In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, why are so many people passing by the Finch house?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter fifteen of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch spends the evening sitting outside the jailhouse. It is the night before Tom Robinson's trial, and a gang of Cunninghams has come to cause some trouble. The children, unaware of the potential danger, visit Atticus and inadvertently diffuse a riot.

Chapter sixteen begins the next morning, and everyone in town has heard about last night's incident. (Of course, the gossip does not have every detail correct--or even very close to correct.) It is the morning of the trial, and the Finches, including Aunt Alexandra, are calmly eating breakfast. Atticus gets up from the table and simply says that he does not want his children to go downtown today; then he leaves for the courthouse.

After he leaves, Jem and Scout go to the front porch. 

It was like Saturday. People from the south end of the county passed our house in a leisurely but steady stream.

Soon Dill joins them, and Scout says, "as the county went by us," Dill would tell humorous stories about each one--all made up, of course. At one point, a "wagonload of unusually stern-faced citizens appeared" and gave Miss Maudie "stern looks." (These were the foot-washin' Baptists, of course.)

Everyone else is going to town, so it is unlikely that these three children are going to obey Atticus and stay home. After lunch, when Atticus returns to the courtroom, they sneak away to town, adding three to the long procession which had passed earlier.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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