In Chapter 16, why does Scout cry after returning home from the jail?To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
When Scout, Jem and Dill approached Atticus at the jail as he was confronting the lynch mob, the children didn't fully understand the seriousness of the situation. They were expecting to present Atticus "a fine surprise" with their sudden appearance but, instead, "a flash of plain fear was going out of his eyes." Jem seemed to comprehend that Atticus was in trouble, and he refused to budge. When one of the men grabbed Jem by the collar, Scout responded with a kick, intended "for the shin, but aimed too high." Scout was simply responding to her brother being manhandled, and after order was restored, she still did not understand why the men had come. So, she began a conversation with Mr. Cunningham as if the men had gathered to socialize with Atticus.
Scout began crying after climbing into bed and nearly falling asleep. It suddenly hit her. "The full meaning of the night's events hit me and I began crying." Only then did she realize that Atticus' life had been in danger. She was thankful that "Jem was awfully nice about it" and didn't remind her that she was too old to be crying.
In Scout's words, "The full meaning of the night's events hit me and I began crying." As she lies in her bed and reflects upon the events of the evening, most disturbing events, Scout realizes the danger in which her Father was placed, only now comprehending the look in Atticus's eyes. She does not understand the attitude of the townspeople who feel that a white man should only represent a Negro in the most perfunctory manner. When they learn that Attiucus intends to do his best and bring out the truth, the men march to the jail to threaten Atticus, with "the smell of whiskey and stale pigpen" upon them. Those strangers into the midst of whom Scout has jumped, she reflects, were not the men she has seen previously.
Scout's weeps for her loss of innocence, the threats on her father, whom she loves dearly, and for the evil in the hearts of men, men that she has thought she recognized. Hers was a most traumatic experience.