How do Scout and Jem save Atticus in chapter 15 of To Kill to Mockingbird?

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Atticus goes to the Maycomb Jail at night to sit out front and guard Tom Robinson, who has been transferred there, from being lynched. Jem and Scout are worried, and with Dill, they go to the jail, arriving just as cars filled with the men who have come to lynch Tom pull up.

The scene is tense as the children burst into the middle of it. Their presence there frightens Atticus, who fears that they will be hurt by the mob. However, the children manage to defuse the situation and help prevent a lynching.

Scout notes that the group of men has been changed so entirely by their mob mentality that they seem like strangers to her. However, when she kicks one who picks up Jem by the collar and threatens him and then engages Mr. Cunningham in conversation, the group starts to revert back to acting like ordinary humans.

Scout tells Mr. Cunningham about his son, Walter, coming over for dinner at her house one night and her beating Walter up once, but there being no hard feelings between them. She says, "Tell him hey for me, won’t you?" She also talks to Mr. Cunningham about his entailments.

Mr. Cunningham suddenly realizes he is threatening the father of a real person, and his buildup of rage begins to defuse. Scout recounts,

He squatted down and took me by both shoulders. “I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady,” he said. Then he straightened up and waved a big paw. “Let’s clear out,” he called. “Let’s get going, boys.”

At this, the men disperse, getting back into their cars and driving off.

Scout's ability to connect with one of the men on a human level diverts a lynching and the violence that would have erupted had the men tried to break into the jail. We find out that not only was Atticus guarding the place, but Mr. Underwood was standing by with his shotgun in the newspaper office nearby. There is no telling who might have gotten hurt had the children not shown up.

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In Chapter 15 of To Kill a MockingbirdJem and Scout come to the aid of their family by diffusing the tensions generated by the Old Sarum group that accosts Atticus.

After Sheriff Heck Tate and business leaders come to the house in order to urge Atticus to obtain a change of venue for the Tom Robinson trial, Jem worries; so he asks his father about them. The next day is Sunday, but Scout and Jem notice that there are people present who usually do not attend. For instance, Mr. Tate is there, and he never goes to church; Mr. Underwood also is present, and he, too, never attends. "Something must have brought Mr. Underwood out," the children think.  

So, when Atticus takes the car and drives to town late that evening, Jem decides to go himself and ascertain if his father is safe. When they near the jailhouse, the children hear their father as he is accosted by men who tell him to move away from the jailhouse door. Atticus does not do so, and he warns the men that Sheriff Tate is there. But one man counters that Tate is in the woods called "off on a snipe hunt." 

At this point, Scout rushes forward, greeting her father, whose face reveals "a flash of plain fear." Jem and Dill advance, and Atticus tells them to go home, but Jem shakes his head. Angered at the treatment of her brother, Scout kicks a man higher than the shin at which she has aimed. Another man growls to Atticus to get the children out of there. But before this happens, Scout sees Mr. Cunningham, and she greets him personally, telling him to say hello to Walter and asking about his entailments.

Suddenly, a change comes over Mr. Cunningham as he remembers how kind Atticus has been to him, and he then considers what he and the others are contemplating as an action. Finally, Mr. Cunningham bends down and tells Scout he will tell Walter that he has seen her. He calls off the other men, "Let's get going, boys."

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In Chapter 15, a group of town men come to the jail in a mob.  Their plan is to go inside, get Tom Robinson, and lynch him.  Atticus is the only one who stands in their way.  At first, it doesn't look good.  The mob is fired up and ready to attack.

However, the kids - Scout, Jem and Dill - step in.  They have gone to the courthouse against orders, and fearing for Atticus, they step out into the crowd.  This surprises the men, but it isn't until Scout mentions Mr. Cunningham by name, and tries to remind him that she goes to school with Walter, that the spell of the mob is broken and they leave.

This scene is intended to show not only the nature of the community, but also the nature of a mob mentality.  People in a group can't always think for themselves.  Individually, most of these men are good men - as a group, however, they are swayed by social attitudes and standards, such as racism.  This is proven by the jury's vote.  Atticus acknowledges that the jury knows that Tom is innocent - but because of social attitudes and tradition, they can't vote against the word of a white man (Bob Ewell).

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