Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are two significant quotes in Chapter 15 of To Kill A Mockingbird?

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There are a few significant quotes in Chapter 15 of To Kill A Mockingbird. Most have to do with the high-stakes meeting between Atticus, the kids, and the lynch mob, or with Atticus's reasoning for defending Tom Robinson One significant quote comes when Scout asks Mr. Cunningham about his entailment and breaks the group's tension. Another comes when Atticus talks to Mr. Link Deas about his reasons for defending Tom Robinson.

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Chapter 15 of Harper Lee's novel brings a significant turning point in the reader's understanding of the high stakes involved in Tom Robinson's imprisonment and trial. Jem, being older, is more attuned than Scout is to the potential danger that their father faces for defending Robinson. Neither child seems aware, however, that Tom is not safe in jail. He is likely to become a victim of vigilantism. Their lack of knowledge about his danger may be because there have been no lynchings in and around Maycomb. Alternatively, Atticus may have shielded his children from learning of race-based murders.

When Atticus goes out one night, the Finch children and Dill are intrigued by his absence and go looking for him. Finding him outside the jail, they see a group of men approach Atticus and engage him in conversation. Still not understanding the men's intention but expecting to see a fight, Scout calls out and runs up to them. Shocked to see fear in her father's eyes, Scout is further upset when one of the men grabs Jem. After yelling at and kicking the man, she surveys the "" Spotting the father of her classmate Walter, Scout greets him and, getting no response, elaborates.

Hey, Mr. Cunningham. How's your entailment getting along?

Scout's precociousness, normally off-putting to adults, breaks the tension. Walter's father finally acknowledges her, and breaks up the group.

After they leave, Robinson speaks to Atticus from inside the jail. Atticus assures him that he is, at least temporarily, safe. He tells Robinson that

They won't bother you any more.

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In chapter 15, Jem demonstrates his developing maturity. Scout mentions that her brother no longer engages with Dill and her in some of their activities. Additionally, Jem also seems to be more observant of the adult world and the interactions of his father with his sister, Alexandra.

After Scout overhears her father arguing with Aunt Alexandra, she seeks Jem in his room where he seems to be very pensive. Since she has heard her father arguing with Aunt Alexandra, she asks Jem about their confrontations.

 “Have they been at it?” I asked. 
“Sort of. She won’t let him alone about Tom Robinson. She almost said Atticus was disgracin‘ the family. Scout. . . I’m scared.”
“Scared’a what?”
“Scared about Atticus. Somebody might hurt him.”

Jem's anxiety for his father demonstrates his maturity, a maturity that later proves to be valuable. That evening, Atticus departs, saying that he will be gone for a while and everyone will probably be in bed when he returns. Later, Scout hears Jem stirring in his room. She asks Jem what he is doing, and when he tells her that he is going to look for Atticus, Scout insists upon accompanying him. Before they go downtown, they wake up Dill, and he eagerly goes along. The three children seek Atticus at his office in the bank building, but he is not there. Instead, he sits in a chair, propped against the jailhouse door. The cord and light that Atticus took with him are overhead as he reads his newspaper. Jem tells Scout and Dill that they can leave; he has just wanted to know where Atticus was. However, at that moment, the children hear cars pulling in near them. They run around and hide where they are out of sight. When Scout overhears her father talking with the men, he uses a phrase that he often says when playing checkers. Scout does not realize the danger, and she races to see her father. Jem hurries after her; Atticus tells Jem to go home and take Scout with him. 

Jem shook his head. As Atticus’s fists went to his hips, so did Jem’s, and as they faced each other I could see little resemblance between them: Jem’s soft brown hair and eyes, his oval face and snug-fitting ears were our mother’s, contrasting oddly with Atticus’s graying black hair and square-cut features, but they were somehow alike. Mutual defiance made them alike.

Significantly, Jem defies his father for the first time. Jem does so because he does not want Atticus to be alone as he faces the mob. Certainly, Scout cannot help but notice the maturation of her brother.

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In the beginning of Chapter 15, Heck Tate and some community members drive to the Finch household to speak with Atticus. They begin discussing whether or not the Tom Robinson trial should get a change of venue, when Mr. Link Deas makes the comment to Atticus, "You've got everything to lose from this, Atticus, I mean everything." (Lee 195) Atticus responds with the significant quote,

"Link, that boy might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told." (Lee 195)

This quote explains Atticus' reasoning for defending Tom Robinson. Atticus is aware of the fact that he will lose this case because of the overwhelming prejudice of the Maycomb community, but he must preserve justice by exposing the truth. Atticus' goal in the Tom Robinson case is simply to reveal the truth to the community.

Towards the end of Chapter 15, the Old Sarum bunch has Atticus surrounded in front of Tom Robinson's jail cell. Scout surprises everyone when she runs into the middle of the mob, unaware of the precarious situation at hand. Scout seeks out a familiar face in Mr. Cunningham and attempts to make friendly conversation with him. Mr. Cunningham tries to ignore Scout after she tells him to say "hey" to his son Walter, and goes into detail about his entailment. He eventually gives Scout his attention and says,

"I'll tell him you said hey, little lady." (Lee 206)

After Mr. Cunningham acknowledges Scout, he tells the group of men to head out. This significant quote is the "ice-breaker" which ends the intense scene. Scout's innocent conversation makes Mr. Cunningham reflect on his actions, and his comment to Scout confirms that he made a noble decision.

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