What were some of Atticus' emotions (and why) after the event between Scout and Mr. Cunningham at the Maycomb Jail in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite facing two carloads of men bent on taking Tom Robinson from the jail for a lynching, Atticus was as cool as a cucumber--until his children arrived on the scene. Scout got there first, breaking away from Jem as she

... pushed my way through dark smelly bodies and burst into the circle of light.
     I thought he would have a fine surprise, but his face killed my joy. A flash of plain fear was going out of his eyes, but returned when Jem and Dill wriggled into the light.

Atticus had still been sitting confidently in his chair, but now he got up,

... moving slowly, like an old man... (His) lingering fingers... were trembling a little.

Atticus's demands that the children leave were fruitless, and Scout soon was deep in innocent conversation with Mr. Cunningham, Walter's father. Cunningham was so moved by Scout's kind words about his entailment and her friendship with his son that he soon ordered his men to leave, much to Atticus's relief.

... Atticus had gone to the jail and was leaning against it with his face to the wall... he produced a handkerchief, gave his face a going-over and blew his nose violently.

Atticus had probably been crying, but he didn't allow his children to see it. When he headed home with the children as Dill faithfully carried his chair,

... Atticus reached out and massaged Jem's hair, his one gesture of affection.

The next morning, the news was all over town how, according to Dill,

"... we held off a hundred folks with out bare hands."

But Atticus downplayed the confrontation--mostly to calm the angry Aunt Alexandra--although he admitted that the lynch mob may "have hurt me a little." But he understood who the real hero was.

     "So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses, didn't it?"

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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