In Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, describe the layout of the courthouse. What is significant about where Jem and Scout sit?

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Scout describes the layout of Maycomb's courthouse in chapter 16 as she enters it with Jem and Dill on the day of Tom Robinson's trial. The courtroom is on the second floor of the building, but there are two levels to it. White people sit on the main floor while black people are only allowed to sit in the balcony. Due to the large crowd, the main floor fills up, and the kids decide to sit with Reverend Sykes in the balcony. Sitting with the African American crowd actually helps to camouflage the children from being seen by Atticus for most of the proceedings. Furthermore, the view from the balcony gives Scout the ability to see the complete layout of the courtroom. Scout describes the courtroom as follows:

"The Colored balcony ran along three walls of the courtroom like a second-story veranda, and from it we could see everything . . . The jury sat to the left, under long windows . . . 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 . . . Judge Taylor was on the bench" (164).

The fact that whites and blacks were not allowed to sit amongst each other is significant to the prejudices of the time. Mingling between races was social suicide unless a black person was working for whites. Since segregation was the status quo at that time, today's readers hopefully read this scene and appreciate the fact that there have been significant social changes in America since the 1930s, and that segregation is frowned upon and unlawful today. 

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