Just as Atticus promised, things settle down in October. Three things happen, however: first, Mr. Ewell gets a job with the WPA, but they fire him within days. Second, while Judge Taylor is home one Sunday night while his wife is at church, he hears an odd scratching noise. He sees a shadow disappearing and his screen door cut open. Third, Mr. Deas makes a job for Helen Robinson in his store. However, when Helen uses the main road to reach her job, Mr. Ewell taunts her. When Mr. Deas finds out, he threatens Mr. Ewell, but the next morning, Mr. Ewell tails Helen to work and whispers foully at her. One more stern conversation with Mr. Deas makes Mr. Ewell stop.
Mr. Ewell’s behavior shows that Maycomb isn’t the safe place Scout once thought it was, as Mr. Ewell is clearly out for revenge. His willingness to harass Helen Robinson in particular shows that Mr. Ewell is willing to pick on vulnerable individuals in order to make himself feel powerful and in charge. Mr. Deas’s defense of Helen, meanwhile, reminds Scout again that there are still people in Maycomb willing to do the hard thing and stand up for what’s right.
This makes Aunt Alexandra nervous, and she doesn’t understand why Mr. Ewell is behaving this way when he won in court. Atticus points out that nobody really believed him or Mayella, and nobody thinks he’s a hero like he wanted. He says that Judge Taylor made him look like a fool and treated him contemptuously.
Atticus’s admission that nobody believed Mr. Ewell and Mayella reminds the reader that Tom was convicted simply because of racism and nothing else—and in Maycomb, acting as Judge Taylor did puts Taylor at risk, given the intensity of people’s prejudice.
Things return to normal at school. Maycomb seems back to itself, though people remove pro-National Recovery Act stickers and, following last year’s Halloween prank on two sisters in which local children hid all their furniture in their cellar (the only one in town), Maycomb decides to put on a carnival. Mrs. Merriweather composes a pageant about Maycomb County’s agricultural products and casts Scout to play the part of a ham. The local seamstress makes Scout a costume out of chicken wire, which looks great but isn’t something Scout can take on and off herself. She assumes that everyone will come, but Aunt Alexandra and Atticus refuse. Scout shows off her costume and Jem takes her to school.
While relatively benign in the grand scheme of the novel, notice that the children play this prank on the sisters simply because they don’t fit the mold and have a cellar when nobody else does. In this sense, the children are still targeting those who are different and creating pressure for them to conform, even if in this case, it’s more humorous and lighthearted. Regardless, at its core this is the same kind of thinking that led the jury to convict Tom Robinson.