Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

In chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird, why does the group of men come to talk to Atticus on his front porch?

Quick answer:

Sheriff Tate and others come to warn Atticus that Tom Robinson has been moved to the Maycomb County jail for his trial on Monday. Much of the community is upset about the crime Tom is (wrongfully) accused of committing. The group visiting Atticus fears that members of the community such as the Cunninghams and the Old Sarum bunch will cause trouble or harm Tom on Sunday.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The men who show up in chapter 15 to speak with Atticus are concerned members of the community who do not want to have a lynching or anything crazy happen on the night before the Tom Robinson trial. Tom Robinson, Atticus's African American client, is being moved to the Maycomb jail in preparation for the trial on Monday. The night that the men show up to speak with Atticus is Saturday. The men fear that the Old Sarum bunch, the Cunninghams, will try something crazy Sunday night, and they want to know what Atticus can do about it. Someone suggests a change of venue, but it's too late for that. Atticus doesn't believe that the Cunninghams would do anything because he says, "They don't usually drink on Sunday, they go to church most of the day" (145).

Just in case something does happen, though, they come up with a plan that is proactive, yet not offensive enough to rile anyone up to cause a ruckus. Therefore, the meeting in front of the Finch home in chapter 15 is peaceful, but the men who show up are concerned about any possible trouble that might start because of the highly publicized trial coming up. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When sheriff Tate and the other men come to Atticus's house to talk to him, Scout thinks someone may have died. She thinks that grown men only talked in groups about business or death. She was unaware of the real reason behind the visit. Atticus has agreed to take the case of Tom Robinson, the black man accused of raping a white girl. In a town like Maycomb, this is a big disgrace. The people of the town do not think that Atticus should take the case, but Atticus being the kind of man that he is, takes the case. Sheriff Tate has come to the house to warn Atticus that Tom is being moved to the county jail in Maycomb, and the townspeople are not happy about it. He wants Atticus to know that there may be trouble at the jail when Tom arrives.

Jem and Scout are learning many lessons throughout the time of the trial. They see the ugliness that comes with racism and how their neighbors and friends really feel about their father taking the case. Jem is so afraid that the men are there to harm Atticus that he makes an excuse for his father to come inside, but his father can see the ploy. Atticus is in no danger at the moment.

Harper Lee gives us a look inside a small southern town, and we, like Scout, are shocked by some people. We learn what kind of man Atticus is, and we know that there are good people out there. Atticus knows that some people in town will try to start something at the jail, so he goes and sits outside of the jail to protect Tom. Sheriff Tate and other friends of Atticus look up to him and come to warn him that he may be in danger. With this simple act, we see how respected and loved Atticus Finch is. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jem knew that something was up when he answered the front door one evening and it was Sheriff Tate asking for Atticus to come out in the yard. There were other men there, and Scout knew that

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

No one had died, but the men were there to tell Atticus that danger may be around the corner. Although the people gathered were all Atticus''s friends--including Link Deas, Dr. Reynolds, and Mr. Avery--Jem suspected that it was a gang that had come to harm his father. When

     Suddenly Jem screamed, "Atticus, the telephone's ringing!"
     The men jumped a little and scattered...
     "Well, answer it, son," called Atticus.
     Laughter broke them up.

The children soon discovered that the men had not come to harm Atticus, but to warn him that Tom Robinson was being moved "to the county jail tomorrow," and that there may be trouble. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial