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Gone was the terror in my mind of stale whiskey and barnyard smells, of sleepy-eyed sullen men, of a husky voice calling in the night, "Mr. Finch? They gone?" Our nightmare had gone with daylight, everything would come out all right. (17.56)
In the controlled, familiar environment of the courtroom, Scout isn't scared, but Tom is as much in danger of his life there as he was that night in jail. What makes her feelings so different? Why does this space seem safe?
"I got somethin' to say an' then I ain't gonna say no more. That nigger yonder took advantage of me an' if you fine fancy gentlemen don't wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards, stinkin' cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don't come to nothin'—your ma'amin' and Miss Mayellerin' don't come to nothin', Mr. Finch-" (18.167)
Why does Mayella choose "cowards" as her threat of choice for the men deciding her case? Especially since it takes more courage to go against the expected outcome and acquit Tom, right? We're guessing Mayella thinks that "coward" is the worst thing you can call a man—and why would she think that? If that's true, then what's the worst thing you can call a woman? Are women supposed to be brave, too?
"You're very candid about this, why did you run so fast?"
"I says I was scared, suh."
"If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?"
"Like I says before, it weren't safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that."
"But you weren't in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?"
"No suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now."
"Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?"
"No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do." (19.141-148)
Tom's experience suggests that African-Americans in Maycomb have a whole additional set of fears to those of the white residents. While Mr. Gilmer is trying to suggest that Tom didn't have any reason to be scared if he wasn't doing anything wrong, the fact that Tom is in court on trial for his shows that his fears were very well-founded. Think this never happens today? Unfortunately, someone coined the term "Driving While Black" for a reason.