In Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird, who is Zeebo and what does he do?
The first time the reader sees Zeebo is at the end of chapter 10 after Atticus kills the mad dog with one shot. Zeebo must work for the city's clean-up crew because Scout sees him drive up, use a pitchfork to pick up the dog, and gently toss it into a garbage truck. Two chapters later, Scout sees Zeebo all cleaned up and leading the singing at Calpurnia's church. The children already know that Zeebo is Calpurnia's son, but what they don't know is that he reads from the hymn book for the congregation, and also helps to create some very beautiful singing. One wouldn't expect a garbage man to be able to read and sing so beautifully back in 1935. Zeebo is definitely a tribute to Calpurnia's abilities as a mother and her intelligence to teach her son to read, write, and sing. Scout describes their reaction to Zeebo at church as follows:
"Line for line, voices followed in simple harmony until the hymn ended in a melancholy murmur. I looked at Jem, who was looking at Zeebo from the corner of his eyes. I didn't believe it either, but we have both heard it" (121).
The children probably don't hear such beautifully sung hymns at their own church, and they are amazed.
Zeebo is the son of Calpurnia, the Finch's maid in To Kill a Mockingbird. Zeebo makes two appearances during the novel. His first comes in Chapter 10 after Atticus dusts off his marksmanship skills to shoot the mad dog, Tim Johnson. Zeebo drives a garbage truck, so he was called upon to dispose of the dog's body, using a pitchfork to "gingerly lift" the dog before tossing him into the truck. Zeebo
... poured something from a gallon jug on and around the spot where Tim fell. "Don't yawl come around here for a while," he said.
Zeebo shows up again in Chapter 12, greeting Jem and Scout at the church and warning them to "pay no 'tention to Lula," the black woman who had accosted Cal and the children when they arrived. Zeebo later leads the congregation in hymns by "linin' " the words before the rest of the people sang, repeating each line for those in attendance. Zeebo earned this responsibility in part because he is one of the few members of the church who could read.
Zeebo is an interesting, if minor character in the novel. As already stated, he is the son of Calpurnia, the Finches' house-servant. He first appears in his capacity as a garbage-collector, during the memorable incident of the mad dog. His role here illustrates the menial kind of work that blacks would generally be limited to in a strictly racist society like that of Maycomb.
However, in the church, he reveals another side of himself when he leads the singing in the congregation. He can do this because he can read and write, which is not typical of many blacks in the community due to their limited opportunities on the whole. However, Calpurnia has made sure that he got some education. This illustrates the blacks' ability and determination to better themselves and their situation, instead of becoming discouraged. The kindly way in which Zeebo speaks to the children at the church also shows that he has dignity and courtesy. He has a small part in the novel overall, but a not insignificant one.