To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does the Old Sarum bunch  come to the jail?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write10,181 answers

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In chapter 15, Atticus travels to the Maycomb jailhouse and sits outside of Tom Robinson's cell because he expects that the Old Sarum bunch might attempt to harm Tom the night before the trial. Jem, Dill, and Scout follow Atticus and watch him silently read a newspaper outside of the jailhouse until the Old Sarum bunch arrives. The Old Sarum bunch eventually shows up to the Maycomb jailhouse and attempts to lynch Tom Robinson.

Fortunately, Atticus stands in their way, and the children overhear them explain to Atticus how they called Sheriff Tate off on a snipe hunt. When Atticus refuses to move out of their way, Scout runs out from her hiding place into the circle of men. Atticus and the men are shocked when the children enter the scene, and Scout attempts to have a conversation with Walter Cunningham. Fortunately, Walter Cunningham sympathizes with Atticus's difficult situation and tells the mob to leave without harming anyone.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I assume that you are talking about the episode in Chapter 15 when the mob of men comes to the jail.  If that is what you are asking about, then the answer is that they come to the jail to lynch Tom Robinson.  That means that they have come to kill him so that they do not have to take their chances with a trial.  They want to take revenge on him themselves and they do not want to risk having him be acquitted in a jury trial.

They do not end up killing Tom largely because Scout defuses their anger by talking to Mr. Cunningham.

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mkcapen1 | Student

In the South back in the days of the Tom Robinson trial it was not uncommon for justice to be taken into the hands of an angry mob resulting in the hanging of a poor black man or boy.  There was also very little consequences placed on the persons who would commit such a crime.  The mob that gathered at the jail had this intention when they first arrived.

Atticus was well aware that the people would probably behave in this manner and that was why he was at the jail that night.  Since the sheriff was not able to be there someone had to protect Tom from the mob.  In the end, it was Scout's words that dismantled the mob.