Why are there so many different people passing the Finch household in Chapter 16? Are they all going for the same reason?

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poetrymfa's profile pic

poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Chapter Sixteen of To Kill a Mockingbird features the events of the first day of Tom Robinson's trial for the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell. Jem and Scout stand on the front porch as they watch people passing their house from the southern part of the county, all of them on their way to watch the court proceedings (even if they're pretending otherwise!).

Jem and Scout see Mr. Dolphus Raymond ride by on his horse, a group of Mennonites who live deep in the woods pass in their wagon, Mr. X Billups waving as he rides by on his mule, and other prominent figures, including Mr. Tensaw Jones (a Prohibition supporter), Miss Emily Davis (who secretly dips snuff), Mr. Byron Waller (who plays the violin), and Mr. Jake Slade (who has fake teeth).

With a violent crime at its forefront and a stellar practitioner of rhetoric (Mr. Finch himself) defending the accused, the trial has become an all-out spectacle in Maycomb.

ralee's profile pic

ralee | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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If you're referring to the first day of Tom Robinson's trial, the people passing by the Finch home are on their way to town. The "parade'' of passersby leads into town where there is a carnival-like atmosphere with food and mingling and buzzing about the upcoming trial. In contrast, the Black families are somber and realize the magnitude of this event.

Others who pass the Finch home, also headed into town, want a look at the home of the man who would dare to defend a Black man.

And still others head into town for what Harper Lee calls morbid curiosity. I compare it to people today who pass by a car crash - the bloodier the better - or who hunger for news regarding a murder or missing person. In other words, we feed on others' misery.

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