What is the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Keep in mind that a novel of this length and complexity often has several conflicts, therefore there are multiple story-lines. The easiest way to track the plot of a long and complex novel like this is to break it down into its various story-lines, which includes exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. The following is an example of one story-line, but remember there are others which are tracked by identifying other major conflicts.

  • Exposition: Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch are a family living in Alabama in the 1930s. Atticus is a well respected attorney in the town, and Scout and Jem are his young children. Conflict: Tom Robinson, a black man, has been convicted of a crime he did not commit and Atticus has been asked to defend him.
  • Rising action: Atticus takes the case and because of the prejudice in the town, he and his children are faced with discord from different townspeople, from the children at school to Bob Ewell. Tension builds as the trial draws closer, but Atticus maintains a level head and teaches his children life lessons through everything. The trial itself builds to the climax, as Atticus clearly displays Tom Robinson's innocence and suggests Bob Ewell's guilt.
  • Climax: the jury comes back with a "guilty" verdict despite Atticus' best effort.
  • Resolution: Tom Robinson is killed in jail, the manner of which comes across as very unjust. Though this is a sad finale to the Tom Robinson story-line, Scout and Jem come away with valuable experience and grow up with a very different (arguably better) perspective of life than those who choose to live in ignorance.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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