What are some positives and negatives in such chapters as 15 through 31 in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 15 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is warned by Sheriff Heck Tate and a group of other men that the Cunninghams of Old Sarum are threatening to form a lynch mob. Hence, one negative is that Atticus is placed in the position of needing to defend Tom Robinson's life so that Robinson can make it to his trial. Due to racial prejudices, Atticus knows that Robinson's chances of being given a fair trial are extremely slim, yet Robinson's chances of receiving a fair trial are nonexistent if Robinson is killed before his trial. Therefore, Atticus knows that the only way to preserve justice is to defend Robinson's life.

When the sheriff and other men gather outside the Finch house to talk to Atticus, Jem begins to worry about his father's safety. As a result of worry, Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak out of the house to find Atticus and see what he is up to the night Atticus leaves to protect Robinson. One positive in the chapter is that Scout, unwittingly, behaves bravely and breaks up the lynch mob by reminding Walter Cunningham of his humanity. She reminds him of his humanity by asking him to say "hey" to his son Walter Cunningham Jr., who is in her class at school, and asking him, "How's your entailment getting along?" She further reminds him that Atticus once told Mr. Cunningham he and Mr. Cunningham would "ride [his entailment] out together," thereby reminding Mr. Cunningham of Atticus's goodness and how much respect Mr. Cunningham has for Atticus. As soon as Scout reminds Mr. Cunningham of these things, Mr. Cunningham tells the mob members to clear out, breaking up the mob.

Multiple negatives and positives can also be seen in Chapter 16. One negative is that Aunt Alexandra reveals she holds racist views when she tells Atticus not to say things like "Braxton Underwood despises Negroes" right in front of Calpurnia, because Aunt Alexandra feels that reminding "Negroes" of hatred and social injustices only "encourages them" to protest. The positive is that Atticus rebukes Aunt Alexandra's racist views by calling Calpurnia a member of the family and saying, "Anything fit to say at the table's fit to say in front of Calpurnia." He further rebukes Aunt Alexandra's racist views by saying that if they didn't give the African Americans so much to rebel against then maybe "they'd be quiet."

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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