In To Kill a Mockingbird, what force of innocence ends up being more powerful than that of violence?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One specific example of the power of innocence to overcome violence is Scout's encounter with Mr. Cunningham and the lynch mob in front of the jail where Atticus stands guard over Tom Robinson. It is a frightening scene. The group of men, some of whom have been drinking, confront Atticus, demanding that he stand aside and allow them to take Tom out of the jail in order to kill him. The night is dark, illuminated by a street light and a lamp Atticus has set up on the porch in front of the jail. The men's faces appear in shadows, their hats pulled down over their faces.

Into this scene Scout suddenly appears, innocently unaware of the dangerous circumstances. At one point, one of the mob puts his hands on Jem, roughing him up, an indication of the violence than can easily erupt. The degree of danger is emphasized by the fear Atticus feels, not for his own safety but for the safety of his children, as well as that of Tom Robinson.

Violence is averted, however, by Scout's innocence and her kindness. When she recognizes Walter Cunningham, she draws him into a conversation, one that reminds Cunningham of his own identity: He is not part of a mindless mob, but a man Atticus has treated well and the father of a good little boy. Scout's innocence of evil overcomes the violence that would have occurred.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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