The mood of a story is the feelings and emotions surrounding various events, settings, characters, and situations throughout a novel. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee creates various moods that illuminate and develop scenes throughout the story.
- In Chapter 1, Scout describes her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. There is a melancholy mood associated with the small town of Maycomb.
- In Chapter 6, there is a suspenseful mood as the children sneak into the Radley yard to look through the window.
- In Chapter 7, there is a light, cheerful atmosphere when Jem and Scout begin to receive Boo Radley's gifts in the knothole of the tree.
- Lee again creates an atmosphere of suspense and fear in Chapter 8 when Maudie's house is on fire, as well as in Chapter 10 when the rabid dog is staggering down the street.
- There is a joyful, happy atmosphere in Chapter 12 as the children listen to Zeebo lead the congregation in song.
- Lee also creates an atmosphere of tension and anticipation in Chapter 21 before Judge Taylor reads the verdict.
As the mood of the novel changes, the reader experiences different emotions that enhance the story and captivate their attention.
The mood is light for parts of the book and dark at others. Even the lighter moments have darker undercurrents though. For example, the times when the children are playing are mostly light. The children are being children, playing games and sharing superstitions. However the games they play introduce some of the darker elements, like Boo Radley's story. This foreshadows that there is something rotten under the surface in Maycomb.
Most of the serious events in the book are dark and there are periods of downright melancholy. Yet the book is also suspenseful, such as during the verdict reading and when Bob Ewell attacks the children. Atticus's shooting the dog falls into this category.
At times, the book is sorrowful. The sadness that follows the verdict and Tom's death, the truth about Dill, the house fire, Boo Radley's real story and the ending, where they decide to shelter Boo for examples.