Study Guide

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

Overview

To Kill a Mockingbird

Summary of the Novel
Two plots run through the book To Kill a Mockingbird. The first is the mystery of the Radley Place and its inhabitant Boo Radley. The children work throughout the first part of the novel to bring him out or to see him inside the house.

The second plot is that of the accusation of Thomas Robinson as a rapist, his trial, and his conviction. Even though Tom is convicted, Mr. Robert Ewell and Mayella are not believed; Robert Ewell is determined to seek revenge on Atticus.

When Bob Ewell seeks to kill Jem and Scout, Boo Radley hears the commotion and manages to kill Ewell before he can harm the children further. The sheriff refuses to tell the story of Boo Radley to the community; he protects him and his privacy.

Estimated Reading Time

The total reading time for the 281-page book should be about 9 1/2 hours. Reading the book according to the natural chapter breaks is the best approach.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Scout Finch, almost six years old, her brother Jem, four years older, and their little friend Dill (Charles Baker Harris), a visitor to Maycomb, Alabama, spend their summer thinking of ways to lure Boo Radley from his house. The children never have seen the recluse, but a few townspeople saw him some years ago when Boo reportedly stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, was locked up for a time, and then was returned to his family. No one in Maycomb has seen him since.

Challenged by Dill, Jem, although fearful he will be killed by Boo—who “dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch” —runs and touches the Radley house. The children flee home and look back to see what appears to be an inside shutter move.

In the fall, Scout enters school and gets into trouble in class because she can already read and out of class for fighting with boys. During the year, she and Jem find children’s treasures in a knothole in an oak tree on the Radley place. Before they can put a thank-you note in the tree for the unknown benefactor, Nathan Radley, Boo’s brother, fills the knothole with cement.

The next summer Dill returns. Rolling inside a runaway tire, Scout slams into the Radley porch. She hears laughing inside as she recovers and runs. The three children play Boo Radley games until stopped by Jem and Scout’s father, Atticus.

The last night of Dill’s visit, the three try to look in a window of the Radley home. Jem raises his head to look in, and the children see a shadow coming toward them. They run and a shotgun roars. Jem catches his pants on a wire fence and has to leave them there. After Nathan tells the neighbors he fired at an intruder, Jem goes back for his pants and finds them not only mended but also neatly folded over the fence.

The next winter it snows in Maycomb, and Scout and Jem make their first snowman. During the cold snap, the house of a neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, burns down. Back home after shivering from the cold with the other onlookers, Scout discovers a blanket placed around her shoulders. The only adult in town not at the fire is Boo Radley. Jem tells his father of the treasures in the tree and about his mended pants, fixed by the strange man who never hurts them even when he has the chance.

Scout and Jem begin hearing their father called a “nigger-lover” around town, because of his appointment to defend a black man, Tom Robinson. Atticus warns them to hold their heads high and to not fight about it, but at Christmas Scout bloodies a boy cousin’s nose for repeating the accusation.

The brother and sister receive air rifles for Christmas but are cautioned by their father that to kill a mockingbird is a sin. Their friend Miss Maudie later explains that mockingbirds only make music and sing their hearts out for people.

One day a mad dog comes down the street, and the town’s sheriff asks Atticus to shoot it. He dispatches it with one shot. The children are told that their father, whom they think of as old and feeble, was once known as One-Shot Finch, the best shot in Maycomb County.

An old lady, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, baits Jem by calling Atticus a “nigger-lover.” Enraged, Jem knocks the tops off her flowers. His father orders Jem to read to the sick woman every afternoon for two months. After her death, Atticus tells the children Mrs. Dubose, although unpleasant, was the bravest woman he ever knew; she broke a morphine habit rather than die addicted. Real courage, the father says, is not a man with a gun in his hand. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

Scout and Jem go to an African American church with Cal (Calpurnia), their cook, who has raised the children since the death of their mother when Scout was two. A collection is taken for the family of Robinson, the man Atticus is to defend. Aunt Alexandra, Atticus’s proper sister, comes to live with them to make a lady out of the tomboy Scout and restore proper southern order to their home.

Before the trial, the sheriff and a group of citizens warn Atticus that death threats were made against the defendant. Atticus stays at the jail and, weaponless, faces a mob come to get the prisoner. Jem, Scout, and Dill arrive, and Scout kicks a man who grabs Jem. She recognizes the father of a schoolmate in the mob and embarrasses him by talking calmly about his son, until the man orders the mob to leave. Atticus says the children made the schoolmate’s father stand in his shoes for a minute and turned the animals in the mob back into humans.

At the trial, where Scout, Jem, and Dill sit in the balcony with Calpurnia’s minister, Atticus demonstrates the untruth of the charges by Bob (Robert E. Lee) Ewell, a white man who lives on whiskey and welfare down by the dump, that Robinson beat and raped his daughter, Mayella. A doctor was not called to examine and treat the daughter, and the bruises on the right side of her face were caused by a left-handed man. Ewell is left-handed, and Robinson’s left arm is withered and useless.

Atticus asks Mayella on the witness stand if her father inflicted the abuse. She denies it, but Robinson testifies that the day of the alleged rape, she invited him in and kissed him. She said she never kissed a grown man—what her father did to her did not count—so she might as well kiss a “nigger.” Ewell arrived at that moment.

Jem and Scout believe that Robinson will be acquitted, but he is found guilty by the all-white jury. It is the word of a white person against a black one, and Robinson made the mistake of saying he felt sorry for a white person—Mayella.

After the trial, Ewell threatens Atticus in public. Robinson is killed after allegedly trying to escape from a prison exercise yard, giving up hope of getting justice in the white courts, although Atticus told him they had a chance on appeal.

Near Halloween, Scout and Jem attend a school pageant. On the way home in the dark, the children are attacked. Scout is saved from a knife thrust by the wire-mesh ham costume she is wearing. Jem struggles with the man and is thrown to the ground. A fourth person appears; there is a struggle, and Scout sees Jem being carried to their house by the stranger. Back home, Scout finds that Jem has a broken arm and the “stranger” who rescued him, standing silently in a corner, is Boo Radley.

The sheriff finds Ewell dead where the attack occurred, with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. Atticus says that he believes Jem did it and does not want it covered up. The sheriff insists that Ewell fell on his own knife, and, besides, it would be a sin to drag someone with shy ways into the limelight. Atticus gives in and thanks Boo Radley for his children’s lives. Scout says it would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird” to expose their rescuer.

Scout escorts Boo Radley home. She never sees him again. Atticus, putting her to bed, says that most people are nice “when you finally see them.”

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Narrated by precocious Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who ages from six to eight in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the initiation of Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill into the adult world of prejudice and injustice. Growing up in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930’s, the three children are fascinated by the story of Arthur “Boo” Radley, who, following some youthful misdeed, has been forced into seclusion by his fanatically religious family and subsequently victimized by the community’s prejudice and fear. Although the children view him as a monster to be feared, they simultaneously desire to know and understand him. Meanwhile, their lives are disrupted by the appointment of Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, as defense attorney for an African American man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The children’s introduction to racial prejudice and injustice is swift and severe. Although Finch clearly proves that Robinson is innocent, the all-white jury finds him guilty, and Robinson is subsequently killed in an escape attempt. Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, revealed in the trial to be a liar, seeks revenge on Atticus Finch and, in a drunken rage, tries to murder Scout and Jem. Boo Radley, who had befriended the children in secret, rescues them. The novel ends with Atticus’s fear that society will pay for its injustice but also with the belief that in spite of his losing the case, a small step has been made toward racial justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s one published novel, is set in a small Southern town. People there are defined by gender, race, and social class, forced to play the roles that history and gossip have assigned to them. When the book was published, it was seen primarily as an attack on racial prejudice. However, it is now more correctly viewed as opposing all infringements on the rights of people to be themselves.

In Maycomb, Alabama, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem are being reared by their widower father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer. Atticus is trying to teach his children respect for others as the individuals they are. Thus Atticus reprimands his children for prejudging their neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who has been shut up in his house since attacking his father years before. Atticus also points out the difference between superficial manners and the behavior of a real lady, such as the unconventional Miss Maudie Atkinson. Atticus even insists that the children respect the bigoted Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who must be admired for her battle against addiction. Atticus explains that there are great differences between people of the same class. Though poor, Walter Cunningham is an upright man, while the equally poor Bob Ewell is reprehensible.

In the second part of the novel, Scout and Jem see their father’s principles put to the test. He undertakes to defend a worthy black man, Tom Robinson, who has been falsely accused of raping Ewell’s daughter. Viewing Tom through the eyes of prejudice, Maycomb’s white citizens convict him, and he is killed. Atticus has, however, made a difference. Maycomb’s blacks now know that at least some, or one, white will treat them fairly. Moreover, before the novel ends, Walter Cunningham has saved Atticus from a mob, and Boo Radley has rescued Jem and Scout from the murderous Bob Ewell.

Harper Lee’s contemporaries recognized the worth of her novel by awarding it the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1961. Decades later, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a classic assertion of the need for human beings to respect others, as they live their lives and search for their identities.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1961. It was adapted into a movie starring Gregory Peck in 1962. The movie earned an Academy Award for the script, and Peck won an award for best actor. Critics have pointed out the autobiographical elements of the novel, suggesting that Harper Lee, while growing up in Monroeville, Alabama, was affected by racial tensions resulting from the lack of employment opportunities for blacks and poor whites during the Depression. Her father was a lawyer and Lee attended law school before deciding to write full-time. Biographers maintain that when Lee was Scout’s age, she became aware of the case known as the Scottsboro trials, in which nine young black men were tried on rape charges involving two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.

In the book, an adult Scout reflects on growing up during the Depression in fictitious Maycomb, Alabama, with her older brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus. Calpurnia, their black maid, has taken care of Scout’s family since her mother died when Scout was two years old. During the three-year span of the novel, Scout and Jem, with Atticus’s guidance, learn about the world around them.

The first section of the novel, which is divided into two parts, begins with the narrator reflecting on the year that her brother’s arm was broken, and she attempts to trace the events that led to the accident. She describes her lineage, the major families that make up Maycomb, and the caste system that is deeply embedded into the psyche of all who live there. When Scout is six, she and Jem meet Dill, a boy who has come from Meridian, Mississippi, to spend the summer with his aunt. Together, the children devise plans they hope will get their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, to come out of his home. They have heard rumors about his life, and they begin to make up stories of their own. When Atticus learns that the children are bothering the Radley family, he encourages them to stop, but their fascination with Boo never diminishes. Boo also becomes interested in them. He leaves them small gifts in the knothole of a tree, mends Jem’s pants when they are caught in a fence, and surreptitiously covers Scout with a blanket while she stands watching fire consume a neighbor’s home. As the novel progresses, the children’s image of Boo slowly evolves from that of an oddity to that of a human being capable of love.

At Christmas, Scout and Jem are given air rifles and a dictum: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Atticus’s command foreshadows the sins of the immoral townspeople presented in the second section of the novel. Some critics have found that the statement is used to teach the children to do good rather than evil. Atticus also tells Scout and Jem that it is evil to take advantage of people who are disenfranchised.

The second part of the novel reveals the children’s growing maturity as they watch the events unfold when Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a poor, white woman. Atticus tells Scout, “I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man,” suggesting that it is his Christian duty to help those in need regardless of their race or class. When Scout and Jem visit Calpurnia’s church, they learn that segregation extends to religious practices though Calpurnia maintains that whites and blacks serve the same God. This part of the novel also shows Scout’s growing understanding of the contradictory behavior of the adult women she trusts and is told she must learn to emulate. Aunt Alexandra moves into the Finch home in Maycomb to help Scout develop into a young lady. The women at Aunt Alexandra’s Maycomb Ladies’ Missionary Society gathering speak of the love and compassion they feel for Africans though they seem to despise the descendants of Africans who live in Maycomb and work for them.

Atticus clearly proves Tom Robinson’s innocence by arguing that a left-handed person abused Mayella and by showing that an accident during childhood left Tom’s left hand useless. Despite this, Tom, a symbolic mockingbird, is convicted and sentenced to prison. The children are surprised and hurt to learn that the people in their community allow racism to prevent justice from prevailing. Mayella’s father, Bob, enraged by Atticus’s ability to reveal that he and his daughter falsely accused Tom, tries to stab Scout and Jem. Though Bob breaks Jem’s arm, Boo Radley defends the children, killing Bob in the process. In an effort to protect this particular mockingbird from public scrutiny, the sheriff decides he will not arrest Boo. Echoing the beginning, the end of the novel focuses on Atticus and Scout as they sit by Jem’s bed waiting for his broken arm to heal.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird has been discussed by many critics simply in terms of racial prejudice; however, it is clear that in both the novel and the film the theme is more universal than a portrayal of the evil of racial prejudice. That evil is shown as an example of humankind’s intolerance. In all of its forms, people’s inhumanity to others is the real antagonist of the enlightened. In the novel, there are many minor instances of prejudice, including the encounter between Jem and Mrs. Dubose, with which part 1 of the book ends. These incidents prepare for the concentration on the two major plot lines in part 2. Neither of the plot lines dominates the novel. Structurally, they are brilliantly interwoven. Thematically, they complement each other.

The first of these plots is introduced in the first few sentences of the novel, when the narrator says that the story to be told really began when Dill Harris got the idea of getting Arthur (Boo) Radley to come out. The setting is the small town of Maycomb, Alabama; the time is the mid-1930’s. Boo Radley is the neighbor of the Finches. When he was a teenager, he got into minor trouble, and since that time, he has been imprisoned in his home by his father, who is a religious fanatic. Because no one in the community ever sees Boo, much less gets to know him, everyone has come to fear him.

At first, the children share this fear. They dare each other to run up to the house where Boo is incarcerated, as if he were a supernatural monster. Gradually, however, they become aware that Boo is observing them and that he wishes them no harm. Indeed, in his loneliness, he reaches out to the children. He keeps Jem from getting in trouble by returning his torn pants, mended; he leaves the children little presents in a hollow tree; he even gets near enough to put a blanket around Scout when she is standing outside to watch a neighbor’s house burn. Once the children begin to share secrets with Boo, they have admitted him to their world. He is no longer a stranger; he is a friend. The children have surmounted the prejudice of their community.

There are many parallels between this plot line and the second plot line, which involves a black man, Tom Robinson. Like Boo, Robinson is imprisoned within his community, but unlike Boo, Robinson has never committed any action that might produce punishment. His only crime is to have been born black in a society that has certain assumptions about black people—among them, the assumption that black men always desire white women. That assumption is based on another assumption: that white people are always superior to black people.

Like Boo Radley, Tom Robinson is a kind person, drawn toward those he perceives as helpless. Certainly the white girl Mayella Ewell is pitiable. The entire community, black and white, looks down upon the Ewell tribe, which is headed by the despicable Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father. Bob Ewell is the only character in To Kill a Mockingbird who has no virtues. He is mean, abusive, filthy, and shiftless. When he is drunk or simply in a bad mood, he beats his children. Given this family situation, it would be natural for anyone to respond to a plea from one of those children. From time to time, when Tom is passing by the Ewell place, Mayella asks him to help her with some heavy task that her father has assigned her to do, and innocently, Tom does what she asks. Unfortunately, like Boo Radley, Mayella is desperately lonely, and she does the unthinkable: She makes a sexual advance to Tom. Shocked and terrified, he leaves; shocked at her own conduct, she connives with her father to accuse Tom of rape. Thus it is Tom’s compassionate attempt to transcend community prejudice, to treat an outcast white girl as a friend, which puts him in peril and which finally, despite the impassioned legal defense by Atticus Finch, costs Tom his life.

There is no question that both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are acting correctly when they reach out to others. By example, Atticus Finch is attempting to teach this kind of behavior to both his children and his community. Yet Atticus would be the first to admit that there is danger in defying prejudice, in breaking down barriers that have been erected over the years and throughout the generations. Tom’s moral action is misinterpreted; to believe him would be to admit that a white girl could desire a black man, and thus to upset the entire social hierarchy. Therefore the community must doom Tom, even though many people secretly do believe him. Boo Radley, too, runs a risk by befriending the children, not only from his tyrannical father but also from the law. When Bob Ewell ambushes Jem and Scout, planning to maim or kill them as a revenge upon Atticus, Boo goes to their defense and in the scuffle kills Bob Ewell. Atticus Finch—the man of honor, no matter what the consequences—believes that he must turn Radley over to the sheriff; however, the sheriff refuses to prosecute Radley and persuades Atticus on this occasion to put justice ahead of the letter of the law and to let Radley go free. If the timid recluse had been sent to prison, he would have died as surely as Tom Robinson dies when he attempts to flee.

If compassion in the midst of prejudice costs Tom Robinson his life and puts Boo Radley in peril, it can nevertheless sometimes win a victory. During Tom’s arrest and trial, the community tension mounts, and with it, hostility toward Atticus. Finally, a mob gathers at the jail where Tom is being held; outside the jail, Atticus is on guard. Undoubtedly, he would have been attacked, even killed, if a past kindness had not been remembered. Scout had befriended the child of one of the members of the mob. Innocently unaware of the danger, Scout runs to her father and singles out that other father with inquiries about his son. Shamefacedly, he answers, the anger is dispelled, and Atticus is safe. Although she is a realist, Harper Lee refuses to be a cynic. If there is evil in humanity, there is also good, and sometimes the good is recognized and even defended.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary (Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

When To Kill a Mockingbird first appeared in 1960, most critics praised it; the following year it won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s, the novel focuses on the trial of an African American man accused of raping a white woman; it is narrated by the young daughter of the man’s defense lawyer. The novel rapidly found a niche in young adult literature collections; by the mid- 1960’s it was widely read in junior and senior high school English classes. At the same time, however, some parents objected to the book’s inclusion in school classes, calling it immoral and citing its use of profanity and explicit details of violence, especially rape. Some adults also complained that the novel depicted relations among blacks and whites unfairly by suggesting widespread bigotry by Southern whites. Others argued that the novel presented religion in an unfavorable light.

Most early complaints about the novel came from the South. In Hanover County, Virginia, for example, the local school board attempted to remove the book from county public schools on the grounds of its immorality. When national news coverage focused on the issue, however, the school board tried to dismiss the issue as a misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, attempts to censor the novel spread into the East and Midwest. In 1967 controversy over the novel arose at Lewis S. Mills Regional High School in Unionville, Connecticut. The issue was hotly debated, but a strong defense of the novel by the head of the school’s English department defeated the bid for censorship. Attempts to ban the book continued elsewhere, however, and the novel tied for eighth place on the list of books most frequently banned from public schools between 1966 and 1975.

Attacks on Lee’s novel continued throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. A Vernon, New York, minister protested the availability of “filthy, trashy sex novels” such as To Kill a Mockingbird in public school libraries. In addition, a new line of attack emerged from African Americans who wanted the book banned because they felt it included bigotry and racial slurs. In the 1990’s complaints centered again on the book’s being a “filthy, trashy novel,” which includes obscene words; the novel continued to appear on annual lists of works challenged in public schools and libraries. Meanwhile, the novel remained one of the most widely read among junior high and high school students in the United States.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

Part One
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the life of its young narrator, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, in...

(The entire section is 1459 words.)

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter Summary and Analysis

Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Atticus Finch: a Southern lawyer and the father of Scout and Jem.

Scout: the six-year-old daugher of Atticus and the innocent narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Dill: a six-year-old summer visitor to Maycomb and a friend of both Scout and Jem.

The Radley Family: Mr. and Mrs. Radley and their sons, Arthur and Nathan, who are the antagonists for the first 11 chapters of the novel.

Jem: the ten-year-old son of Atticus and the brother of Scout.

Miss Stephanie Crawford: the neighborhood gossip, a woman in her late sixties who has never been married.

Calpurnia: the cook for the Finch family.

Miss Rachel...

(The entire section is 1531 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Miss Caroline: the new first-grade teacher and Scout’s antagonist.

Walter Cunningham: a poor but proud member of the Cunningham family and Scout’s classmate.

Summary
Chapter 2 describes Scout’s first day in school. The new teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, spanks Scout’s hand before the morning is over. The conflict between Scout and Miss Fisher begins when Miss Fisher finds out that Scout can read; Miss Fisher tells Scout not to allow her father to teach her anymore. Scout says that her father did not teach her to read and proceeds to tell Miss Fisher of Jem’s belief that Scout was swapped at birth and that she was born reading The...

(The entire section is 1219 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Little Chuck Little: Scout’s polite, brave classmate.

Burris Ewell: Scout’s surly classmate who attends school once a year.

Summary
Chapter 3 occurs over a six-hour period from lunchtime until nightfall of Scout’s first day in school. Scout takes out her frustration with school and especially with Miss Caroline by rubbing Walter’s nose in the dirt of the school yard as the lunch break begins. Jem stops the slaughter and Scout quickly explains that Walter made her start school “on the wrong foot.” Jem serves as a peacemaker and invites Walter to their home for lunch. Scout pledges not to fight him again.

On the way home, the...

(The entire section is 837 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose: “the meanest old woman who ever lived.”

Cecil Jacobs: one of Scout’s classmates.

Summary
Scout’s first-grade year finally ends; her conclusion is that she has been cheated out of something. Each day she runs by the Radley Place 30 minutes before Jem. One day she finds gum in the tree near the Radley home. When she tells Jem about the gum, he makes her spit it out. On the last day of school the two children walk home together. They find a package covered with foil and containing two scrubbed, Indian-head pennies in the tree near the Radley Place. The children cannot figure out the source of the treasures.

...

(The entire section is 739 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Miss Maudie Atkinson: the neighbor who had grown up with Jack Finch.

Uncle Jack Finch: Atticus’s doctor-brother, ten years his junior.

Summary
Scout begins to spend more time with Miss Maudie. The two talk about religion and anything else Scout wants to discuss. Miss Maudie treats Scout as an equal. She tells Scout to call Boo Radley by his real name: Arthur Radley, and she believes that Arthur does not come out of the house because he wants to stay inside. When Scout tells her that Jem believes he has died and been stuck up the chimney, Miss Maudie compares Jem to his Uncle Jack. It is apparent that Maudie and Atticus have similar views about...

(The entire section is 670 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Mr. Avery: a neighbor who boards across the street from Mrs. Dubose.

Summary
On Dill’s last night in town for the summer, Jem and Dill decide to peep in the window at the Radley Place to see if they can see Boo. Scout comes along. A shadow appears and the children run in fear. When shots ring out, Jem leaves his pants caught on the barbed-wire fence. The children join the other Maycomb residents who have come out into the night to see what has happened. Later in the night Jem and Scout return to the Radley Place for Jem’s pants.

Discussion and Analysis
The children have violated the trust of the adults in their lives. The...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Scout starts second grade. The children continue to look in the knothole and find presents: a ball of twine, two dolls carved from soap which resemble Jem and Scout, gum, a spelling medal, and a watch and pocketknife on a chain. Jem becomes very quiet. He finally tells Scout that the trousers he retrieved had been mended and neatly folded when he returned for them.

After Scout and Jem write a thank-you note and place it in the knothole, they return to find the knothole in the tree has been filled with cement. Mr. Radley admits he filled up the hole, using the excuse that the tree was sick.

Jem seems to be spending a lot of time thinking. Scout believes that on...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Eula May: Maycomb’s leading telephone operator.

Summary
Snow comes to Maycomb the day after Mrs. Radley’s death. Eula May lets the Finch children know that school has been canceled. The children build a snow character by borrowing snow from Miss Maudie. They combine this snow with mud to make the figure, which at first resembles Mr. Avery and then is changed when Atticus protests.

That night Atticus wakes the children in the middle of the night and takes them outside. A fire is destroying Miss Maudie’s house, and the sparks are threatening the Finch home also.

At dawn Scout finds that someone has placed a blanket over her...

(The entire section is 457 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Tom Robinson: the accused rapist whom Atticus must defend.

Ike Finch: Maycomb County’s sole surviving Confederate veteran.

Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jimmy Hancock: Atticus’ sister and her husband.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hancock and Francis Hancock: Aunt Alexandra’s son, his wife, and their son.

Summary
Cecil Jacobs and others complicate Scout’s school life further when they say “Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers.” When Scout asks Atticus about this, he says that he does. Atticus explains that he could not hold his head up again if he doesn’t defend Robinson, but he does not expect to win the case.

...

(The entire section is 709 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mr. Heck Tate: the sheriff of Maycomb County.

Tim Johnson: Mr. Harry Johnson’s liver-colored bird dog.

Zeebo: Calpurnia’s son who drives a garbage truck for Maycomb County.

Summary
Jem and Scout feel dissatisfied with their father. Because he is nearly 50 and wears glasses, they see him as feeble. They doubt his manliness. They worry that he has no exciting occupation and does not teach them to shoot their air rifles. It is in a discussion with their father about their rifles that the theme for the whole book—the mockingbird—begins to emerge. Atticus tells the children that it is a sin To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout...

(The entire section is 800 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Jem and Scout pass Mrs. Dubose’s home on their way to the store. Because Mrs. Dubose makes sly remarks about Atticus, Jem returns to cut all the buds off her camellia bushes. Atticus confronts Jem with the cut flowers and advises Jem to talk with Mrs. Dubose. Atticus does not allow Scout to go with Jem on this visit, but he comforts her with the statement, “It’s not time to worry yet.” For punishment, Mrs. Dubose requires Jem and Scout to visit her six days a week for a month and read to her for two hours. She admits to Atticus and the children that she is requiring them to stay longer each day and that she is extending the total time by a week.

About a month after their time is...

(The entire section is 641 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Reverend Sykes: pastor of First Purchase A.M.E. Zion Church.

Lula: contentious member of First Purchase A.M.E. Zion Church.

Summary
Part Two of To Kill a Mockingbird begins with Chapter 12. The focus shifts from the ghosts and superstitions associated with the Radleys to Tom Robinson.

The children’s growth and development are evident as time passes. Atticus has to spend time in Montgomery, so the children are left alone with Calpurnia more and more. One Sunday Calpurnia takes the children to church with her. The children find that they are not warmly accepted by all members of the First Purchase African M.E. Zion Church.

...

(The entire section is 989 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Aunt Alexandra moves in with Scout, Jem, and Atticus “for a while” in order to give Scout some “feminine influence.” When Atticus returns from Montgomery, he explains to the children why his sister is staying. Scout narrates, however, that Aunt Alexandra’s presence is “not so much Atticus’ doing as hers.”

Maycomb welcomes Aunt Alexandra. She becomes a resident expert on the people of Maycomb and their ancestors, and she tries to instill in the children an appreciation for their own ancestors. Scout remarks that they have already heard of one of these: Cousin Joshua “who went round the bend.”

After hearing Scout’s opinion, Aunt Alexandra tries to enlist the...

(The entire section is 658 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis

Summary
The previously serene Finch household is thrown into disarray. The townspeople oppose Atticus’ defending Tom Robinson and are making comments. When Scout hears the word “rape” and asks Atticus what it means, he gives a legal definition. This delicate situation is followed by Scout’s request to visit Calpurnia—which Aunt Alexandra immediately vetoes. When Scout tells Aunt Alexandra that she had not been asked, Atticus chastises Scout.

Jem motions for Scout to follow him upstairs where he explains to her that Atticus and Aunt Alexandra have “been fussing.” Scout realizes she has never heard anyone quarrel with Atticus. Jem asks Scout not to antagonize Aunt Alexandra since...

(The entire section is 638 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Braxton Bragg Underwood: sole owner, editor, and printer of The Maycomb Tribune.

Mr. Walter Cunningham: the father of Walter Cunningham and a member of the mob which appears at the jail.

Dr. Reynolds: the family doctor of the Finch family and most of the people in Maycomb.

Summary
After numerous calls, much pleading, and a letter, Dill finally receives permission to remain in Maycomb. Scout says that they only had “a week of peace together. . . . A nightmare was upon us.”

A group of men from Maycomb visit Atticus at home on Saturday night to tell him that they are uneasy about Tom in the jail. They question...

(The entire section is 752 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Judge Taylor: presides over the session of court in which Tom Robinson is to be tried.

Mr. Dolphus Raymond: a white man who sits with the black people and who has “a colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillun.”

Foot-washers: a man and his wife who belong to a church which is conservative and practices the washing of feet.

Idlers’ Club: old men who spend their last days idling on benches on the town square and who serve as courthouse critics.

Summary
Jem, Scout, and Atticus come home on Sunday night after Aunt Alexandra is in bed. They coast into the carhouse and enter the house without a word. As Scout begins to...

(The entire section is 975 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mr. Gilmer: the solicitor.

Robert E. Lee Ewell: the father of the victim of Tom’s alleged rape.

Summary
Chapter 17 is a record of the court proceedings as told from Scout’s point of view. The reader hears Mr. Tate tell about the day he was called to see Mayella. Mr. Ewell, the father of the victim allegedly raped by Tom, is also cross-examined. He testifies that he saw Tom raping Mayella.

Reverend Sykes wants to send Scout home when Ewell describes certain explicit parts of the alleged rape, but Jem assures him that she does not understand.

The chapter concludes with Robert Ewell’s testimony during which it is proved...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Mayella Ewell: the alleged rape victim.

Summary
Chapter 18 is primarily an account of Mayella Ewell’s testimony. When Mr. Gilmer begins his questioning, Mayella does not answer his questions about the alleged rape. She tells the judge that she is frightened by Atticus. As she finally begins to tell her story of what she says happened, she seems to grow in confidence. When Atticus begins his cross-examination, he is patient and calm with Mayella. Mayella admits that her father “does tollable” except when he has been drinking. She contradicts this statement by saying that he has never touched a hair on her head. Mayella says she does not know how Tom did...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Link Deas: the former employer of Tom Robinson.

Summary
Chapter 19 tells of Tom’s examination and a part of his cross-examination. During the examination by Atticus, Tom tells how he helped Mayella on several occasions. He tells how Mayella hugged him about the waist on the day in question, how Mr. Ewell appeared on the scene, and how Tom ran in fear.

At that point Link Deas stands up and announces, “I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy’s worked for me eight years an’ I ain’t had a speck o’trouble outa him. Not a speck.” The judge tells Deas to shut up and throws him out of court.

Mr....

(The entire section is 567 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis

Summary
After visiting with Raymond and finding out that he makes himself out “badder’n” he is already, Dill and Scout rush back into the courthouse. They find that Atticus is finishing up his summary. Atticus talks to the jury as if he were talking to an individual, concluding with the statement, “In the name of God, believe him.” Just as he finishes, Calpurnia makes her way down the center aisle of the courtroom.

Discussion and Analysis
In this chapter we see a side of human nature which lies below the social codes that people are taught. No matter what role people play in society, they are probably similar underneath. Perhaps the rules of society were set up...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Calpurnia comes to the courtroom to tell Atticus that the children are missing. The children go home to eat, but Atticus says that they can return to hear the verdict. Late in the night the jury convicts Tom. As Atticus leaves by the center aisle, Scout notices that “All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall the Negroes were getting to their feet.”

Discussion and Analysis
As the jury breaks to make its decision, the reader and the characters have time to reflect on all that has happened. Many of the themes which have been explored throughout the novel come together here. This is the climax in Atticus’ long struggle. Because of certain laws in...

(The entire section is 375 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Jem cries angry tears as Atticus, Scout, Jem, and Dill make their way home. Aunt Alexandra is waiting up for them and she tells Atticus, “I’m sorry Brother.” Atticus tells his sister that it is fine that the children experienced the trial because it is as much a part of Maycomb County as her teas. He tells Jem that the thing that happened had happened before and would happen again. Then he asks not to be disturbed the next morning.

On the morning after the trial the Finch family discusses the events of the previous day. Atticus assures the children that there will be an appeal. Calpurnia shows Atticus the chicken that Tom Robinson’s father has given to him, and asks the family to...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Atticus, Jem and Scout discuss the trial and Mr. Ewell. Atticus talks with them about the jury system in Maycomb. After Aunt Alexandra forbids Scout to play with Walter Cunningham, Jem shares his secret (a chest hair) with Scout. He also shares his philosophy of the kinds of folks there are in the world. They discuss Old Family and Scout reaches her conclusion: “there’s just one kind of folks: Folks.” Jem has also figured out that Boo stays inside because he wants to do so.

Discussion and Analysis
Chapter 23 shows Scout and Jem trying to figure out the intricate construction of the community that they have been learning so much about lately.

The...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mrs. Grace Merriweather, Mrs. Perkins, and Mrs. Farrow: women in attendance at Aunt Alexandra’s missionary circle meeting.

Summary
Chapter 24 describes the women’s missionary circle meeting and the disruptions which occur. Aunt Alexandra has asked Calpurnia and Scout to help with serving at the event. Scout becomes the butt of two jokes. When Scout then asks Mrs. Merriweather about the topic of the meeting, the focus is drawn from Scout for a while. She begins to tell about J. Grimes Everett and his ministry to the Mrunas.

The topic of conversation moves to Tom Robinson and his family. Mrs. Merriweather says that she believes if the white folks...

(The entire section is 902 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Helen Robinson: Tom’s wife.

Sam and a little girl: Tom and Helen’s children.

Summary
When Chapter 25 opens, Scout and Jem are on the back porch. Scout is playing with a roly-poly. Jem orders her not to kill the creature. Scout remembers what Jem had told her about his trip to Mrs. Helen Robinson’s home.

On the way to the Robinson Place, Calpurnia and Atticus pick up Dill and Jem. Since much happens outside while they are still in the car, they are able to tell Scout exactly what happens. Sam goes to get his mother, Helen. When she asks them in, she sees their faces, knows what has happened, and faints. Atticus and Calpurnia stay...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Miss Gates: Scout’s third-grade teacher.

Summary
Scout is in third grade and Jem is in seventh when this chapter begins. Scout is walking home from school by herself now. She finds that the Radley Place does not hold the terror that it did for her, but she still watches for Mr. Arthur when she passes.

Mrs. Gates uses current events in her third-grade class. On this day the teacher discusses the Jews, Hitler, and the harm that he has done. Scout begins to draw parallels between the Jews and the oppressed in Maycomb. Scout remembers that Miss Gates was talking after the trial about teaching “em a lesson, and how they were getting way above...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Ruth Jones: the welfare woman who says Mr. Ewell accused Atticus of getting his job.

Mrs. Crenshaw: the local seamstress.

The Barber sisters: two deaf and elderly women who live together.

Summary
Chapter 27 describes three unusual events: Mr. Ewell gets a job and accuses Atticus of causing him to lose it; someone tries to break into Judge Taylor’s house; and when Helen Robinson goes to work for Link Deas, the Ewell family throws rocks at her as she walks past their home. Mr. Deas faces Mr. Ewell down and tells him to leave Helen alone.

Two changes have come to Maycomb. The first change is that the National Recovery Act...

(The entire section is 361 words.)

Chapter 28 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Dr. Reynolds: the family physician who examines Jem and Scout after the pageant.

Summary
Chapter 28 describes events before, during, and after the pageant. Jem and Scout are frightened by Cecil Jacobs on the way to the Halloween celebration. Scout makes a late entrance on stage during the pageant. The children are attacked by Bob Ewell on the way home, but someone comes to their aid and carries Jem home. Scout follows. Aunt Alexandra calls the doctor who finds that Jem’s arm is broken. Sheriff Tate finds Mr. Ewell lying under the oak with a knife in his chest.

Discussion and Analysis
Chapter 28 shows Ewell sinking to a new...

(The entire section is 290 words.)

Chapter 29 Summary and Analysis

Summary
After Aunt Alexandra goes to bed, the sheriff, the doctor, Atticus, and Scout discuss the night’s events. Only after Scout tells the story, does she notice Boo in the corner. She speaks to him face to face for the first time.

Discussion and Analysis
Boo Radley has made the choice to appear in public to save the lives of the Finch children. His fight to remain apart from society has been subjected to his fight for right. Ironically, this is the opposite decision from the one Atticus had to make in defending Tom Robinson. Atticus’ decision to fight for right didn’t draw him into society but rather threatened to cut him off from it. For Boo, entering society is a...

(The entire section is 238 words.)

Chapter 30 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Chapter 30 takes place in Jem’s bedroom until Dr. Reynolds appears with a package. Then Boo, Scout, Atticus, and Sheriff Tate go to the porch. Atticus and Sheriff Tate argue about Ewell’s death. Atticus says that Jem killed Ewell, but Tate says that Ewell fell on his knife. At last they all agree to Tate’s story. They decide on this story to protect Boo and to let the dead bury the dead.

Discussion and Analysis
The theme of the mockingbird is prominent in Chapter 30. Scout makes an analogy, or a comparison, between putting Boo on trial and killing a mockingbird; she says: “it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”

In...

(The entire section is 316 words.)

Chapter 31 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Chapter 31 tells of Boo’s visiting Jem and of Scout’s taking him home. She remembers the past and realizes that they have in effect been Boo’s children through time. She goes to Jem’s room and falls asleep as Atticus reads to her. She knows, as Atticus tucks her in, that he will be there through the night and in the morning.

Discussion and Analysis
The denouement (ending) of To Kill a Mockingbird is a closed, settled one. There is nothing else to be resolved. All the conflicts are ended: Boo is a friend, Ewell is dead, Scout has given in to sleep, and for the moment the family is safe from society and its pressures.

The maturational motif...

(The entire section is 186 words.)