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In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout is the narrator. She begins telling the story from her memory for she is grown now.
Scout opens the novel as a grown woman reflecting back on key events in her childhood. The novel covers a two-year period, beginning when Scout is six and ending when she is eight.
As a young child, Scout could not understand why people were upset at her father Atticus for defending a black man. Scout and her older brother Jem are enlightened about the small town of Maycomb and its society values. Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of a rape he did not commit. Atticus does everything he can to prove that he is innocent. Twelve jurors find him guilty in spite of the clear evidence that he is not guilty. Mayella is beaten by a left-handed man, and Tom's left hand is crippled. Mr Ewell beat his own daughter for talking to Tom. Then the Ewells claim that Tom raped Mayella Ewell.
Also, in the beginning of the novel, Scout and Jem encounter Boo Radley. He is mentally handicapped and kept away from society. Because of a knothole in a tree, Boo begins a type of communication with Scout and Jem. He leaves gifts or trinkets in the knothole for them. Just when Scout and Jem write a thank you note, they notice that the knothole has been filled with cement. This is done by Mr. Nathan Radley, Boo's brother. He is trying to keep Boo from communicating with Scout and Jem.
Dill is a childhood playmate who comes every summer. He, Jem and Scout pretend to be the Radleys in their playtime. They are fascinated with the Radleys who rarely come out of their spooky house:
With summer's return, Dill arrives and the children's absorption with Boo Radley begins again in earnest.
In the end of the novel, Tom Robinson is shot while trying to escape the prison he is locked in. The racist white town of Maycomb is a place where black people have no rights. Scout is growing up in Maycomb, knowing that there is something wrong when a black man cannot get a fair trial just because he is black.
Scout learns that justice is not always served and that life is not fair. Scout is thankful for a father like Atticus who does the right thing by defending Tom, even though it is not popular.
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In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee uses memorable characters to explore Civil Rights and racism in the segregated southern United States of the 1930s. Told through the eyes of Scout Finch, you learn about her father Atticus Finch, an attorney who hopelessly strives to prove the innocence of a black man unjustly accused of rape; and about Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbor who saves Scout and her brother Jem from being killed.
Lee begins To Kill a Mockingbird with an epigraph (a brief quotation placed at the beginning of a book or chapter) by Charles Lamb: "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." That she chose this epigraph is interesting on several levels.
A good part of this story's brilliance lies in the fact that it's told from a child's point of view. Through Scout's eyes, Lee is able to present the story objectively. By having an innocent little girl make racial remarks and regard people of color in a way consistent with the community, Lee provides an objective view of the situation. As a child, Scout can make observations that an adult would avoid or sugarcoat. Readers, too, are likely to be forgiving of a child's perception, whereas they would find an adult who makes these remarks offensive.
Much of Harper Lee is in the character of Scout. Lee's father was an attorney, as is Scout's. Importantly, Lee herself studied law. Because Scout's personality is loosely autobiographical, the epigraph makes sense. Lee proves through the telling of the story that she was also once a child.
Also significant in understanding the epigraph is Atticus' answer to Jem's question of how a jury could convict Tom Robinson when he's obviously innocent: "'They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it — it seems that only children weep.'" At various points in the story, Jem expresses his desire to become a lawyer, following in his father's footsteps. The lessons he learns during the course of the story will ultimately shape not only the kind of lawyer he will be, but also the kind of man he will become. Readers see this future lawyer as a child first.
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