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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why are Jem and Scout worried for Atticus’ safety in Chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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As was mentioned in the previous post, the children hear the story of how Bob Ewell confronted Atticus at the post office, threatened him, and spat in his face. Shortly after the incident, Jem and Scout both begin to worry about their father's safety because they believe that Mr. Ewell is going to hurt Atticus. Atticus begins to notice Jem and Scout moping around, and he finally asks Jem what is bothering him. Jem responds by telling Atticus that they are concerned about his safety. Atticus smiles and tells Jem that he believes Bob Ewell got all the hate out of his system that day at the post office. Aunt Alexandra then walks into the room and contradicts Atticus by mentioning that Bob Ewell is willing to do anything to pay back a grudge. However, Atticus dismisses his sister's concerns by insisting that nobody has a "chance to be furtive in Maycomb." After seeing their father's nonchalant approach towards Bob Ewell, Jem and Scout stop worrying about Atticus's safety.

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As Atticus departed the post office one day, he was confronted by Bob Ewell, who "cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him." Bob then invited Atticus to fight him, calling him a "nigger-lovin' bastard." Atticus declined Bob's invitation, but Jem and Scout were rightfully worried about their father's safety, and they wondered if Atticus should not purchase a gun in order to protect himself. Atticus responded by telling them it was "Nonsense." They decided to "appeal to Atticus's better nature": Scout cried and threw a fit, and they told him they would all starve to death if he were killed, and that Calpurnia would be fired by Aunt Alexandra if he were gone. But Atticus "smiled wryly" and told Jem to try and understand Ewell's position--"to stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute." Atticus assures his family that

"We don't have anything to fear from Bob Ewell, he got it all out of his system this morning."  (Chapter 23

How wrong Atticus proved to be.

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