To Kill A Mockingbird Analysis of Part 3 (Chapters 15 - 21)
Again, Scout's innocent perspective makes the reader unaware of the possible violence outside the Maycomb jail in chapter 16. The men who come that evening are a mob with the intention of killing Tom Robinson. Atticus was staying outside the jail with the hope of disarming the situation. When Scout and the boys arrive on the scene, they don't truly comprehend what is happening. Scout does not understand these men intend to kill Tom before he can even go to trial. It is the children's presence that disrupts the mob and eventually causes them to leave. The children make the men awkwardly aware of their cowardice and shame.
When Mayella Ewell takes the stand, she calls into question the character of the white men in the courtroom. The fact that her word is not automatically taken over the word of a black man causes her to lash out and accuse the men of not being true gentlemen. Given the age-old code of Southern chivalry, this is a piercing accusation, and one that wins the case. The true Southern gentlemen is always supposed to defend the character of a white woman. Despite the certainty of most of the people in the courtroom, Tom Robinson will go to jail for this crime no matter what the facts present. A fear resides in Maycomb, and the South of this era, to render any other verdict. Old habits of racism and false nobility, like the code of the Southern gentleman, die very hard. It is seen as a victory that the jury took so long to deliberate. Atticus knew from the beginning he could never win this case, but that perhaps he could cause the town to reflect on their notions of race and justice. In this regard, the trial was a success.