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Miss Maudie is appalled by the carnival atmosphere surrounding the trial, and although she understands that the proceedings must be held in public, she herself wants no part of it. She tells Scout, "'t's morbid, watching a poor devil on trial for his life...look at all those folks, it's like a Roman carnival...just because it's public, I don't have to go, do I?" The mood indeed is almost festive, at least on the part of the white poplulation. The trial is described as "a gala occasion", and the courthouse square is crowded with picnickers and children playing, while the Negro population sits by quietly in a group at a far corner of the area.
In the midst of all the hubbub, Scout learns that Atticus has been appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson. The fact that he takes his assignment very seriously and is striving to do his best to provide a strong defense shows his integrity as a person, even while it angers the populace, who can conceive of no other outcome than that Robinson, because of his race, be declared guilty (Chapter 16).
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