To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Describe events that show the tension and unrest of the town concerning the Tom Robinson trial in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Scout has already faced criticism from her own schoolmates concerning Atticus's decision to defend Tom. She and Atticus have both been called "nigger-lovers," and sister Alexandra believes Atticus's defense of Tom is " 'ruinin' the family.' " Mrs. Dubose's verbal attacks on Atticus are based on his taking the case, and Alexandra arrives in Maycomb in order to run the house while Atticus is busy with the case. As the trial neared,

... we heard plenty from the town... sometimes hear, "There's his chillun," or "Yonder's some Finches."  (Chapter 14)

But not everyone is upset with Atticus. Jem and Scout are treated with respect when they attend Cal's church with her; the congregation knows that their father has agreed to defend their friend, Tom. On the weekend before the trial, Atticus was met by concerned neighbors who were worried about Atticus's--and Tom's--safety. Sheriff Tate warned Atticus that Tom's move to the local jail might bring problems, and Atticus is forced to stand guard over Tom to protect him from the lynch mob that appeared. Virtually the entire county turns out on the day of the trial.

     It was a gala occasion. There was no room at the public hitching rail for another animal... The courthouse square was covered with picnic parties...  (Chapter 16)

And the children overheard more gossip about Atticus, learning for the first time that he had been appointed by Judge Taylor and that he had not taken the case on his own. For Maycomb, the trial of a white female victim and a black man accused of raping her was (as Miss Maudie had noted) like a "Roman carnival"--an event rarely seen in these parts.

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