How does Harper Lee create tension in chapter 28 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In chapter 28, Jem and Scout are travelling to the pageant at the school. Lee creates suspense a number of ways:

  1. She stages the scene on Halloween night, October 31st.
  2. She uses images of darkness: "There was no moon" (258), "High above us in the darkness a solitary mocker poured" (258), "we turned the corner and I tripped on a root growing in the road" (258).
  3. They talked about scary things... "The street light on the corner cast sharp shadows on the Radley house" (258), "we laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs" (258)
  4. It gets really quiet and then Cecil Jacobs scares them in the beginning of the chapter.

Having symbols, images, dialogue, and events that build suspense in the beginning of the chapter contribute to the significant even that occurs at the end.

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Harper Lee creates tension in the chapter through her use of mood.  First of all, the Halloween Pageant is something out of the ordinary.  For years, children always trick or treated in their neighborhoods until some pranks against Tutti and Frutti Barber causes such a commotion that it is decided that an organized activity would be best.  So, simply by changing tradition, Harper Lee begins to create a mood in the chapter.  She also creates a change of mood earlier in the novel when a sudden snowstorm blankets Maycomb and causes Miss Maudie’s house fire. 

In addition, she has set up a dark, scary mood with shadows, a lone mockingbird calling out in the night, and a moonless sky. Jem and Scout are alone and talking about “haints” (ghosts) right before Cecil Jacobs jumps out of the bushes and scares them.  

After the pageant, Scout is barefoot and vulnerable walking home in her restrictive ham costume, and when Jem hears footsteps rustling behind him, the tension rises until after the death of Bob Ewell. Harper Lee's choice of words in describing the setting as well as foreshadowing the attack of Scout and Jem through Cecil Jacobs and their talk about ghosts creates a tense mood in the chapter.  

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