How has a sense of suspense been created by Harper Lee in Chapter 28 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This chapter has an overall feeling of eeriness and ominous foreshadowing both before and after the children attend the annual Halloween pageant. It all begins at the end of the previous chapter, when Aunt Alexandra has a sudden feeling that

"... somebody just walked over my grave."

Atticus and Alexandra have already decided not to attend the pageant--they are both tired--so Jem and Scout are left to walk by themselves in the darkness to and from the school. The children talk of "Haints" and other scary subjects, and they try to laugh off their old worries about walking by the Radley house at night. The wind is blowing, ther are many shadows, there is no moon, and the children trip over unseen tree roots. Scout wishes that Jem had brought a flashlight: After all, it is Halloween! When Cecil Jacobs jumps out of the darkness to scare them, Jem yells, "God Almighty!"

The two children turn down a ride home--another ominous decision--and begin their walk home. Scout, still in her ham costume, has forgotten her shoes, making the journey even more cumbersome. When the children begin hearing more unusual noises, they hope it is merely a dog or, possibly, Cecil about to scare them again. But they soon find that it is neither.

Harper Lee's builds suspense using gothic elements of the unknown and supernatural that includes a false climax (when Cecil jumps out to scare them) which also foreshadows Bob Ewell's own unexpected appearance. It's a perfectly drawn scenario for the creepiest night of the year--Halloween.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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