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.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Maycomb, a small Southern town in Alabama in the 1930s. The reader is not told the date until more than halfway through the book, but the references to the NRA, Hitler, and the quote “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” set the time in the reader’s mind. The racially divided town and the strict class system help the reader to visualize life in the South during this time period.
Click here for a Map of MaycombMap of Maycomb
List of Characters
Atticus Finch—A Southern lawyer and the father of Scout and Jem.
Scout Finch (also known as Jean Louise)—Atticus’ daughter. She is six years old when the story begins.
Jem Finch (also known as Jeremy Atticus)—Atticus’ son, who is ready for fifth grade when the story begins.
Charles Baker Harris (Dill)—A six-year-old who visits his Aunt Rachel Haverford in Maycomb.
Calpurnia and Zeebo—The cook for the Finch family and her son, who also drives a garbage truck.
Aunt Alexandra Hancock—Atticus’ sister, who is married to Jimmy Hancock. She has one son named Henry and a seven-year-old grandson named Francis.
Mr. and Mrs. Radley—The parents of Arthur and Nathan Radley.
Arthur Radley (a.k.a. “Boo Radley”)—A recluse in the neighborhood and the younger brother of Nathan Radley.
Mr. Walter Cunningham and Walter Cunningham—A proud but poor father and son. The son is Scout’s classmate.
Cecil Jacobs—Scout’s classmate.
Mr. Robert Ewell—The irresponsible father of Burns and Mayella. He spends his welfare checks on alcohol.
Burns Ewell—Robert Ewell’s son who attends Scout’s class for one day.
Mayella Ewell—Robert Ewell’s daughter; she accuses Tom Robinson of raping her.
Little Chuck Little—A well-mannered classmate of Scout.
Miss Carolina Fisher and Miss Gates—Scout’s first and third-grade teachers.
Miss Maudie Atkinson—A friend of Jem and Scout who lives up the street.
Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose—An elderly woman on Jem and Scout’s street. They call her the “meanest old woman in the world.”
Miss Stephanie Crawford and Mr. Avery—Two neighborhood gossips.
Dr. Reynolds—The family doctor.
Eula May—The telephone operator.
Tom Robinson and Helen Robinson—Husband and wife; Tom is accused of rape.
Jack Finch—Atticus’s brother, who is a doctor.
Heck Tate—The sheriff.
Lula—An argumentative member of Calpurnia’s church.
Reverend Sykes—Preacher of the First Purchase A.M.E. Zion Church.
Mr. B. B. Underwood—Editor of Maycomb Tribune.
Dolphus Raymond—A white man who lives with blacks.
Judge Taylor—The judge who presides at Tom Robinson’s trial.
Mrs. Grace Merriweather, Mrs. Gertrude Farrow, Mrs. Perkins, Mrs. Gates—Members of the missionary circle.
Sarah and Frances Barber (also known as Tutti and Frutti)—Two deaf sisters.
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.