Describe how the Maycomb people act at the courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird when they arrive to view the trial of Tom Robinson.

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This occurs during chapter 16. The whole town shows up for the trial as if it is the most important social event of the decade. Scout describes it as this:


It was a gala occasion. There was no room at the public hitching rail for another animal, mules and wagons were parked under every available tree. The courthouse square was covered with picnic parties sitting on newspapers, washing down biscuit and syrup with warm milk from fruit jars. Some people were gnawing on cold chicken and cold fried pork chops. The more affluent chased their food with drugstore Coca-Cola in bulb-shaped soda glasses. Greasy-faced children popped-the-whip through the crowd, and babies lunched at their mothers’ breasts.

This quote proves that folks had come prepared for a long day. The only reason to pack in food and bring the little children must be the fact that everyone was there and planned to be there for a long time. The people are sitting in anticipation and awaiting the opportunity to get good seats in the courthouse. It is as if they were waiting for a popular concert to begin.

I think it is also important to notice that the white folks and black folks did separate themselves and Scout as narrator points this out as she spends time describing the black folks in a separate paragraph:


In a far corner of the square, the Negroes sat quietly in the sun, dining on sardines, crackers, and the more vivid flavors of Nehi Cola. Mr. Dolphus Raymond sat with them.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 16, people from all over the county gather outside of the courthouse before the trial. As the children are standing in their front yard, Jem comments on the Mennonites, who traveled from deep in the woods to come into town to watch the trial. Scout mentions that the ladies wore their finest dresses and bonnets as they went into town, and Miss Maudie mentions that the droves of people heading to the trial resemble a "Roman carnival."

After dinner, the children head downtown, and Scout describes the scene as a "gala occasion." Animals, mules, and wagons are parked underneath every available tree, and the entire community is sitting outside of the courthouse eating food like they are at a picnic. The citizens casually enjoy their food and talk to each other like they are at a typical social event.

Scout also notices that Dolphus Raymond is congregating with the Negroes, who are sitting together in the far corner of the square. Overall, the entire community shows up to watch Atticus defend Tom Robinson. The fact that people travel from far distances and are willing to spend the day at the courthouse emphasizes the importance of the trial. When the children enter the courthouse, it is so packed with spectators that they are forced to sit in the balcony section with the Negroes.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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