When the vigilantes show up to take Tom Robinson from jail most certainly to lynch him, the presence and behavior of the children defuse the situation in Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird. How...

When the vigilantes show up to take Tom Robinson from jail most certainly to lynch him, the presence and behavior of the children defuse the situation in Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird. How are the children at least partially responsible for saving Tom Robinson from being lynched that night? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout's friendly overtures toward Mr. Cunningham touch his conscience, reminding him of the kindnesses that Atticus has extended to him in accepting potatoes and other produce in payment for his legal services. Therefore, he reconsiders his intentions at the jailhouse.

When Scout arrives at the jailhouse along with Jem, she searches the crowd of men with shirts buttoned up to the collars and hats pulled down over their ears. After a few moments, she finds Mr. Cunningham; however, when she speaks to him he does not respond. But, when Scout asks, "How's your entailment gettin' along?" he blinks and seems discomfited by her words as he looks away. When Scout reminds him that she attends school with Walter, Mr. Cunningham is "moved to a faint nod." In her naiveté, Scout continues discussing entailments and the entire aggregation stares at her agape. Nevertheless, Scout proceeds although she feels the tension so much that she begins to perspire. Finally, Mr. Cunningham bends down and takes her by the shoulders as he says, "I'll tell him you said hey, little lady." Then, he stands and waves the others on, "Let's clear out. Let's get going, boys."

Clearly, Scout has moved Mr. Cunningham, who is a man of integrity despite his rather rough ways and biases. For, he cannot in good conscience allow the mob to threaten Atticus, who has treated him with fairness and charity. So, he reciprocates and pulls his "boys" away from a situation in which Atticus could be harmed.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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