Why does Jem say the phone is ringing when it is not in Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 15 of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Mr. Heck Tate knocks on the door of the Finch house.  As Scout observes,

In Maycomb, grown men stood ouside in the front yard for only two reasons:  death and politics.

However, they are present for another reason:  they are uneasy about Tom Robinson who is in the jailhouse and the "Old Sarum bunch" who threaten to come to the jail, according to Mr. Link Deas.  Mr. Deas also says to Atticus,

'--don't see why you touched it in the first place....You've got everything to lose from this, Atticus.  I mean everything.'

'Do you really think so?'

This was Atticus's dangerous question, Scout narrates, whenever he challenges someone's judgment.  This question is met with an ominous murmur in the crowd and the men move in closer to Atticus.  To diffuse the tension, Jem screams, "Atticus, the telephone's ringing!"  When Jem breaks the tension with this cry, the men start and move away.

'Well, answer it son," called Atticus.

The men laugh; they again see Atticus as one of them, and they depart:  "they were people we saw everyday." 

This scene, while innocuous, foreshadows the a truly increasing danger to Atticus as he sits at the jail, alone, and tries to protect Tom Robinson from the mob.  In this scene, Scout diffuses a clearly tense situation.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just a few days before the Tom Robinson trial was set to begin, a group of men congregated in Atticus' front yard. When Atticus told Jem to invite them in, he replied that they wanted Atticus to come outside and talk with them.

    In Maycomb, grown men stood outside in the front yard for only two reasons: death and politics. I wondered who had died.

As Jem watched the group grow closer to Atticus and the talk become more serious, it appeared to the boy that Atticus was in trouble. So,

    Suddenly Jem screamed, "Atticus! The telephone's ringing!"
    The men jumped a little and scattered; they were people we saw every day: merchants, in-town farmers; Dr. Reynolds was there; so was Mr. Avery.
    "Well, answer it son," called Atticus.
    Laughter broke them up...

Jem had overheard talk about the trial and Atticus "having everything to lose," and mistook Atticus' group of friends for a gang of men who wanted to do the attorney harm. Jem used the ruse of a telephone call to bring Atticus inside to the safety of the house. Atticus gently explained that they were concerned neighbors and not to worry about such things.

sammorris898 | Student

A few men gather around outside asking to see Atticus. When men in Maycomb gather outside it could only mean death or politics. Atticus goes outside and consultes with the men about the Tom Robinson case. Mr. Deas is wondering why Atticus is doing this case, so he says to Atticus, "don't see why you touched it in the first place... You've got everything to lose from this, Atticus.  I mean everything." Atticus responds, "Do you really think so?" This question brought tension to the men, so Jem yell, "Atticus! the telephone's ringing!" Jem asks this question to calm the men down, so nothing would happen to Atticus.

zh21 | Student

Just before Tom Robinsons trial was set to begin, a group of men gathered in Atticus's front yard and they wanted him to come outside and talk with them. As soon as the group started gettin closer to atticus, Jem yealled that the phone was ringing and to get it so he could get his father out of trouble.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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