What is the plot structure (exposition, rising actions, climax, falling actions, and resolution) of the first plot line of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

EXPOSITION.  Most of the exposition of the first half of To Kill a Mockingbird falls in the first chapter. The narration describes the Finch family history; background information about Maycomb and its newest arrival, Dill; and a thorough explanation of how Arthur Radley comes to be known as "Boo." There is further exposition in subsequent chapters, primarily about Miss Maudie and the other neighbors of the Finches.

RISING ACTIONS.  Most of the rising action concerns the children's attempts to make contact with Boo, including the Radley Game, the raid on the Radley's back porch, the gifts found in the secret knothole, and Boo's presence on the night of Miss Maudie's house fire.

CLIMAX.  The climax to Part One is debatable. For me, it comes in Chapter 8 on the night when Miss Maudie's house burns. When Atticus discovers the blanket placed upon Scout's shoulders and informs her that it must have been put there by Boo, it signifies the end of the Boo Radley section of the first part of the novel. Jem reveals all of their secret activities to Atticus, and both of the children realize that Boo's acts of kindness are not those of an evil man. Jem's promise that

"I ain't gonna do anything to him..."

signifies an end to the children's attempts to "make him come out" and their invasion of his privacy, and Boo is rarely mentioned again until the final chapters of the novel.

FALLING ACTIONS.  I consider the final three chapters of Part One (Chapters 9-11) as the falling action. The action shifts away from Boo Radley and begins to introduce elements of the upcoming trial of Tom Robinson, the main plot of Part Two. Although Atticus's killing of the mad dog is one of the highlights of the first half, it still serves as a type of falling action, presenting evidence of Atticus's past marksmanship and killing skills--deadly skills that he will be forced to implement in a much different manner during his verbal assaults on Bob and Mayella Ewell during the trial.

RESOLUTION.  Although Chapter 11 does not serve as a normal type of resolution, it does show the beginnings of Jem's maturity and the change that is about to occur within the Finch family. With the children's activities--and their false illusions--surrounding Boo at an end, author Harper Lee turns to another character who has been misunderstood by the children: Mrs. Dubose. Both of the children get another lesson that people are not always what they seem when they discover that her meanness comes from her longtime drug addiction. It also presents Jem with his first experience concerning the death of an acquaintance--one that will arise again in Part Two.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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