In To Kill A Mockingbird, what is the key turning point or climax in the plot?

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Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Every good story has a strong climax which gets the reader's heart racing and fulfills the the promises and expectations of the rising action. Because To Kill a Mockingbird uses nonlinear plot through flashback storytelling, it has two key and equally important turning points: the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial and the face-to-face encounter with the elusive Boo Radley.

One of the main storylines in To Kill a Mockingbird is Atticus's client Tom Robinson's trial. Tom has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Because of the setting, a trial seems pointless. Alabama in the 1930's was segregated, and society would never accept a black man's word over that of a white woman. However, the reader sees a glimmer of hope due to Attcus's strong defense and the obvious evidence pointing to Tom's innocence. The reader and main characters all expect the end result to be an acquittal. At one point Jem says to his sister, "We got him," referring to the obvious guilt of the Ewells and Tom's innocence. Jem is very emotional during the trial, and "his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail," which helps the reader feel the intensity of the moments leading up to the climax: "Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty." The reader doubly feels the effect of the climax when Scout describes Jem's reaction as "his shoulders jerk(ing) as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them."

Another equally important plot line in To Kill a Mockingbird is the children's fascination with Boo Radley which finally climaxes with Boo rescuing the siblings and Scout finally getting to see his face. Throughout the novel, Scout, Jem, and Dill devise ways to see the elusive Boo, but nothing ever pans out. Equally as frustrating, their ghostlike neighbor makes himself a part of their lives, but never appears to them. From the mending of Jem's pants to the blanket on Scout's shoulders during the burning of Miss Maudie's house, the children and the reader narrowly fail to catch a glimpse of the benevolent neighbor. It isn't until the end of the novel after the children experience their "longest journey together" that Scout is lucky enough to finally see her rescuer, and during this climactic scene. She "gazed at him in wonder", and "the fear slowly drained from his face." Scout then tearfully utters the iconic words, "Hey, Boo."

Because of the multiple fascinating plot lines in To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader is lucky enough to experience two exciting climaxes, making this novel one of the most beloved books in American literature.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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