How do the people assemble in the courtroom in chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maycomb is an ordinary Southern town in Alabama which follows certain segregation rules. That means that blacks and whites do not mix formally, socially, or casually. In the formal setting of a courtroom, for example, the white people sit on the main floor, which has the best visual and auditory conditions. The black people sit high up in the balcony where it is difficult to see and hear the proceedings. Not only that, but the black folks have to wait until all of the white people are seated before they can climb the stairs to the balcony. In an effort to maintain the status quo, some old men won't let anyone pass before they do:

"The Negroes, having waited for the white people to go upstairs, began to come in. 'Whoa now, just a minute,' said a club member, holding up his walking stick. 'Just don't start up them there stairs yet awhile'" (163-164).

Since the main floor is packed, Jem doesn't know what to do but blame Scout for holding them up. Reverend Sykes, seeing their predicament, invites the children to go to the balcony with him. When people see white children coming through, they actually give up their seats so Jem, Scout and Dill can sit down.

"Four Negroes rose and gave us their front-row seats. The Colored balcony ran along three walls of the courtroom like a second-story veranda, and from it we could see everything" (164).

It must have been quite a large courtroom because it seems as if the whole county shows up—it's that crowded. From Scout's view in the balcony, she looks down to see the jury on her left, under some large windows. The rest of the room is as follows:

"The circuit solicitor and another man, Atticus and Tom Robinson sat at tables with their backs to us. . . Just inside the railing that divided the spectators from the court, the witnesses sat on cowhide-bottomed chairs. Their backs were to us" (164).

That is pretty much the lay of the land. Of course the judge sits at his bench, front and center, facing everyone else.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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