Chapter 16 to kill a mockingbird summary and analysis

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To kill a mocking bird
analysis and summary
Chapter 16
Scout cries that night and Jem consoles her. Atticus says that Mr. Underwood
despises black people, but was still willing to defend Atticus. Aunt Alexandra urges
Atticus not to speak like that in front of Calpurnia, but Atticus protests as usual,
claiming fairness and honesty are important. Scout wonders out loud why Mr.
Cunningham wanted to hurt Atticus when he usually is Atticus's friend. Atticus
explains that some people can forget that they are human beings when they
become part of a mob. Clearly moved by the situation, Atticus explains to her that
it took an eight-year-old girl to bring them to their senses.
Tom Robinson's trial begins, and despite warnings from Atticus to stay at home,
Scout, Jem, and Dill go to the courthouse where the locals are all out picnicking in
the park. They notice Mr. Dolphus Raymond drinking liquor from a paper bag and
sitting with the black people. Jem explains that he married a black woman and that
he has "mixed" children. Jem says that these children are "sad" because they don't
feel accepted by black people or by white people - though they can be accepted
in the North. They see one of the mixed children and Scout thinks he looks black.
She asks Jem how to determine whether someone is "mixed" or not and Jem says
that you can't tell by looking, you have to know their history. The Finch family is
all white, but Jem considers that during Biblical times, it is possible some of their
ancestors came from Africa. However, Jem notes that probably doesn't count
because it was so long ago. In Maycomb county, if anyone has a drop of black
blood, society considers them all black.
In the packed courthouse, the children have trouble getting seats until Reverend
Sykes helps them find seats upstairs in the balcony where the black people sit.
Scout observes Judge Taylor, whom she considers to be a rather good, sensible
In Chapter 16, Scout's and Jem's discussion of "mixed" children demonstrates the
irrationality of prejudice. A "mixed" child could look completely black or completely
white, but would still be considered "black" either way. Yet, family history is also a
poor determinant of race, because as Jem points out, the human race probably
originated in Africa or the Middle East, and a drop of black blood makes a person
"black." Therefore, neither image nor family history is infallible. Thus, discrimination
is shown to be even more arbitrary and senseless.
The Finch children again find themselves welcomed and even honored among
blacks when Reverend Sykes invites them to the balcony, and chairs are vacated
in the front row on their behalf.


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