The story begins at the end. We do not know how Jem breaks his arm until the very close of the story, though it is mentioned casually here. The narrator, as yet unidentified, in discussing with Jem how this happened, finds a starting point in the past: Dillâs arrival and âthe idea of making Boo Radley come out.â There is a reference to the history of the south (the southern states of the USA), the Finchesâ origins in England, and their arrival in Alabama. Atticus Finch is related to nearly everyone in Maycomb.Order now
The summer heat is described, plus an echo of President Rooseveltâs recent inauguration speech, delivered in March 1933. He famously said: âthe only thing we have to fear is fear itself.â Much of the book is about âfear.â
The family is looked after by Calpurnia, a very strict cook/nurse. The mother died before our narrator could remember her.
The arrival of Dill, when the children are 6 and nearly 10, marks the real start of the story. We now learn that the narrator is a girl, Jemâs younger sister known as Scout. Dill is staying with his aunt and provides new ideas for games for the children. When he hears about the reclusive Radley family, whose mysterious house is nearby, containing (it is thought) Arthur âBooâ Radley, who has barely been seen for 15 years, Dill finds the challenge irresistible. Jem is rather frightened but doesnât want to show it.
We learn about the sad history of the Radley family, and though all Jem does is slap their wall, there is âa tiny, almost invisible movement.â First contact!
Dill goes home and Scout goes to school for the first time. The new teacher finds Scoutâs mature reading skills irritating. Some of the children are so poor they have no shoes or food. This is the first mention of the Cunningham family.
Scout fights Walter Cunningham, but Jem breaks it up and Walter is invited to lunch at the Finches. Scout draws attention to his lack of table manners and is told off by Calpurnia. Atticus reminds Scout how much they depend on their cook. Back at school Miss Fisher, the teacher, is horrified to see a head louse on the scalp of Burris Ewell â the first mention of this family. Burrisâ verbal abuse of Miss Fisher foreshadows the behaviour of the Ewells later in the story. Scout has not enjoyed her first day. Atticus explains that she must compromise: âyou never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.â From such empathy will come tolerance, he argues.
Scout finds chewing gum in a tree near the Radley house. Itâs the second summer of the story. They find more âgiftsâ in the tree. Jem begins to guess these are connected with Boo. With Dillâs arrival they play more games. Scout is pushed inside a tyre and finds herself at the foot of the Radley house. She does not tell them that she hears laughter inside the house, and that sheâs sure Boo is there. They play the âRadley gameâ, enacting episodes from Booâs life. Atticus is not pleased by this.
Scout talks to Miss Maudie Atkinson, a neighbour and old friend of Atticus. She shares similar beliefs, rejecting the strict Bible interpretations of some of Maycombâs residents. She describes the Radleys as living in âa sad houseâ, implying that if Boo is âcrazy,â his family has made him that way.
The children try to put a message through Booâs window. Atticus warns them to âstop tormenting that man.â
Essays for Chapters 1-5
From your reading of chapters 1 and 2 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what impressions have you formed of the novel’s setting?
How successful is Harper Lee in establishing character & themes at the start of to kill a mockingbird?
The children come closer to Boo than ever. In darkness they see him as a shadow: âIts arm came out from its side, dropped, and was still.â This gesture of Boo will not be completed until the very last chapter of the book.
A shotgun blast interrupts their adventure. The elder Mr Radley fired at a ânegroâ-highlighting the casual racism of many of Maycombâs white inhabitants. Even the children use the word âniggerâ. Jem has lost his trousers on Booâs fence. He horrifies Scout by going back in the dark to fetch them.
Jem tells Scout that when he located his trousers, âTheyâd been sewed up. Not like a lady sewed âem…Like somebody was readinâ my mind.â They find more gifts from Boo, this time two small soap statues of the children. Jem has realised the truth but Scout, four years younger, doesnât…yet. They find that the older Mr Radley has filled up the hole in the tree with cement â cutting off Booâs channel of communication with the children âreminding us what Miss Maudie said of the family.
It snows in Maycomb, for the first time since 1885! Scout thinks âthe worldâs ending.â They make a snowman. In the night temperatures drop further. People keep their wood fires burning and Miss Maudieâs house catches alight. The children stand by the Radley place, watching. Scout discovers she has been draped with a blanket for warmth, and it was Boo who put it round her! In the excitement Jem blurts out to Atticus what heâs discovered about Boo: â…ainât ever hurt us.â Miss Maudieâs values are shown by her indifference to the fate of her house.
Tom Robinson is mentioned for the first time. Scout is persecuted at school because her father is defending âniggersâ. Atticus, knowing the children are in for a hard time, explains to Scout that if he didnât defend Tom, âI couldnât hold up my head in town.â Scout restrains herself at school but finds it impossible not to retaliate on her cousin Francis, when they visit Atticusâs sister for Christmas. Scout shows her maturity by insisting that her uncle Jack keep quiet about the causes of the fight. She does not want to put more pressure on her father. She overhears Atticus discussing the Tom Robinson case. He knows he canât win. Itâs âa black manâs word against the Ewellsâ…I intend to jar the jury a bit.â Many years later Scout realises that Atticus meant her to hear this.
Because he wonât play âtouch footballâ the children think their father is dull. They learn why he wonât play when a rabid dog appears in the street. Everybody locks themselves away until the sheriff appears. He is a professional, but he asks Atticus to take the shot. The children are astonished to learn that their father is a crack-shot: âOne-Shot Finch.â They canât understand why their father has never drawn attention to this skill, which they could boast about at school. Miss Maudie explains that shooting was too easy for him and âPeople in their right minds never take pride in their talents.â Jem appreciates this.
The children are terrified of an old woman â Mrs Dubose. She is rumoured to keep a C.S.A. pistol under her shawl. C.S.A. stands for Confederate States of America- the slave-owning side in the American Civil War. She harasses the children about their father âlawing for niggers!â Atticus tells them they should respect her because she is old and ill, and Scout admires this bravery in her father. On the day of his 12th birthday Jemâs patience snaps, particularly as Mrs Dubose refers to their mother, whose memory Jem cherishes. He smashes all the flowers in her garden. Atticus orders him to go and apologise. He explains again to Scout why he must take the Tom Robinson case, however unpopular it makes him.
Jem returns from Mrs Dubose and his punishment is to read to her every day after school. Scout, out of loyalty, goes with him. Mrs Dubose is physically repellent and they donât understand why they seem to read to her for longer and longer each day, until her clock alarm goes off. The punishment ends and some weeks later Mrs Dubose dies. Atticus explains to them that they had helped cure her morphine addiction: âHer whole mind and body were concentrated on that alarm clock.â He had wanted them to see âwhat real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.â
Chapters 6-11 Essays
What important lessons do the children learn in Part I of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’?
How does Harper Lee build up tension throughout the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’?
Jem is 12 now; Calpurnia calls him Mister Jem. Another summer, but no Dill â his mother has re-married. Atticus, who is an elected Maycomb official, has to be away at the state capital for two weeks, leaving the children with Calpurnia. She takes them to her church, normally only attended by black people, which was bought âfrom the first earnings of freed slaves.â The children are amazed at the service. Only Zeebo (Calpurniaâs son) can read, and âvoices followed him in simple harmony.â The congregation, despite their poverty, collect all they can for Tom Robinsonâs wife, and the Reverend tells the children that âthis church has no better friend than your daddy.â For the first time they hear that Tom is accused of raping a white girl.
This is the first glimpse weâve had of Maycombâs black community, through the eyes of children who donât share âMaycombâs usual diseaseâ of racial prejudice.
Returning home, they are dismayed to discover Aunt Alexandra in their house â and not for a short stay. Her view of the familyâs history conflicts with the stories Atticus has told them about some of their ancestors. They fear her influence over their father, but the chapter ends with Scout reassured.
The children hear mutterings in town about their fatherâs defence of Tom Robinson. Their aunt forbids them to go to Calpurniaâs church again and this leads to an argument with Atticus. They find Dill under Scoutâs bed: he has run away from home: â…they just wasnât interested in me,â he says of his parents. This shows his similarity to Boo Radley.
Scoutâs observation, âa nightmare was upon us,â marks the central phase of the novel, revolving around the trial of Tom Robinson. The children are nervous and when Atticus is late home they go to look for him. Atticus is sitting outside the town jail, guarding its only prisoner â Tom Robinson. The people of Maycomb have come, to lynch Tom . When he sees the children Atticus is very frightened. Scout, innocently recognises one of the mob (a Cunningham) as a parent of a school friend, which saves the day by reminding the men that they, like Tom, are parents too.
Atticus sees this as a triumph of empathy (see Ch. 3). He says, âa mobâs made up of people, no matter what. Mr Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man.â It took an 8 year old to bring them to their senses which â…proves something âthat a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because theyâre still human.â This philosophy will be tested as the book goes on.
People from out of town begin to arrive for the trial. Miss Maudie remarks, âitâs like a Roman carnival.â A matter of life and death is entertainment for many. The children discuss the racial attitudes common in the southern states, and they hear their father being talked about. Many are appalled that Atticus actually âaims to defend this nigger.â The courtroom is segregated and the children find themselves sat in the âColoured balcony.â
Essays on Chapters 12-16
Discuss Harper Lee’s portrayal of the black community in To Kill A Mockingbird
Analysis of Pg 138- 140 (To Kill A Mockingbird)
The trial begins. Itâs immediately obvious that Tom has no case to answer because there was never a medical examination of the alleged victim, Mayella Ewell, to determine if sheâd been raped. The sheriff, Heck Tate, knows that a mistake was made. Atticus also proves that she was more likely to have been beaten by a left-handed person. When Mr Ewell (named Robert E. Lee Ewell after a Confederate general) takes the stand, he expects his story to be believed and does not anticipate a cross-examination. Atticus shows the jury that Mr Ewell is left-handed.
The next witness is Mayella, the supposed victim. After she has recounted her story, Atticus paints a picture of her to the jury as a hapless, exploited member of the Ewell clan, often beaten by her drunken father. When we see that Tom Robinson has a crippled left arm, Mayellaâs whole testimony is questioned, and she refuses to answer any longer, bursting into tears.
Tom himself takes the stand. His story is very different to the previous two witnesses. Scout sees a connection between Mayella and Boo, a young woman so lonely that she tried to tempt a black man, who had been kind to her. Tomâs testimony also reveals that Mayella was probably sexually abused by her own father. Dill is so sickened by the prosecutorâs questioning of Tom that Scout has to take him out of the courtroom.
Outside the court we meet Dolphus Raymond, a man who pretends to be a drunkard to make it easier for people to accept that he lives with a black woman! Back at the trial Atticus is summing up. He unbuttons his jacket and waistcoat to speak to them man-to-man- the jury are all men, and all white. He asserts that Mayella made up the rape accusation to cover her own âunspeakableâ sin, of being attracted to a black man. He pleads with them to show that âin our courts all men are created equal,â echoing the words of the American Constitution.
Chapter Twenty One
Calpurnia interrupts the trial looking for the children who arenât supposed to be there. We are aware that the whole trial will be over in just a day. Jem is convinced that Tom will be found not guilty, but Rev. Sykes says: âI ainât ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man.â Sure enough when the jury returns they find Tom guilty. As Atticus leaves the court, those in the black balcony rise, as a mark of respect for all heâs done.
Essays about Chapters 17-21
What insights into life in the southern state of America were suggested by the arrest, trial and death of Tom Robinson?
Explore how Harper Lee presents the theme of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Chapter Twenty Two
Next morning Atticus discovers huge amounts of food left for him by the black community. He is moved to tears, knowing how little they have. Miss Maudie tells the children there are also white people who are on Tomâs side. She calls it âa baby-step,â in the right direction, reminding us that when Harper Lee wrote the novel, the Civil Rights movement in America was just becoming prominent. When Bob Ewell spits in Atticusâs face we realise the story is far from over.
Chapter Twenty Three
Rape is a capital offence in Alabama. Unless thereâs a successful appeal, Tom will be executed in the electric chair. Atticus prophesies that âitâs all adding up and one of these days weâre going to have to pay the bill.â he takes some comfort from the fact that one of the jurors was doubtful of Tomâs guilt, even though he had been in the lynch mob the day before. Jem reminds us of Boo Radley, whoâs been absent from the story for some time. He suggests that Boo prefers to be shut away from such a cruel world.
Chapter Twenty Four
Aunt Alexandraâs missionary circle assemble at Scoutâs house. She struggles with their conception of what it means to be feminine. The good ladies of Maycomb cannot see the hypocrisy of their attitude to the black people suffering under their noses, while they give money for missions in Africa. Reality intrudes when Atticus tells them that Tom Robinson has been shot dead. He says: âI guess Tom was tired of white menâs chances and preferred to take his own.â
Chapter Twenty Five
Tomâs wife, Helen, faints when she hears the news. The local paperâs write that it was âa sin to kill cripples…â They likened Tomâs death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds â reminding us of the novelâs title, and âMr Ewell said it made one down and two more to go.â
Chapters 22-25 Essays
Chapter 23 analysis of ‘To kill a mockingbird’.
Discuss the importance of Boo Radley in relation to the themes and plot of the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
Chapter Twenty Six
Another autumn, another school year. The children recall their fascination with Boo. We are reminded of racism elsewhere, when a school talk mentions Hitler, whoâs been in power in Germany for two years. Scout points out the hypocrisy of Miss Gates, the teacher who proclaims the virtues of democracy, while saying âthey were gettinâ way above themselves.â
Chapter Twenty Seven
There are signs that Bob Ewell, despite Tomâs death, is not satisfied. He follows Helen Robinson, âcrooning foul words.â Atticus underestimates the threat – a near fatal error. Itâs Halloween â when ghosts traditionally appear. Scout goes to the school fete, dressed as a ham! Only Jem accompanies her.
Chapter Twenty Eight
Because of her costume Scout can barely see. She falls asleep, misses her cue and is too embarrassed to leave with everyone else. Jem leads her back in the dark. He soon realises theyâre being followed. Someone attacks them with a knife and Jemâs arm is broken (see Ch. 1). Scout realises that someone else has saved them and carried the unconscious Jem to the house. The sheriff tells them Bob Ewell is dead âstabbed âwith a kitchen knife.â Scout does not recognise the âcountryman…standing in a corner.â
Chapter Twenty Nine
Atticus assumes Jem has stabbed Bob Ewell. Scoutâs costume saved her. The sheriff, Heck Tate, takes a dimmer, more realistic view of human nature than Atticus. When Scout tells her story, she realises that the stranger who saved them is the person she has been wanting to see all this time but has failed to recognise âBoo Radley.
The sheriff, knowing Booâs mental state, is determined, despite Atticusâs objection, to pretend Ewellâs death was an accident, thus evening up the score. âThereâs a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time.â Scout understands. She says âitâd be sort of like shootinâ a mocking-bird, wouldnât it?â
Chapter Thirty One
Scout takes Boo to see the sleeping Jem, and, touching his hair, Boo completes the gesture he began in Chapter 6. She takes Boo home and, realising he will always be a damaged person, knows that she will never see him again. Scoutâs mind runs images from the story: the childrenâs games, the shooting of the dog, the trial. She sees these events from Booâs house, standing in his shoes, as Atticus recommended. She sees herself, Jem and Dill as Booâs children. The book ends, as Atticus reads to the sleepy Scout, with an image of security.