Why is the courthouse separated the way it is in To Kill A Mockingbird? What does the structure of the courthouse suggest?

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Scout describes the courthouse in chapter 16 as the county heads towards it on the morning of the Tom Robinson trial. She explains a little bit of the building's history by mentioning that the original courthouse burned down in 1856. The concrete pillars were all that remained, so they built a new one around them. She goes on to say that it looks Victorian from the north side, but "Greek revival columns clashed with a big nineteenth-century clock tower housing a rusty unreliable instrument" (162).

The description then shifts inwards as one would take in order to reach the courtroom which is on the second floor. She catalogs all of the tax collectors and county clerks offices one must pass before entering the main floor of the courtroom. Then Scout describes the courtroom's structure as follows:

"There we went up a covered staircase and waited at the door. . . The Colored balcony ran along three walls of the courtroom like a second-story veranda, and from it we could see everything.

"The Jury sat to the left, under long windows. . . Just inside the railing that divided the spectators from the court, the witnesses sat on cowhide-bottomed chairs. Their backs were to us" (164).

The picture that Scout paints for the inside structure of the courtroom is objective in nature, but it points out that African Americans must sit in the balcony and White people sit on the main floor. Clearly, the set up shows discrimination, prejudice, and segregation. It also shows how African Americans treated white people. For example, three people in the balcony gave up their seats for Jem, Scout, and Dill. The African Americans even waited to enter the courtroom until after all of the White people entered the main floor. This gives the reader a glimpse into the South's status quo; that is to say, what they were all expected to do to keep the peace and exist together, they did. On the day of the trial, everyone acted according to the expectations of their society, which was segregation.

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