How does Reverend Sykes help the children see and hear the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Reverand Sykes allows Scout and Jem to sit in the balcony of the courthouse with the other black people.

Reverend Sykes is the genial preacher at First Purchase, the Negro church in Maycomb.

Reverend Sykes is a dynamic and fierce preacher.  He counts the collection and tells the congregation it’s...

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Reverand Sykes allows Scout and Jem to sit in the balcony of the courthouse with the other black people.

Reverend Sykes is the genial preacher at First Purchase, the Negro church in Maycomb.

Reverend Sykes is a dynamic and fierce preacher.  He counts the collection and tells the congregation it’s not enough for Mrs. Robinson.  Unlike some of the other members of the church, he is happy to have the Finch children visit one Sunday.

"We were 'specially glad to have you all here," said Reverend Sykes.  "This church has no better friend than your daddy." (ch 12)

When the children come to the court house later to watch the trial, Reverand Sykes asks them if they have a seat.  When they don’t, he asks Jem if they can sit in the balcony.

Reverend Sykes edged his way upstairs. In a few moments he was back.

"There's not a seat downstairs. Do you all reckon it'll be all right if you all came to the balcony with me?" (ch 16)

At the point when Bob Ewell’s language gets offensive and they consider clearing the courtroom of women and children, Sykes considers having them leave until Jem explains that Scout does not really understand everything.

When the trial is over, Reverend Sykes helps the children get the perspective of the black community when he tells them to stand.

They were standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes's voice was as distant as Judge Taylor's: "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'." (ch 21)

Through this exchange, we see the trial from the perspective of the whites and the blacks.  We also get to see how respectful the black community is to Atticus, and how important Atticus is to them even when he loses.

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In chapter 16, Reverend Sykes helps the children to see and hear the trial by taking them up to sit in the balcony with him. From the balcony, the children have an excellent view of the courtroom and can "see everything."

Later, in chapter 17, Reverend Sykes seems to regret his decision to help the children see and hear the trial. There is a tremendous noise in the courtroom after Mr. Ewell, from the witness stand, points to Tom Robinson and says, "I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!" At this point, Reverend Sykes says to Jem, "you better take Miss Jean Louise home." Reverend Sykes is described as "anxious" as he asks Jem, "Mr. Finch know you are all here? This ain't fit for Miss Jean Louise or you boys either." Reverend Sykes seems to realize here that he has been perhaps somewhat naive and maybe even irresponsible in helping the children to see and hear the trial from the balcony. From his question to Jem, we might also infer that Reverend Sykes realizes that he should not have helped the children to the balcony without at least first getting the permission of their father.

One might argue that Reverend Sykes was right to help the children. Indeed, it is perhaps good for the children to understand how the judicial system in Maycomb County works, or rather does not work. Witnessing first hand the injustice of the trial and the insidious racism which underpins it arguably makes the children more enlightened and more empathetic. However, one might also argue that Reverend Sykes should have known that the trial would be upsetting and unsuitable for children. The trial is, after all, a rape trial and thus likely to include explicit and violent sexual details, entirely unsuitable for children.

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Reverend Sykes was the kindly pastor of First Purchase, Calpurnia’s church. When Jem and Scout attend a service with Cal, he gives them a warm welcome and treats them kindly.

In this time, many white people in the South considered African Americans ‘second class citizens.’ Whites passed laws to segregate African Americans in many ways: separate bathrooms, water fountains, housing, stores, etc.  In a courthouse, African Americans were not allowed to sit on the main floor. That was reserved for the ‘more important’ white people. African Americans could sit in the balcony, which was not considered a favorable place to sit.

Scout and Jem try to find seats on the main floor in order to watch their father Atticus defend Tom Robinson. But every bit of sitting and standing space is taken.  Reverend Sykes sees that the children have no place to sit, so he invites them to join him on the balcony.

Is he right to do so? This is an opinion question. Looking at this query from a general human kindness standpoint, yes, he is justified.  He is making sure Scout and Jem have seats to watch their father during a trial, which has cost their family a lot of stress. He takes a risk in doing so: white people may say negative things about him for bringing white children into the African-American section of the court, and even some African Americans may say Scout and Jem do not belong there.  But Reverend Sykes is looking beyond the color barrier. He understands the children’s’ feelings and wants them to be able to watch their father. No white person on the main floor offered seats.

 

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It is in Chapter 16 that Reverend Sykes invites the children to sit with him upstairs in the "Colored balcony" because all the seats are taken downstairs where the white people sit. He asks them if they think it would be all right if they came upstairs with him. "Gosh yes," Jem said, very happy to be invited. Once they were upstairs, Scout remembers that "Four Negroes rose and gave us their front-row seats." Reverend Sykes was kind to the children, and they knew and liked him. Atticus was much loved by the African-American community in Maycomb. At the conclusion of the trial, it is Reverend Sykes who tells the children to stand up in respect for their father as he left the courtroom.

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