she goes to school with his son, Walter Jr.
Eventually, Walter Cunningham is able to view the situation from Atticus's perspective and acknowledges Scout. Walter then instructs the men to leave the jailhouse without harming anyone. Scout's presence helps Walter Cunningham, the leader of the Old Sarum bunch, sympathize with Atticus, who is in a difficult situation.
Atticus needs the extension cord so he can take the lamp to the front of the jail and read while he’s sitting in the chair. It’s not just because he needs the light to see to read, but he wants more to be seen by the people in the town. He wants them to know that he is there guarding Tom Robinson, not with a gun, but with a book and his presence. The people respect Atticus, even though he’s taken on the job of defending Tom.
When the men come to take Tom from the jail, they are still respectful in their approach to Atticus, but they are determined to get Tom. It’s only when Scout shows up and starts to talk to them individually that they are shamed by her innocence and the questions she asks about their families. They leave the jail: they’re attempt at kidnapping and hanging Tom thwarted by the shame they feel from being confronted by the innocent questions of a child, not by any threat of violence.
Atticus sets himself up in front of the jail, a fantastical structure which some people say looks like a Victorian bathroom,reading by the light of the light bulb and extension flex he went off with earlier.
When the group of men assemble to threaten Atticus, Scout scans the men for a familiar face, and finally recognizes Mr. Cunningham.She addresses Mr. Cunningham and asks him about his entailment, but he doesn't answer. Scout keeps talking to Mr. Cunningham, and tells him that she goes to school with Walter, and to say hi to him for her.
Scout is remembering past advice from Atticus that it is polite to talk about what other people are interested in, until finally the silence starts to trouble her. Finally Cunningham squats down and tells Scout that he will give Walter her message, and then tells the other men that they're going to leave, which they do.