Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What upsets Jem and Scout most about Atticus defending Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

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

Jem and Scout are mostly just curious about their father's defense of Tom Robinson in Part One of To Kill a Mockingbird. But as the trial approaches, they begin to worry for their father's safety. When a group of men meet in Atticus's front yard just days before the trial is supposed to begin, Jem assumes it is a "gang" out to harm him.

"They were after you, weren't they?" Jem went to him. "They wanted to get you, didn't they?"

They were only Atticus's friends and supporters, but Jem later tells Scout that he's scared.

"Scared'a what?"
"Scared about Atticus. Somebody might hurt him."

The children knew something was amiss when Atticus suddenly left the house late one Sunday evening. When the children followed him, they found him confronted by a group of men in front of the jail. It was the next day when Scout realized that Atticus's life had been in danger from the lynch mob that had planned to take Tom from the jail.

The full meaning of the night's events hit me and I began crying.

Jem told Atticus that Mr. Cunningham would "have killed you last night when he first went there." But Atticus tried to calm his kids, assuring them that although it was a mob, it was "made up of people you know...," and that his life was never really in danger. After the trial, however, they will discover that there is another man who has a reason to harm Atticus--and his children.

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