In Chapter 28 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, what does Heck Tate tell Atticus at the end of this chapter?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has a specific purpose for each of her chapters.  Her wonderful characters find adventure waiting for them at every turn and twist in the story. 

Chapter 28 brings an atmosphere of fear and sinister shadows that awaits Scout and Jem. 

It is a scary place though, ain't it?" I said. "Boo doesn't mean anybody any harm, but I'm right glad you're along”… "Ain't you scared of haints?"

We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise.

The discussion about the field between their house and the school foreshadows the not so “childish” fears which are no longer just imaginative but very real in the form of a murderously angry man carrying a knife. 

In the end of the chapter, Sheriff Heck Tate provides some important information: Bob Ewell is dead.  He has been stabbed and is obviously the attacker because Tate found Scout’s dress and some ham cloth near the corpse.

What events lead to this pronouncement?

It is the night of the school program and Scout has a great costume: she is the ham.  On the way to school, Cecil Jacobs scares them in the field.  This adds to the eerie mood of the night.

Unfortunately, Scout falls asleep and misses her cue. After a scolding by the teacher, the embarrassed Scout waits until everyone is gone before she will come out to go home. 

On the way home, Jem becomes aware that someone is following them. Sounds take on their own lives when the rustling, shuffling, dragging noises fill the air. Using the technique of short, terse phrases, the author conveys the attack explicitly.

Scout tries to take off her costume because of its reflective tape. It is then that the children are attacked by a man.  Scout falls to the ground and can barely see what is going on.  Jem resists the attacker, and Scout hears a crunching noise accompanied by Jem screaming.  Scout runs toward Jem but is caught by the man who squeezes her until she loses her breath. Suddenly, the man falls backwards. It is then that Scout sees another man near the attacker.

Scout follows the man who is carrying Jem to their house.  The house becomes chaotic. The doctor is called; the sheriff is called; and the man who helped the children stands in the corner of the room.  

This chapter gives the explanation for Scout’s first statement in the book about her brother breaking his arm. Now, the reader knows how it happened. This is a pivotal chapter which leads to meeting Boo in person and the end of the story.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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