How is Scout able to diffuse the situation in front of the jail?

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In chapter 15, Jem, Scout and Dill sneak over to the jail to see what Atticus is up to. When a lynch mob shows up and starts talking to him, Scout hears her father say something that catches her attention: "Do you really think so?" (152). She thinks...

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In chapter 15, Jem, Scout and Dill sneak over to the jail to see what Atticus is up to. When a lynch mob shows up and starts talking to him, Scout hears her father say something that catches her attention: "Do you really think so?" (152). She thinks that "somebody's man would get jumped," so she runs across the square, through the crowd of stinky men, and up to her father to check things out. She says that she thought Atticus would find it a fun surprise to see her there, "but his face killed my joy." 

Scout happens upon this serious situation with a child's heart. She knows that something intense might happen, but she doesn't understand the gravity of the situation that she charges into. Her childlike sense and innocence guides her to take an awkward situation and use it as an opportunity to practice what her Aunt Alexandra has been teaching her to do—be a lady and talk politely. That's exactly what she does as she singles out her classmate's father, Walter Cunningham. She reminds him that he brought her family hickory nuts and that she's friends with his son. She talks about a boy he loves and reminds him of the innocence and sweetness in life.

Finally, after Scout yammers on for a little bit longer about Cunningham's legal entailments, things get more awkward. It isn't until Mr. Cunningham's guard is finally dropped that he says, "I'll tell him you said hey, little lady. . . Let's clear out. . . Let's get going, boys" (154). Atticus later says:

". . . it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses, didn't it? . . . That proves something that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human" (157).

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In chapter 15, Jem, Scout, and Dill set out to find Atticus on the night before the trial and discover him sitting outside of the Maycomb jailhouse reading the newspaper. Suddenly, several cars arrive from the Meridian highway and a group of men surround Atticus. The children watch as Atticus refuses to leave the scene and Scout instinctively ends up running into the middle of the mob when she hears her father asks one of the men, "Do you really think so?" (Lee, 153). Shortly after Scout runs into the group of men, Jem and Dill follow her out of their hiding place and the entire atmosphere changes. Scout, who is oblivious to the dangerous situation she has entered, ends up recognizing Walter Cunningham and attempts to have a casual conversation with him. Walter Cunningham acknowledges Scout's presence and empathizes with Atticus. After briefly speaking to Scout, Mr. Cunningham tells the Old Sarum bunch to go home. Scout unknowingly diffuses the tense situation simply by being present and attempting to politely have a conversation with Mr. Cunningham. Walter empathizes with Atticus as a father, which is why he instructs the mob to disperse without harming anyone.

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In Chapter 15, Jem and the children decide to look for Atticus and end up spotting him sitting outside of the Maycomb jailhouse reading the newspaper. As Jem, Scout, and Dill watch from across the street, the Old Sarum bunch arrives and surrounds Atticus. The children then move closer and hide near Tyndal's Hardware store. Scout listens as Atticus tells Walter to leave and Walter responds by saying that they called Sherriff Tate off on a snipe hunt. After Walter says, "that changes things, doesn't it?," Atticus responds by saying, "Do you really think so?" (Lee 93). Scout cannot contain her curiosity and runs out into the middle of the group of men. Everyone is shocked at Scout's arrival, and Jem slowly follows her out. Scout is unaware of the dangerous situation she has just entered and watches as Atticus tries to get Jem to leave. Scout then looks around at the circle of men and notices Walter Cunningham. Scout attempts to get his attention by talking about his son, Walter Jr., who happens to be in her class. Mr. Cunningham finally acknowledges Scout's presence and says, "I'll tell him you said hey, little lady" (Lee 95). He then turns around and tells the mob to leave. In the next chapter, Atticus explains to the children that Scout made Walter see the error in his judgment. Walter was able to put himself in Atticus' shoes and felt sympathy for the situation he was in.

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Scout and Jem (and Dill) sneak out of the house to find what Atticus was up to because they never see him take the car out, especially at night and with a light.

They find Atticus and some men have driven up to talk with him under Tom Robinson's cell at the jail. Because the kids go up to see Atticus, the purpose the men have in being there is unable to transpire. They wanted to mess with Tom at the very least. Had the kids not shown up who knows what they would have done. These grown men didn't want to fight Atticus in front of children because it is inappropriate to do so. They had at least that many manners. Scout began talking to Mr. Walter Cunningham about his son and essentially befriended Mr Cunningham. Had she not done this, the men would have done something terrible to Atticus and/or Tom. Scout's friendship made the entire situation go away.

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Scout diffuses the situation by talking.

More specifically, she talks directly to Mr. Cunningham, who she recognizes. By talking about his legal business and his son Walter, who is in her grade, and by being polite in general, she brings him back to their shared humanity.

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