To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After quietly sneaking into the house and going to bed, Scout realizes what happened. She remembers Atticus preparing to shoot Tim Johnson and begins to sob. Jem comforts her. The next morning, Aunt Alexandra insists that children who sneak out are disgraces. Atticus notes that Mr. Underwood is a known racist; he’s surprised that Mr. Underwood was protecting him. Calpurnia serves Aunt Alexandra coffee and agrees to give Scout a tablespoon of coffee in milk. When Calpurnia leaves, Aunt Alexandra scolds Atticus for talking about Mr. Underwood in front of Calpurnia, since all the black people in town talk. Atticus acidly says that they might be quiet if they didn’t have so much to talk about.
The recognition that Mr. Underwood did what he knows is right, even if he’s a racist and doesn’t agree with what Atticus is doing in defending Tom Robinson, continues to offer hope that Maycomb isn’t entirely racist and hysterical over this. There are some who believe that even a black person like Tom should get their chance at a fair trial, even if they likely believe that Tom has no business expecting to win. Atticus’s response to Aunt Alexandra suggests that it’s the fault of the racists in town that the black population talks amongst themselves—they have every reason to do so to stay safe.
Themes
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Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Scout says that she thought Mr. Cunningham was their friend. Atticus says that he is. Mr. Cunningham, he insists, has blind spots, and he notes that mobs are made up of people. He says that it took a child to bring them to their senses and that this is proof that “a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human.” Scout declares that she’s going to beat Walter up on the first day of school, which Atticus forbids. He leaves for work and tells Atticus and Scout to stay home. Dill arrives and announces that a rumor is flying that they held off 100 people, but Aunt Alexandra gives him a withering stare. The children go outside to watch what seems like the entire county head for the courthouse. They hear the Baptists tell Miss Maudie she’s going to hell for her flowers.
Atticus makes the case that it’s possible to respect and see the good in someone, even if they have obvious and dangerous flaws. This also why he continually tells Scout that they’re fighting their friends, as that’s a concise way of telling Scout that everyone has differences, but that’s no reason to stop being kind and welcoming to their friends and neighbors. The Baptists’ treatment of Miss Maudie demonstrates the opposite of this, showing how ridiculous prejudice and self-righteousness can be.
Themes
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Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Scout, Dill, and Jem go across the street to see if Miss Maudie is going to court to watch. She isn’t. Miss Stephanie Crawford announces that she’s headed downtown, and Miss Maudie jokes to the children that given Miss Stephanie’s wealth of knowledge, Atticus might ask her to testify. After lunch, the children go downtown. The square is crowded with people eating lunch. They watch Mr. Dolphus Raymond sitting with the black people and watch him drink out of a paper bag—he has whiskey in a Coca-Cola bottle in it, and he sits with the black people because he’s in a relationship with a black woman and has several “mixed children.” Jem says that Mr. Raymond is from an old family and was supposed to marry a white woman, but she committed suicide.
Miss Maudie’s jab at Miss Stephanie situates her once again as one of Maycomb’s moral compasses, as she’s well aware of how Miss Stephanie contributes to horrible rumors, and in all likelihood, to the heightened racist sentiment of the moment. The way that Scout describes Mr. Raymond reminds her again that Maycomb isn’t made up of all upstanding citizens: there are men like Mr. Raymond who break all manner of social codes, which turns them into outcasts whom everyone else looks down on.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Scout asks what a mixed child is. Jem says they’re half black, half white, and don’t fit in anywhere. Mr. Raymond sent two up north. A happy black child skips by. Jem says that he’s one of Mr. Raymond’s. Scout can’t tell and asks how they know that they’re not black too. Jem says that according to Uncle Jack, they don’t know, but they may have come from Ethiopia during the Old Testament times. Jem says that once a person has a drop of black blood, they’re black. Suddenly, people begin to rise and enter the courthouse. The children wait until everyone else is inside before entering.
Jem alludes here to the science that shows that all humans, millions of years ago, came out of Africa. This, Uncle Jack seems to suggest, makes the case that humans from different parts of the world or with different skin colors aren’t all that different from each other. Rather, categorizing people by race is arbitrary and only serves to alienate people, such as Mr. Raymond’s biracial children.
Themes
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Related Quotes
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Scout gets separated in the crowd and finds herself in the middle of the Idlers’ Club, which is made up of idle old men who are regular court spectators. The men snigger that Atticus does nothing but read, and one notes that the court appointed Atticus to defend Tom. Another says disapprovingly that Atticus is taking it seriously. This is new, confusing information for Scout, since it seems they don’t like Atticus for doing his job. By the time Jem finds Scout, there’s no more room. Reverend Sykes invites the children to sit in the balcony with the black people. Scout surveys the room. Judge Taylor, as usual, looks to be asleep. Scout hopes she can watch him eat a cigar as Mr. Tate takes the stand.
As far as Scout is concerned, there’s no reason why Atticus wouldn’t do his job to the best of his ability, since this is what’s proper and right. The Idlers’ Club, however, proposes that it’s not okay for a white lawyer like Atticus to make a genuine case for the innocence of a black person like Tom Robinson, thereby betraying their racism. That Scout can’t quite figure out how they can come to this conclusion amplifies both her sense of trust in Atticus, as well as highlights her youth and naïveté.
Themes
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Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon