To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In Chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Maycomb's turnout for the trial imply about human nature?  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 16, the entire town of Maycomb shows up to watch the Tom Robinson trial. Citizens from surrounding communities also arrive to witness the spectacle. Everyone from religious fanatics to community outcasts arrive at Maycomb's courthouse to witness a trial that involves sex, race, and violence.

Given the fact that Tom Robinson is a black man accused of assaulting and raping a white woman, the crowd knows that Tom will be found guilty and more than likely lose his life. Miss Maudie compares the masses traveling to watch the trial to a "Roman carnival" and refuses to attend because she believes it is "morbid" to watch a poor man on trial for his life. Interestingly, Maudie's assessment is an accurate comment on human nature. Humans are seemingly attracted to grotesque, morbid spectacles and experience of a sense of excitement and intrigue by watching disturbing things. Overall, the massive turnout for the trial casts a negative perception on human nature by implying that individuals are inherently attracted to grotesque spectacles. 

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The fictional setting of To Kill a Mockingbird, Maycomb is a sleepy little town with few entertainment possibilities for its citizens. A high-profile rape trial would have probably drawn a decent crowd to the courthouse under any circumstances, but this trial was different: An African-American man accused of raping a white woman was bound to be a hot topic. Not only did the townspeople attend, but the trial also drew people from the surrounding towns and rural areas. It was a natural reaction. (Public hangings were still lawful in some states during the 1930s, and they were known to draw huge crowds.) Like passersby who can't resist gawking at a traffic accident, the Tom Robinson trial was irresistible to most people living in the vicinity of Maycomb.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In my opinion, what this says about human nature is that we are sort of drawn to the gruesome things in life.  It's like people slowing down to check out a nasty car crash on the freeway.

In Maycomb, the trial of Tom Robinson was going to be sensational for sure.  It had everything that reality TV has and more.  It had sex and it had violence, for example.  In addition, it was likely to show someone getting put back in his place and people like to watch revenge taken on people they think are bad.

So it was like an interesting show with sex and violence and race but it was also like a car wreck because people could watch someone on trial for his life and likely to lose.

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