To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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How did Jem and Scout's mother die? I'm stuck writing a 5-page prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird over my spring break. I have a few ideas already for what to write but I'm having complete writers block on what details to write. I have to create a new storyline, new characters, new conflicts, and a new title. My main problem is that I haven't read the complete story. I'm not asking for anyone to write it for me, though I do need a few tips. Here are my ideas so far:1) How Boo Radley was as a child before he got in trouble2) Jem as a child with his mother still alive3) Atticus and his wife before having children4) When Atticus still was “Old One-Shot,” why did he stop?  

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missy575 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write2,291 answers

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I think you can imagine what Atticus' relationship might have been like with his wife. He is a fabulous father. They must have had conversations about how to raise their children. He must have seen some things in his wife's care for their children as they were young.

You might imagine how the town reacted to Atticus' wife. An interesting couple of perspectives might be from Miss Maudie (a neighbor Atticus' age who has considerable respect for him, but thinks he struggles raising his kids) and Aunt Alexandra. Aunt Alexandra believes the children come from fine folks and have encountered "gentle breeding". So I think she respected Atticus' wife.

You might set situations to introduce a loving, nurturing and realistic mother among other members of society at church or out to dinner or on a walk with the young family.

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write16,150 answers

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In writing about Atticus and his wife as they were before having children, his character should not differ too greatly from how it is demonstrated in his relationship with his children.  After all, since his wife is so much younger than he, there is probably somewhat of a fatherly attitude on his part toward his wife.  A patient and gentle man, Atticus, too, will demonstrate these qualities in his role as husband.  Another salient quality of Atticus is his protective nature, so it seems logical, also, that he would be reasonable with this wife.

There is little doubt that Mrs. Finch was an intelligent and pensive woman as both children exhibit these traits.  Because it is often the case that the son is more like his mother than the daughter, you may wish to portray her as similar to Jem, especially in the idealism and sympathies of Jem. 

It will not take you long to complete your reading of To Kill a Mockingbird; besides, doing so will expedite the time needed for your writing assignment as you will find passages, etc. that will both generate and support essential ideas for your prequel.  In addition, you may wish to check out the sites listed below.

Good luck!

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write7,077 answers

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First of all, take the time to finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a terrific novel with a great ending; then, take the time to rent the movie. It's a good one, too, and Gregory Peck will probably stick with you as the physical realization of Atticus.

Concerning your secondary questions:

  • There is little info in the book concerning Jem's life while his mother was still alive. Scout does mention that Jem remembered her and sometimes "would sigh at length, then go off... by himself."
  • Not much is mentioned about Atticus' relationship with his wife. We know "he preached economy" early in his career before helping fund his brother's education, and that he "was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town."
  • Boo is described as a normal, polite child before getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and getting arrested. His father refused to allow him to be sent to a reformatory, instead forcing him to a life of seclusion inside the Radley Place.
  • We don't know why Atticus stopped using guns, but we can assume that once he became an adult, he didn't believe in killing anything. His humble nature probably had something to do with it. 

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write35,413 answers

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You can find the answer to your question about Jem and Scout's mom in Chapter 1.  The book says that their mother died of a sudden heart attack.  She was 15 years younger than Atticus, which made it very unexpected.  Some people said that heart attacks ran in her family, though.

When she died, Scout was only 2 years old. Jem was six.  Because of their ages, Scout did not really remember her mom and so she did not miss her.  Jem actually remembered her and, Scout thinks, he missed her.

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