In the jail scene in Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the positive result in a negative place?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Thanks to the "polite" small talk made by Scout with Walter Cunningham Sr., humanity wins out over animal mentality at the jail that night. Tom Robinson survives the night, and the would-be lynch mob returns home without having fulfilled the murder they had planned. Atticus heroically stands by Tom, and the gang from Old Sarum--who had come to hurt or even kill Atticus if necessary--instead pay their respect to him: first, by obeying Atticus's command to speak softly so as not to awaken Tom; and then by sheepishly walking away after Scout's appeal to their human side. Jem gains new respect in the eyes of his father, and his disobedience probably saves Atticus from injury and Tom from death. Unbeknownst to the entire group of men outside the jail, B. B. Underwood silently watches over the scene with his jug of cherry wine and a loaded shotgun: Underwood is not forced into gunplay, and no one is shot or hurt. It is not until the next morning that "The full meaning of the night's events hit" Scout: Atticus suggests that she step into Mr. Cunningham's shoes before explaining that

"... it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses... That proves something--that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human..."  (Atticus, Chapter 15)


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