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In Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a group of men visit Atticus Finch at night on a Saturday, expressing their discomfiture with Tom Robinson's being kept in the Maycomb jail. Tension increases as they question Atticus's taking on the defense of Tom; to break this tension, Jem calls to Atticus when their phone rings. But, Atticus calmly tells him to answer it.
On the next day, Jem and Scout follow Atticus to the jail and find him sitting before the door with long electrical cord and a light on the end of it. Seeing a large group of men moving toward their father, the children make their own presence known by stepping forward. One burly man tells them to go home, and he yanks Jem off his feet. Angered by this treatment of her brother, Scout kicks him; the man falls back in pain as Scout's aim for the shins went a little too high.
When Atticus tells Jem to go home, the boy refuses. Scout wonders why he has spoken so to their father; she looks around and finds Mr. Cunningham in the crowd of men with upturned collars and jackets on a summer's night. She speaks to Mr. Cunningham, but he ignores her greeting. Persistent, Scout repeats, "Hey, Mr. Cunningham. How's your entailment gettin' along?" At this query, Mr. Cunningham blinks and seems uncomfortable. Scout tries to explain,
"Don't you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I'm Jean Louise Finch. You grought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?....I go to school with Walter...He's your boy, ain't he? Ain't he, sir?"
Mr. Cunningham's nod is an acknowledgement, so Scout continues and nervously wonders "what idiocy I had committed" [indirect quote] until Mr. Cunningham touches Scout and informs her he will tell Walter that she says 'hello.' By speaking to Mr. Cunningham, Scout displays her bravery in contrast to the cowardliness of the mob. Singling out Mr. Cunningham reminds him of his ties to the Finch family and what he owes Atticus. Thus, he becomes ashamed of himself, and tells the others to "clear out." In her ingenuous loyalty to her father, Scout has bravely defused a very tense situation.
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