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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How Does Scout Stop The Mob

How does Scout Finch influence the mob in To Kill a Mockingbird?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch influences the mob by making Mr. Cunningham stand in Atticus's shoes and sympathize with his predicament. Scout's presence reminds Mr. Cunningham that he is also a father and influences him to exercise humanity. After listening to Scout talk about his entailment and Walter Jr., Mr. Cunningham considers the situation from Atticus's perspective and instructs the mob to disperse.

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Scout is able to influence Walter Cunningham to disband the lynch mob when she connects with him on a personal level by discussing his son and entailment. Shortly after entering the circle and kicking a man for grabbing Jem, Scout sees Walter Cunningham among the group and casually asks how his entailment is "gettin' along." She has no idea Walter Cunningham is a serious threat and under the influence of mob mentality. Scout is simply being polite and trying to follow her father's advice by talking "to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in."

Unfortunately, Walter Cunningham ignores Scout and looks away when she speaks. Sensing that Walter Cunningham is not interested in discussing his entailment, Scout attempts to talk about his son. Since Walter's son is her classmate and has even had dinner at her house, Scout feels comfortable talking about him. Scout mentions Walter's son by saying,

He's a good boy ... a real nice boy. We brought him home for dinner one time. Maybe he told you about me, I beat him up one time but he was real nice about it. Tell him hey for me, won’t you?

While Scout continues to casually speak to Walter Cunningham about his son and entailment, she notices the look of fascination on Atticus's face and the group of men with their mouths half-open. She is totally unaware of the situation she has entered and confused as to why Walter Cunningham will not respond to her. Finally, Walter bends down and responds to Scout by saying,

I'll tell him you said hey, little lady.

Once the mob leaves, Atticus leans against the jailhouse with his face to the wall. Scout was able to influence Walter Cunningham to have sympathy for her father and think as an individual. As Atticus explains in chapter 16, every mob is made up of individuals, who act differently when they are around others. Listening to Scout made Walter Cunningham realize he was threatening a personal friend. Walter Cunningham has a history with Atticus and Scout reminded him that the Finches support his family. Later that evening, Scout realizes the "full meaning of the night's events" and begins to cry in bed.

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In chapter 15, Scout lets her curiosity get the best of her and runs out into the middle of the lynch mob without understanding the gravity of the situation. As Scout stands among the group of strangers, she begins to feel embarrassed and wonders why Atticus has a look of fear "going out of his eyes." Scout then recognizes Mr. Cunningham and tries to start a polite conversation with him. She begins the one-sided conversation by asking Mr. Cunningham about his entailment and even brings up his son, Walter Jr., who is in her class. Scout is completely naïve to the entire situation and does not realize that Mr. Cunningham and the mob intend to lynch Tom Robinson. She also does not understand that the mob is willing to harm Atticus and anyone preventing them from getting to Tom.

Eventually, Mr. Cunningham acknowledges Scout by bending down and assuring her that he will tell Walter Jr. she said "hey." Mr. Cunningham then instructs the mob to clear out and Atticus is relieved that they survived the dangerous encounter. Scout's presence was enough to make Mr. Cunningham stand in Atticus's shoes and sympathize with his predicament. Mr. Cunningham is also a father and understood what Atticus was going through at the moment. Scout made him recognize that he was placing Atticus in a challenging, dangerous position, which influenced him to break up the mob. In the following chapter, Atticus explains to his children that Mr. Cunningham was influenced by mob mentality and says, "You children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough."

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Scout manages to nearly singlehandedly turn back the carloads of men who have come to lynch Tom Robinson. Scout is unaware of the lynch mob's true intentions, instead thinking that Atticus "would have a fine surprise" by the children's sudden appearance, but Scout soon sees that the men are not Atticus's friends who had visited him earlier in their front yard. Atticus's

... face killed my joy. A flash of plain fear was going out of his eyes... (Chapter 15)

The mob is bent on murder, and Atticus's life is also in jeopardy since he has no plans to allow them to take his client from his jail cell. Atticus now fears for the children's safety as well, but the clueless Scout is busy trying to be sociable, remembering some suggestions Atticus has previously imparted upon her. She takes a step backward when she kicks one of the men in the groin--"I intended to kick his shin, but aimed too high"--but she quickly makes amends when she seeks out a friendly face in the unfriendly crowd. She finds one in Mr. Cunningham, with whom she attempts some small talk, remembering that

     Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.  (Chapter 15

Scout's innocent talk about Mr. Cunningham's entailments and his son, Walter Jr., soon embarrasses not only the leader of the mob but the other men as well: "... some had their mouths half-open," and "Their attention amounted to fascination." Scout is now sweating but she also sees that Cunningham's "face was equally impassive." When he "squatted down and took me by both shoulders," it is to assure the "little lady" that he will say "hey" to his son for her, not to harm her. As Atticus recounts the next morning,

"... it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses...  (Chapter 16)

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