In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does the mob episode foreshadow about the nightmare ahead?  Include in your answer Atticus’s way of handling the men.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The arrival of the lynch mob signifies just how strongly people feel about the crime of which Tom is accused. Tom's death is only prevented by Atticus's brave stand in front of the jail and the timely arrival of the children. Atticus commands the mob's respect from the beginning: They address him as "Mr. Finch" and even drop their tones to a whisper when Atticus warns them that Tom is sleeping-- "Don't wake him up." The men leave with a "considerable respect for the Finches." Atticus has already predicted the outcome of the trial: He knows that "the jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'," and his only hope is that "we'll have a reasonable chance on appeal." The lynch mob's actions seem to foreshadow the actions of the jury: The lynch mob does not seek justice for Tom, nor does the jury; they refuse to accept the facts of the case and, instead, find him guilty and sentence him to death. One of the human mockingbirds of the story, Tom decides he cannot be caged and is riddled with bullets as he tries to take flight from prison.

Atticus's expectations of a successful appeal may well have been fulfilled had Tom been more patient. Atticus seems to be in control throughout the trial until he runs up against the predetermined jury verdict. Atticus coaxes important information from Sheriff Tate; shows that Mayella's injuries could only be caused by a left-handed man; determines that Bob is left-handed; "rained questions" on Mayella, causing her to contradict her own statements; and allows Tom to tell the true side of the story. Atticus manages to convince at least one member of the jury--one of the same Cunninghams who had tried to lynch Tom--to consider acquittal, and he believes that "If we'd had two of that crowd, we'd've had a hung jury."

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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