To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

To Kill a Mockingbird summary

Scout and her brother Jem Finch live in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. Their mother died when Scout was little, and their father, Atticus, attempts to raise them on his own. He employs a black servant, Calpurnia, who cooks and cleans for the household.

  • Scout's father Atticus prepares to defend Tom Robinson, an innocent black man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Meanwhile, Scout starts school.
  • During the school year, the reclusive Boo Radley leaves the kids gifts in a knothole and Miss Maudie's house burns down. Later, Aunt Alexandra moves in and tries to turn the tomboyish Scout into a lady.
  • Scout prevents a mob from attacking Tom and Atticus. Atticus proves Tom's innocence, but the all-white jury finds Tom guilty, and he's shot dead while trying to escape from prison.
  • Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem while they're walking home on Halloween. Boo Radley saves them, killing Ewell in the process.
  • We also have a complete summary of the novel and individual chapter summaries available on our site.


Part I

The novel opens with the narrator, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, relating that when her brother Jem was thirteen he broke his arm badly at the elbow. Scout withholds the exact cause of his accident, transitioning instead to her memories of the events leading up to Jem’s injury and their childhood in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. Scout tells the story as an adult, but within the narrative she is a little girl who’s just six years old at the beginning of the novel and eight years old at the end. Her brother is four years older than her, and her father, Atticus Finch, is an attorney and member of the State Legislature who is, for the most part, well-respected in the community. Their friend, Charles Baker Harris, commonly referred to as “Dill,” visits every summer and becomes one of the primary sources of humor in the novel.

Other characters include Miss Maudie, the wise neighbor who spends most of her time gardening and baking cakes; Calpurnia, the African American servant who cares for the Finch children and runs the household; and Aunt Alexandra, who’s excessively critical of the other characters in the novel—especially Scout. Of the three, Scout has perhaps the best relationship with Miss Maudie, who teaches her valuable life lessons and explains that Atticus is an upstanding man. Calpurnia, being Scout’s caregiver and a disciplinarian, is a major figure in Scout’s life and instructs her on manners, morals, and the divide between whites and African Americans. Atticus, however, is the Finch children’s moral compass, and it’s from him that they learn to read, think, and react to the world. On Christmas, he gives them air rifles as presents, but admonishes them never to shoot a mockingbird, because it’s a sin to kill something that does nothing but make beautiful music for everyone. This is the source of the novel’s title.

It becomes clear early on that Scout isn’t like the other girls in Maycomb. For one, she primarily wears boy clothes and isn’t interested in acting like a “lady.” On the first day of school, she has a confrontation with her teacher, Miss Caroline, who doesn’t know that one of Scout’s classmates, Walter Cunningham, is from a poor family and won’t accept charity. When Scout tries to explain this, Miss Caroline strikes her hand, effectively whipping her in front of the class. For this, Scout grinds Walter’s face into the dirt and blames him for getting her in trouble at school. Throughout the first half of the novel, Scout gets into fights with people, including her own cousin, who says bad things about Scout’s father Atticus, and her brother, who doesn’t want Scout to talk to him at school—only after school. Nevertheless, Scout and Jem remain close and play together at the house when they aren’t at school.

Scout, Jem, and Dill spend most of the summer playing elaborate games, and these end up being the subject of the next few chapters of the novel. One of their favorite games is a reenactment of an incident between their neighbor, Boo, and his father, Mr. Radley. According to town lore, Boo was sitting at a table, cutting up some papers, when suddenly he took up the scissors and stabbed his father in the thigh as he was walking past. No reason is given for his outburst, and because of it the children are afraid of Boo to the point where they run past his house to avoid being in front of it. In one scene, Dill dares Jem to touch the Radleys’ house, and in another, Scout accidentally rolls into the Radleys’ yard in a tire after Jem pushes her much too hard. This incident leads Boo to start leaving presents (soap dolls, pennies, gum) for Scout and Jem in a knothole in the tree by their house, and this in turn leads the children to become curious about Boo and develop a sort of friendship. When Miss Maudie’s house burns down, Boo slips out of his house to place a blanket on Scout’s shoulders without her noticing. Without meeting face to face, the two characters form a special bond.

There are, however, moments of extreme peril in Part I. In addition to Miss Maudie’s house fire, there are mentions of animals being tortured by a character named Crazy Addie, of houses being broken into, and of course the attack on Mayella. Jem, Scout, and Dill have a brush with death when they sneak into the Radleys’ backyard and get shot at by Mr. Nathan Radley. In the process of fleeing, Jem gets his pants caught and has to leave them behind. Nathan Radley, assuming that he was shooting at an African American man trespassing on his property, doesn’t realize that the children were trying to sneak a peek inside his house, and to make sure nobody finds out about it, Jem goes back for his pants. When he does, he finds that someone has mended them for him and left them on the fence. In Chapter 10, the children are again confronted with death when a rabid dog, Tim Johnson, walks unsteadily down the street. Atticus, whom Scout previously referred to as “feeble,” reveals himself to be an excellent shot when he puts the dog out of his misery. Once upon a time, Atticus even had the nickname “One-Shot Finch.” This impresses Scout and alters her opinion of him forever.

Meanwhile, tensions heighten in Maycomb after Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, an African American man accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell, the eldest daughter of Mr. Bob Ewell, one of the town drunks and perhaps the poorest white man in town. Being a man of high moral principles, Atticus refuses to pass on the case to another lawyer and instead stands firm in his conviction to defend Tom. Scout and Jem respect him for this, but the rest of the town doesn’t, and people gossip about it incessantly. Mrs. Dubose, a mean old woman who sits out on her porch and shouts at passersby, says such terrible things about Atticus that Jem cuts down her camellias with Scout’s baton. His punishment for this is to read to Mrs. Dubose every afternoon. During these visits, Mrs. Dubose lies in bed, looking very ill. It’s only after she dies that Atticus reveals to his kids that Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict and that in her final weeks she went cold turkey to kick her addiction. Part I ends with Atticus telling Jem that Mrs. Dubose was the bravest person he ever met.

Part II


In Part II, the focus of the novel shifts toward Tom Robinson’s trial, and the racism established in Part I intensifies. Scout and Jem, who have until now been shielded from the worst of it, see how segregation affects African Americans firsthand when Calpurnia takes them to her church, which is on the far side of town and called First Purchase. Atticus is out of town at this time, attending a meeting of the State Legislature, and doesn’t know about the church visit until after it happens. It prompts Aunt Alexandra, who has just moved into the Finches’ home, to scold Atticus for his lack of child-rearing skills. When Aunt Alexandra berates the kids about their manners and their lack of interest in their heritage, Atticus makes it clear that this is of no importance to him. This unites the Finch children against Aunt Alexandra.

Soon after Aunt Alexandra’s arrival, Scout discovers what she originally thinks is a snake under her bed, but which actually turns out to be Dill, who has run away from home because he doesn’t like his new stepfather. This incident adds a little levity to otherwise grim and serious events, like those of Chapter 15, when Atticus sits in front of the jail house to protect Tom Robinson from all the racist citizens of Maycomb. Late that night, a group of drunk men (some from Maycomb and some not) approach Atticus, intending, no doubt, to lynch Tom. Scout jumps in at the last second to save Atticus and stop the men, who are shamed by her presence. Thankfully, Mr. Underwood, the editor of The Maycomb Tribune, was standing watch over Atticus the whole time, carrying a double-barreled shotgun in case there was any trouble.

In the next chapter, Tom Robinson’s trial begins. It’s a “gala occasion,” as Scout puts it, and what seems like every person in Maycomb, black and white, comes to watch. Atticus spends the entire morning doing voir dire, or jury selection, and comes home for lunch around noon. Jem and Dill and Scout then decide—unbeknownst to Atticus—to go watch the trial that afternoon. As earlier, the courthouse is completely packed, and Scout and Jem have to climb up to the balcony with the Reverend Sykes to find seats in the “colored” section. Judge Taylor presides over the court and is impressively stern with the audience of people come to gawk at Tom. He threatens to fine people who don’t behave during the trial. Heck Tate is the first witness, and Atticus questions him about what he saw on the day of the alleged rape. Atticus trips him up a little when he asks if Mayella’s black eye was on the right or left side of her face. Heck Tate says left, then right. Then Mr. Ewell takes the stand and makes a show of accusing Tom of rape. Atticus then embarrasses him in front of everyone by proving that he’s left-handed and, thus, capable of giving Mayella a black eye on her right side. Jem finds this damning, but Scout doesn’t think it’s enough.

Next, Mayella takes the stand, afraid that Atticus will embarrass her like he did her father. Judge Taylor soothes her, though Jem suspects this is just a play for sympathy. Mayella, at nineteen and a half years old, is the eldest child in her family and has had to spend most of her time caring for her younger siblings, because her father certainly won’t. It’s a sad life, and Atticus makes a point of showing this to the audience, in the hopes that they’ll understand that her father, a drunk, is an antagonistic force in her life. Mayella has no friends. No money. No one to look out for her. And when she saw Tom Robinson, that polite man walking by her house on the way to work, Mayella invited him inside on the pretense of busting up a chiffarobe. Mayella says that’s when he started to choke her and beat her—with his right hand, not his left. Tom’s left arm hangs dead at his side, the product of an accident with a cotton gin. He couldn’t have given her that black eye, and that’s immediately clear when Mayella tells her story. It’s inconsistent with her father’s testimony. He’s lying, and so, Atticus suggests, is she.

When Tom takes the stand, the reader finally learns the truth: Mayella did lure him into the house with the promise of a nickel if he busted up a chiffarobe, but he never hurt her. In fact, she started coming onto him, moving in for a kiss, but when she saw her father in the window she screamed. Tom ran out of there as fast as he could, which made him look guilty, but he was innocent. It was Mr. Ewell who beat Mayella (and, presumably, raped her). Mr. Ewell blamed Tom for his crimes, both to keep him out of trouble and to save him from embarrassment, and Mayella does the same thing. Her reasons are somewhat different, though, because she doesn’t want anyone to know she tried to kiss an African American man. That’s taboo in racist Maycomb and would reflect poorly on her in court, which is why she’s so upset when Atticus tries to get the real truth out of her; she knows she can’t tell him. Tom knows that, too. He shouldn’t have helped her bust the chiffarobe, but he felt sorry for her. This upsets all the white people in the audience, because in their eyes, a black man has no right to feel sorry for a white person. When the prosecutor starts belittling Tom for this, Dill starts crying, and Scout has to take him outside.

Inside, Atticus makes his closing argument, telling the jury that Tom is innocent and that, even if they aren’t entirely convinced of this, they must be absolutely sure “beyond all reasonable doubt” that he’s guilty in order to convict him. Given what has come to light on the stand, it would seem impossible for them to have no doubts about Tom’s guilt, but this is Maycomb, Alabama, and the judge and jury are white, which means Tom’s apparent innocence isn’t enough to make up for the color of his skin in their eyes. That jury will never take the word of a black man over the word of a white one, regardless of how drunk, amoral, and ornery that white man is. Awkwardly, Atticus’ closing argument is interrupted by Calpurnia, who has come to inform him that his children have gone “missing.” Mr. Underwood informs them that the kids are in the balcony, and Atticus sends them home with Calpurnia to get their dinner. When they come back the jury is still out, which is in itself a victory. Had Atticus been less of a lawyer, the verdict would’ve been immediate. It’s a testament to his skill that the jury had to deliberate before giving the inevitable verdict: guilty.

The next morning, Atticus’ kitchen is full of gifts that the African American community sent him to show their gratitude to him for defending Tom. Miss Maudie, hearing about the verdict (as one of the few people who didn’t watch the trial), wakes up at five to bake the kids cake, in the hopes that this will make them feel a bit better. She suggests it was no accident Atticus was assigned to defend Tom—Judge Taylor might’ve done it on purpose to give Tom a fair shake. In fact, Atticus did so well that Mr. Ewell spits in his face outside the post office. As Atticus explains, race often comes between a person and their reason, making an otherwise logical or moral man turn into the kind of person who would, for instance, declare Tom guilty. At home, Atticus reveals to the kids that there was a Cunningham on the jury, and that this man wanted to acquit Tom, in part because Atticus had earned the Cunninghams’ respect that night outside the jail house. Scout reconsiders her dislike of Walter Cunningham because of this, but Aunt Alexandra balks when Scout asks if it would be alright for Walter to stay over at their house sometimes. Aunt Alexandra says Walter and the Cunninghams are “not [their] kind of folks.” It’s this behavior that leads Jem to say that he understands why Boo Radley stays inside: because he wants to.

In the aftermath of the trial, Aunt Alexandra attempts to return life to normal by hosting a lunch for her missionary circle. This proves to be an absurd experience for Scout, who’s forced to wear a dress, under which she defiantly continues to wear her britches. The ladies of the circle chat all afternoon about various hypocrites and Tom’s verdict, until finally Atticus comes home and says that Tom is dead—shot while attempting to escape from prison. Atticus and Calpurnia drive over to Tom’s house to give his wife, Helen, the news. Dill and Jem, who’d been out swimming at the time, rode in the car with Atticus and reported what they saw back to Scout. “She just fell down in the dirt,” Dill said, speaking of Helen when she heard the news. Everyone in Maycomb talked about it for a few days, then lost interest—except Mr. Underwood, who wrote an editorial saying that it’s a sin to kill a cripple. This echoes Atticus’ earlier statement about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird.

School starts up again in the fall, and with it, Jem and Scout’s daily trips past the Radleys’ house. Boo Radley has been largely absent from this second half of the book, and after Tom’s death, the kids aren’t really afraid of Boo anymore. Their lives revolve primarily around school and Atticus now. Scout relates a lesson her teacher gave on Adolf Hitler and democracy, defining the latter as “equal rights for all, special privileges for none.” This neatly frames the events of the subsequent chapter, in which Mr. Ewell stalks Helen in an attempt to intimidate her. This comes on the heels of Ewell getting and losing a job with the WPA and then attempting to break into Judge Taylor’s home in retribution for embarrassing him at the trial. Nobody thinks Ewell is dangerous, in large part because no one takes him seriously, and the town is more concerned with an incident where unknown assailants (children) sneak into the house of Misses Tutti and Frutti, two deaf women, and move all their furniture into their cellar one night. It appears for a moment that the novel is going to end on an easy note, with the children letting go of their superstitions, but Scout is still working up to how Jem broke his arm.

What happened was this: Scout was playing a ham in Maycomb’s Halloween pageant. No one in the immediate family was willing to see it but Jem, who walked her there in the dark, without his flashlight. On the way back, they hear a sound behind them and assume, at first, that it’s just one of Scout’s classmates trying to spook her. Then someone attacks them, and there’s a brief scuffle before the assailant, Mr. Ewell, falls, having been stabbed by Scout’s defender, Boo Radley, who carries Jem back to the house after his arm is broken. Scout doesn’t realize at first that this is her neighbor. Only after Dr. Reynolds arrives to take care of Jem and Heck Tate asks her to tell him what happened does Scout realize that the pale man standing in the corner is Boo. Atticus wants to tell people what Boo did and make him a hero, but Heck Tate tells him not to, calling it a “sin” to push such a shy man in the public’s eye. So they all keep Boo’s secret.

At the end of the novel, Scout walks Boo back to his house, stopping for a moment on his porch to look out at the town from his perspective: the children playing, leaves turning, Miss Maudie’s house burning. Scout tells Atticus that Boo was really nice. She has finally learned the lesson he tried to teach her earlier in the novel: that you can’t really understand a person until you walk in their shoes. Scout’s story may be about losing one’s innocence, but it’s also about coming of age, and that’s what makes this novel one of the most popular novels of all time.

For a chapter by chapter summary, click here or scroll to the bottom of this page.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Scout Finch, almost six years old, her brother Jem, four years older, and their little friend Dill (Charles Baker Harris), a visitor to Maycomb, Alabama, spend their summer thinking of ways to lure Boo Radley from his house. The children never have seen the recluse, but a few townspeople saw him some years ago when Boo reportedly stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, was locked up for a time, and then was returned to his family. No one in Maycomb has seen him since.

Challenged by Dill, Jem, although fearful he will be killed by Boo—who “dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch” —runs and touches the Radley house. The children flee home and look back to see what appears to be an inside shutter move.

In the fall, Scout enters school and gets into trouble in class because she can already read and out of class for fighting with boys. During the year, she and Jem find children’s treasures in a knothole in an oak tree on the Radley place. Before they can put a thank-you note in the tree for the unknown benefactor, Nathan Radley, Boo’s brother, fills the knothole with cement.

The next summer Dill returns. Rolling inside a runaway tire, Scout slams into the Radley porch. She hears laughing inside as she recovers and runs. The three children play Boo Radley games until stopped by Jem and Scout’s father, Atticus.

The last night of Dill’s visit, the three try to look in a window of the Radley home. Jem raises his head to look in, and the children see a shadow coming toward them. They run and a shotgun roars. Jem catches his pants on a wire fence and has to leave them there. After Nathan tells the neighbors he fired at an intruder, Jem goes back for his pants and finds them not only mended but also neatly folded over the fence.

The next winter it snows in Maycomb, and Scout and Jem make their first snowman. During the cold snap, the house of a neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, burns down. Back home after shivering from the cold with the other onlookers, Scout discovers a blanket placed around her shoulders. The only adult in town not at the fire is Boo Radley. Jem tells his father of the treasures in the tree and about his mended pants, fixed by the strange man who never hurts them even when he has the chance.

Scout and Jem begin hearing their father called a “nigger-lover” around town, because of his appointment to defend a black man, Tom Robinson. Atticus warns them to hold their heads high and to not fight about it, but at Christmas Scout bloodies a boy cousin’s nose for repeating the accusation.

The brother and sister receive air rifles for Christmas but are cautioned by their father that to kill a mockingbird is a sin. Their friend Miss Maudie later explains that mockingbirds only make music and sing their hearts out for people.

One day a mad dog comes down the street, and the town’s sheriff asks Atticus to shoot it. He dispatches it with one shot. The children are told that their father, whom they think of as old and feeble, was once known as One-Shot Finch, the best shot in Maycomb County.

An old lady, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, baits Jem by calling Atticus a “nigger-lover.” Enraged, Jem knocks the tops off her flowers. His father orders Jem to read to the sick woman every afternoon for two months. After her death, Atticus tells the children Mrs. Dubose, although unpleasant, was the bravest woman he ever knew; she broke a morphine habit rather than die addicted. Real courage, the father says, is not a man with a gun in his hand. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

Scout and Jem go to an African American church with Cal (Calpurnia), their cook, who has raised the children since the death of their mother when Scout was two. A collection is taken for the family of Robinson, the man Atticus is to defend. Aunt Alexandra, Atticus’s proper sister, comes to live with them to make a lady out of the tomboy Scout and restore proper southern order to their home.

Before the trial, the sheriff and a group of citizens warn Atticus that death threats were made against the defendant. Atticus stays at the jail and, weaponless, faces a mob come to get the prisoner. Jem, Scout, and Dill arrive, and Scout kicks a man who grabs Jem. She recognizes the father of a schoolmate in the mob and embarrasses him by talking calmly about his son, until the man orders the mob to leave. Atticus says the children made the schoolmate’s father stand in his shoes for a minute and turned the animals in the mob back into humans.

At the trial, where Scout, Jem, and Dill sit in the balcony with Calpurnia’s minister, Atticus demonstrates the untruth of the charges by Bob (Robert E. Lee) Ewell, a white man who lives on whiskey and welfare down by the dump, that Robinson beat and raped his daughter, Mayella. A doctor was not called to examine and treat the daughter, and the bruises on the right side of her face were caused by a left-handed man. Ewell is left-handed, and Robinson’s left arm is withered and useless.

Atticus asks Mayella on the witness stand if her father inflicted the abuse. She denies it, but Robinson testifies that the day of the alleged rape, she invited him in and kissed him. She said she never kissed a grown man—what her father did to her did not count—so she might as well kiss a “nigger.” Ewell arrived at that moment.

Jem and Scout believe that Robinson will be acquitted, but he is found guilty by the all-white jury. It is the word of a white person against a black one, and Robinson made the mistake of saying he felt sorry for a white person—Mayella.

After the trial, Ewell threatens Atticus in public. Robinson is killed after allegedly trying to escape from a prison exercise yard, giving up hope of getting justice in the white courts, although Atticus told him they had a chance on appeal.

Near Halloween, Scout and Jem attend a school pageant. On the way home in the dark, the children are attacked. Scout is saved from a knife thrust by the wire-mesh ham costume she is wearing. Jem struggles with the man and is thrown to the ground. A fourth person appears; there is a struggle, and Scout sees Jem being carried to their house by the stranger. Back home, Scout finds that Jem has a broken arm and the “stranger” who rescued him, standing silently in a corner, is Boo Radley.

The sheriff finds Ewell dead where the attack occurred, with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. Atticus says that he believes Jem did it and does not want it covered up. The sheriff insists that Ewell fell on his own knife, and, besides, it would be a sin to drag someone with shy ways into the limelight. Atticus gives in and thanks Boo Radley for his children’s lives. Scout says it would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird” to expose their rescuer.

Scout escorts Boo Radley home. She never sees him again. Atticus, putting her to bed, says that most people are nice “when you finally see them.”

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Narrated by precocious Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who ages from six to eight in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the initiation of Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill into the adult world of prejudice and injustice. Growing up in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930’s, the three children are fascinated by the story of Arthur “Boo” Radley, who, following some youthful misdeed, has been forced into seclusion by his fanatically religious family and subsequently victimized by the community’s prejudice and fear. Although the children view him as a monster to be feared, they simultaneously desire to know and understand him. Meanwhile, their lives are disrupted by the appointment of Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, as defense attorney for an African American man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The children’s introduction to racial prejudice and injustice is swift and severe. Although Finch clearly proves that Robinson is innocent, the all-white jury finds him guilty, and Robinson is subsequently killed in an escape attempt. Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, revealed in the trial to be a liar, seeks revenge on Atticus Finch and, in a drunken rage, tries to murder Scout and Jem. Boo Radley, who had befriended the children in secret, rescues them. The novel ends with Atticus’s fear that society will pay for its injustice but also with the belief that in spite of his losing the case, a small step has been made toward racial justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s one published novel, is set in a small Southern town. People there are defined by gender, race, and social class, forced to play the roles that history and gossip have assigned to them. When the book was published, it was seen primarily as an attack on racial prejudice. However, it is now more correctly viewed as opposing all infringements on the rights of people to be themselves.

In Maycomb, Alabama, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem are being reared by their widower father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer. Atticus is trying to teach his children respect for others as the individuals they are. Thus Atticus reprimands his children for prejudging their neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who has been shut up in his house since attacking his father years before. Atticus also points out the difference between superficial manners and the behavior of a real lady, such as the unconventional Miss Maudie Atkinson. Atticus even insists that the children respect the bigoted Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who must be admired for her battle against addiction. Atticus explains that there are great differences between people of the same class. Though poor, Walter Cunningham is an upright man, while the equally poor Bob Ewell is reprehensible.

In the second part of the novel, Scout and Jem see their father’s principles put to the test. He undertakes to defend a worthy black man, Tom Robinson, who has been falsely accused of raping Ewell’s daughter. Viewing Tom through the eyes of prejudice, Maycomb’s white citizens convict him, and he is killed. Atticus has, however, made a difference. Maycomb’s blacks now know that at least some, or one, white will treat them fairly. Moreover, before the novel ends, Walter Cunningham has saved Atticus from a mob, and Boo Radley has rescued Jem and Scout from the murderous Bob Ewell.

Harper Lee’s contemporaries recognized the worth of her novel by awarding it the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1961. Decades later, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a classic assertion of the need for human beings to respect others, as they live their lives and search for their identities.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1961. It was adapted into a movie starring Gregory Peck in 1962. The movie earned an Academy Award for the script, and Peck won an award for best actor. Critics have pointed out the autobiographical elements of the novel, suggesting that Harper Lee, while growing up in Monroeville, Alabama, was affected by racial tensions resulting from the lack of employment opportunities for blacks and poor whites during the Depression. Her father was a lawyer and Lee attended law school before deciding to write full-time. Biographers maintain that when Lee was Scout’s age, she became aware of the case known as the Scottsboro trials, in which nine young black men were tried on rape charges involving two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.

In the book, an adult Scout reflects on growing up during the Depression in fictitious Maycomb, Alabama, with her older brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus. Calpurnia, their black maid, has taken care of Scout’s family since her mother died when Scout was two years old. During the three-year span of the novel, Scout and Jem, with Atticus’s guidance, learn about the world around them.

The first section of the novel, which is divided into two parts, begins with the narrator reflecting on the year that her brother’s arm was broken, and she attempts to trace the events that led to the accident. She describes her lineage, the major families that make up Maycomb, and the caste system that is deeply embedded into the psyche of all who live there. When Scout is six, she and Jem meet Dill, a boy who has come from Meridian, Mississippi, to spend the summer with his aunt. Together, the children devise plans they hope will get their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, to come out of his home. They have heard rumors about his life, and they begin to make up stories of their own. When Atticus learns that the children are bothering the Radley family, he encourages them to stop, but their fascination with Boo never diminishes. Boo also becomes interested in them. He leaves them small gifts in the knothole of a tree, mends Jem’s pants when they are caught in a fence, and surreptitiously covers Scout with a blanket while she stands watching fire consume a neighbor’s home. As the novel progresses, the children’s image of Boo slowly evolves from that of an oddity to that of a human being capable of love.

At Christmas, Scout and Jem are given air rifles and a dictum: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Atticus’s command foreshadows the sins of the immoral townspeople presented in the second section of the novel. Some critics have found that the statement is used to teach the children to do good rather than evil. Atticus also tells Scout and Jem that it is evil to take advantage of people who are disenfranchised.

The second part of the novel reveals the children’s growing maturity as they watch the events unfold when Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a poor, white woman. Atticus tells Scout, “I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man,” suggesting that it is his Christian duty to help those in need regardless of their race or class. When Scout and Jem visit Calpurnia’s church, they learn that segregation extends to religious practices though Calpurnia maintains that whites and blacks serve the same God. This part of the novel also shows Scout’s growing understanding of the contradictory behavior of the adult women she trusts and is told she must learn to emulate. Aunt Alexandra moves into the Finch home in Maycomb to help Scout develop into a young lady. The women at Aunt Alexandra’s Maycomb Ladies’ Missionary Society gathering speak of the love and compassion they feel for Africans though they seem to despise the descendants of Africans who live in Maycomb and work for them.

Atticus clearly proves Tom Robinson’s innocence by arguing that a left-handed person abused Mayella and by showing that an accident during childhood left Tom’s left hand useless. Despite this, Tom, a symbolic mockingbird, is convicted and sentenced to prison. The children are surprised and hurt to learn that the people in their community allow racism to prevent justice from prevailing. Mayella’s father, Bob, enraged by Atticus’s ability to reveal that he and his daughter falsely accused Tom, tries to stab Scout and Jem. Though Bob breaks Jem’s arm, Boo Radley defends the children, killing Bob in the process. In an effort to protect this particular mockingbird from public scrutiny, the sheriff decides he will not arrest Boo. Echoing the beginning, the end of the novel focuses on Atticus and Scout as they sit by Jem’s bed waiting for his broken arm to heal.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird has been discussed by many critics simply in terms of racial prejudice; however, it is clear that in both the novel and the film the theme is more universal than a portrayal of the evil of racial prejudice. That evil is shown as an example of humankind’s intolerance. In all of its forms, people’s inhumanity to others is the real antagonist of the enlightened. In the novel, there are many minor instances of prejudice, including the encounter between Jem and Mrs. Dubose, with which part 1 of the book ends. These incidents prepare for the concentration on the two major plot lines in part 2. Neither of the plot lines dominates the novel. Structurally, they are brilliantly interwoven. Thematically, they complement each other.

The first of these plots is introduced in the first few sentences of the novel, when the narrator says that the story to be told really began when Dill Harris got the idea of getting Arthur (Boo) Radley to come out. The setting is the small town of Maycomb, Alabama; the time is the mid-1930’s. Boo Radley is the neighbor of the Finches. When he was a teenager, he got into minor trouble, and since that time, he has been imprisoned in his home by his father, who is a religious fanatic. Because no one in the community ever sees Boo, much less gets to know him, everyone has come to fear him.

At first, the children share this fear. They dare each other to run up to the house where Boo is incarcerated, as if he were a supernatural monster. Gradually, however, they become aware that Boo is observing them and that he wishes them no harm. Indeed, in his loneliness, he reaches out to the children. He keeps Jem from getting in trouble by returning his torn pants, mended; he leaves the children little presents in a hollow tree; he even gets near enough to put a blanket around Scout when she is standing outside to watch a neighbor’s house burn. Once the children begin to share secrets with Boo, they have admitted him to their world. He is no longer a stranger; he is a friend. The children have surmounted the prejudice of their community.

There are many parallels between this plot line and the second plot line, which involves a black man, Tom Robinson. Like Boo, Robinson is imprisoned within his community, but unlike Boo, Robinson has never committed any action that might produce punishment. His only crime is to have been born black in a society that has certain assumptions about black people—among them, the assumption that black men always desire white women. That assumption is based on another assumption: that white people are always superior to black people.

Like Boo Radley, Tom Robinson is a kind person, drawn toward those he perceives as helpless. Certainly the white girl Mayella Ewell is pitiable. The entire community, black and white, looks down upon the Ewell tribe, which is headed by the despicable Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father. Bob Ewell is the only character in To Kill a Mockingbird who has no virtues. He is mean, abusive, filthy, and shiftless. When he is drunk or simply in a bad mood, he beats his children. Given this family situation, it would be natural for anyone to respond to a plea from one of those children. From time to time, when Tom is passing by the Ewell place, Mayella asks him to help her with some heavy task that her father has assigned her to do, and innocently, Tom does what she asks. Unfortunately, like Boo Radley, Mayella is desperately lonely, and she does the unthinkable: She makes a sexual advance to Tom. Shocked and terrified, he leaves; shocked at her own conduct, she connives with her father to accuse Tom of rape. Thus it is Tom’s compassionate attempt to transcend community prejudice, to treat an outcast white girl as a friend, which puts him in peril and which finally, despite the impassioned legal defense by Atticus Finch, costs Tom his life.

There is no question that both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are acting correctly when they reach out to others. By example, Atticus Finch is attempting to teach this kind of behavior to both his children and his community. Yet Atticus would be the first to admit that there is danger in defying prejudice, in breaking down barriers that have been erected over the years and throughout the generations. Tom’s moral action is misinterpreted; to believe him would be to admit that a white girl could desire a black man, and thus to upset the entire social hierarchy. Therefore the community must doom Tom, even though many people secretly do believe him. Boo Radley, too, runs a risk by befriending the children, not only from his tyrannical father but also from the law. When Bob Ewell ambushes Jem and Scout, planning to maim or kill them as a revenge upon Atticus, Boo goes to their defense and in the scuffle kills Bob Ewell. Atticus Finch—the man of honor, no matter what the consequences—believes that he must turn Radley over to the sheriff; however, the sheriff refuses to prosecute Radley and persuades Atticus on this occasion to put justice ahead of the letter of the law and to let Radley go free. If the timid recluse had been sent to prison, he would have died as surely as Tom Robinson dies when he attempts to flee.

If compassion in the midst of prejudice costs Tom Robinson his life and puts Boo Radley in peril, it can nevertheless sometimes win a victory. During Tom’s arrest and trial, the community tension mounts, and with it, hostility toward Atticus. Finally, a mob gathers at the jail where Tom is being held; outside the jail, Atticus is on guard. Undoubtedly, he would have been attacked, even killed, if a past kindness had not been remembered. Scout had befriended the child of one of the members of the mob. Innocently unaware of the danger, Scout runs to her father and singles out that other father with inquiries about his son. Shamefacedly, he answers, the anger is dispelled, and Atticus is safe. Although she is a realist, Harper Lee refuses to be a cynic. If there is evil in humanity, there is also good, and sometimes the good is recognized and even defended.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

When To Kill a Mockingbird first appeared in 1960, most critics praised it; the following year it won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s, the novel focuses on the trial of an African American man accused of raping a white woman; it is narrated by the young daughter of the man’s defense lawyer. The novel rapidly found a niche in young adult literature collections; by the mid- 1960’s it was widely read in junior and senior high school English classes. At the same time, however, some parents objected to the book’s inclusion in school classes, calling it immoral and citing its use of profanity and explicit details of violence, especially rape. Some adults also complained that the novel depicted relations among blacks and whites unfairly by suggesting widespread bigotry by Southern whites. Others argued that the novel presented religion in an unfavorable light.

Most early complaints about the novel came from the South. In Hanover County, Virginia, for example, the local school board attempted to remove the book from county public schools on the grounds of its immorality. When national news coverage focused on the issue, however, the school board tried to dismiss the issue as a misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, attempts to censor the novel spread into the East and Midwest. In 1967 controversy over the novel arose at Lewis S. Mills Regional High School in Unionville, Connecticut. The issue was hotly debated, but a strong defense of the novel by the head of the school’s English department defeated the bid for censorship. Attempts to ban the book continued elsewhere, however, and the novel tied for eighth place on the list of books most frequently banned from public schools between 1966 and 1975.

Attacks on Lee’s novel continued throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. A Vernon, New York, minister protested the availability of “filthy, trashy sex novels” such as To Kill a Mockingbird in public school libraries. In addition, a new line of attack emerged from African Americans who wanted the book banned because they felt it included bigotry and racial slurs. In the 1990’s complaints centered again on the book’s being a “filthy, trashy novel,” which includes obscene words; the novel continued to appear on annual lists of works challenged in public schools and libraries. Meanwhile, the novel remained one of the most widely read among junior high and high school students in the United States.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

Part One
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the life of its young narrator, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, in...

(The entire section is 1459 words.)

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter Summary and Analysis

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

The novel opens with the narrator, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, relating that when her brother Jem was thirteen he broke his arm badly at the elbow. Scout withholds the exact cause of his accident, transitioning instead to her memories of the events leading up to Jem’s injury and their childhood in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. Scout tells the story as an adult, but within the narrative she is a little girl who’s just six years old at the beginning of the novel and eight years old at the end. Scout has been thinking about the story ever since, and even though she and her brother disagree about where exactly the story begins, Scout takes it all the way back to General Andrew Jackson, whose war against the Creek Tribe led Scout’s ancestor, Simon Finch, to sail to Alabama, where he established a homestead, Finch’s Landing, and grew rich on slave labor. The Civil War altered the family’s fortunes, but still left them solidly upper middle class. Atticus became a lawyer, and his brother became a doctor.

Scout introduces us to Maycomb, “a tired old town” where people shuffle around with nothing to do, and to Calpurnia, her family’s servant, an African American woman with a hand as “wide as a bed slat and twice as hard.” Calpurnia is the disciplinarian in their household, the female figure who picks up the slack left behind by Scout’s mother, who died when she was two. Scout doesn’t remember her mother, but Jem does, and this sometimes affects their relationship. In the summer, the Finch children are bounded by Mrs. Dubose’s house two doors to the north and by the Radley house three doors to the south when they’re outside playing. This suits them fine, and they spend most of their days playing together just the two of them, having no friends their age living within that radius. That is, until Dill arrives.

Charles Baker “Dill” Harris is from Meridian, Mississippi, and is visiting his Aunt Rachel for the summer. His arrival sparks renewed fascination with the Radley house and the stories circulating about it around Maycomb. According to one of them, Boo Radley, Mr. Radley’s son, was caught making trouble one night with his friends the Cunninghams when they locked Maycomb’s beadle in the courthouse outhouse. As punishment, Boo’s friends were sent to the state industrial school. Boo himself stayed home and hasn’t been seen since. Jem says that when Boo was thirty-three he plunged a pair of scissors into his father’s leg one day for no good reason. Mr. Radley had simply been walking by, and Boo stabbed him. When the police came, he was just sitting there, working on his scrapbook as if nothing had happened. This story scares the kids and makes them reluctant to pass the Radley house. Even after Mr. Radley dies and is replaced by Boo’s older brother, Mr. Nathan Radley, the kids fear the house enough to feel the need to run past it as fast as possible.

In fact, the kids are scared enough that when Dill dares Jem to touch the house, at first he doesn’t want to do it. Dill has to goad him into it, and even then, Jem does it at top speed, running up and slapping the side of the Radley house before sprinting back to his own porch. The kids think they see a shutter move inside the Radley house, but then everything goes still.


One example of this is "the grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square."


Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1845). A prominent American general and statesman and the 7th President of the United States. In 1802 Jackson was elected the major general of the Tennessee militia, which he later led during the War of 1812. His service in the war brought him national fame and led to his presidential campaign in 1824, which he lost to John Quincy Adams in what’s known as the “corrupt bargain.” In 1828, he defeated Adams and was elected President. Scout refers to him at the beginning of the novel both to segue into her family’s history and to establish herself as an authoritative narrator.

Battle of Hastings. Fought on October 14th, 1066, between the armies of Duke William II of Normandy and Harold Godwinson, then King of the Anglo-Saxons, the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of the Norman conquest of England. The battle was the result of a succession crisis following the death of King Edward of England and is considered one of the single most important battles in English history. That the Finches don’t have any ancestors on either side of the battle is a source of some shame to some members of the family, but doesn’t concern Scout very much.

Cornwall. An English county bordered by the Celtic Sea and the English Channel. Simon Finch was from Cornwall—a fact Scout mentions to indicate that he wasn’t from a respectable family.

Creeks. In particular, the “Red Stick” Creeks, a faction of the larger Native American tribe that fought in the Creek War, also known as the Creek Civil War. Andrew Jackson fought in this war as general of the Tennessee militia. Were it not for this war, Scout says, her ancestor Simon never would’ve come to Alabama or founded Finch’s Landing.

Dracula (1931). One of many film adaptations of the popular Bram Stoker novel of the same name. Dill tells Jem and Scout the entire plot of the film, including the part where Dracula turns to dust. Dill uses this information to impress Jem and Scout and earn entry into their group.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 - 1950). An American writer best known for his creation of the character Tarzan. His works provide some of the source material for the dramas or plays the kids put on over the summer.

The Gray Ghost by Robert F. Schulkers. One of a series of eleven kids’ books about the character Seckatary Hawkins, a fat boy with a big cowlick who relates the adventures of his group of friends. Lee was a fan of these books, and her characters share her appreciation of the series.

Methodists. Members of the Methodist denomination of the Protestant Church. Scout’s ancestor, Simon, was a Methodist and fled Cornwall, England, to avoid persecution by the Catholic Church.

Oliver Optic (1822 - 1897). The pseudonym of scholar and writer William Taylor Adams, who published over 100 books for boys in his lifetime. Oliver Optic was the most often used of his many pseudonyms and was also the name of a periodical, Oliver Optic’s Magazine, in which many of his works were published.

The Rover Boys. A series of popular books for boys by Arthur M. Winfield, a pseudonym of Edward Stratemeyer, publisher and founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which published The Rover Boys series.

Tarzan. A series of book written by the author Edgar Rice Burroughs and featuring the popular character Tarzan. This series is a favorite of Scout, Jem, and Dill’s.

Tom Swift. A series of popular books for boys centered around the character Tom Swift, who was created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, the creator of The Rover Boys books series. Tom Swift books were written by many different ghostwriters, who wrote collectively under the name Victor Appleton.

Victor Appleton. The pseudonym used by the collective of writers who produced the Tom Swift series.


Maycomb vs. the Radleys. Maycomb’s gossip mill has not been kind to the Radleys, and in particular to Boo Radley, whose juvenile arrest record, violent tendencies, and seeming imprisonment have become the subject of much discussion, particularly amongst the children. Maycomb’s youth has built up the very idea of Boo Radley to the point of being monstrous, so even though none of them have met Boo, they all fear him. When pets start dying, everyone suspects the Radleys, which is a good indication of how suspicious Maycomb’s citizens are of the reclusive family.

Scout vs. Calpurnia. One of the more innocuous major conflicts in the novel is that between Scout and Calpurnia, the Finches’ stern, hard-handed servant. Calpurnia is the primary disciplinarian in the house, charged with keeping the peace, teaching the children about good manners, and making sure they stay out of trouble. In part because of this, and in part because Scout doesn’t like rules in general and lost her female role model (her mother) early, her relationship with Calpurnia is strained. She doesn’t like being told to be quiet or to act like a girl, and Calpurnia, despite her obvious affection for the Finch children, can’t replace their mother. Scout and Calpurnia will eventually come to a kind of truce, but in these early chapters, when Scout has yet to mature, there’s still some conflict.


In the first few paragraphs, Scout foreshadows the events that lead to Jem breaking his arm. This doesn’t happen until the end of the novel, which makes the entire novel a lead-up to that event.


One example of this would be the idiom “up the creek,” which means in an awkward position. In Scout’s version of Simon Finch’s story, General Jackson pushes the Native American Creek tribe “up the creek,” meaning that he’d driven them into a bad position.


Scout puns on the word “creek” and the Native American tribe the Creeks.


Friendship. Friendship is one of the most important themes in the novel. It’s established early with the arrival of Dill, a little boy going on seven years old who becomes Scout and Jem’s best friend in the first chapter. Dill is something of a joker, a teller of tall-tales and player of games, and even dares Jem to touch Boo Radley’s house. Their friendship provides some much-needed levity to an otherwise serious novel and helps bind the Finch children together even as they develop different interests.

Gossip. Maycomb seems to thrive on gossip. In this chapter, the gossip is focused mainly on the Radleys, who, thanks in part to their son Boo, have become outcasts, feared for their strange behavior and unpleasant history. The Radleys themselves don’t participate in the town gossip mill, which only distances them further from the rest of the community.

Law. It’s established early in the narrative that Atticus went to study law in Montgomery and that he is a remarkably good lawyer (perhaps too good for a small town like Maycomb). He’s a member of the State Legislature and appears to be the most prominent lawyer in Maycomb. Later, we’ll see how the respect Atticus merits as a lawyer leads to his involvement in the Tom Robinson case.

Nature. When the Finch children aren’t inside reading with Atticus, they’re outside playing in nature. It’s customary for them to spend time climbing trees, swimming in the creek, and playing in the dirt, which makes nature an important part of their lives. Later on in the novel, the oppressive summer heat will become a character in itself as it affects Tom Robinson’s trial.

Superstition. Superstition is another major theme in the novel, though it primarily affects the children. Jem and Scout have a lot of strange superstitions, mostly about death, ghosts, and the Radley place, which is figured almost like a haunted house, with shadows moving in the windows. Their superstitions make it difficult for them to understand Boo Radley at first and contribute to their fear.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

Dill leaves Maycomb at the end of summer. In the wake of his departure, Scout’s only comfort is the thought of starting school. Her brother walks her to class on the first day, explaining that, as a first grader, she isn’t to hover around him at recess, talk about their home lives, or embarrass him in any way. He’s in the fifth grade and doesn’t want to be associated with the little kids. This fact takes Scout by surprise, as does her misunderstanding with her first grade teacher, Miss Caroline. Miss Caroline is new in town and doesn’t understand that Walter Cunningham, one of the boys in the class, won’t take anything off of anyone, not even the quarter Miss Caroline offers him to get lunch in town. Miss Caroline assumes Scout is being insolent and whacks her on the hand with a ruler. Later, when class lets out, Scout sees Miss Caroline sink into her chair, discouraged by her first day, but there’s bad blood between them now, and Scout doesn’t feel sorry for her.


One example of this would be the phrase “professional people were poor.” Another one would be "the cats had long conversations with each other, they wore cunning little clothes."


Tarzan and the Ant Men. The tenth book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of books about the character Tarzan.

Secession. In 1861, Alabama seceded from the United States and joined the Confederate States of America, fighting against the Union forces in the Civil War. Like most Southern states, they were fighting to keep slavery legal and, thus, to maintain their way of life. Winston County, however, seceded from Alabama in protest, and Scout know this, as does every child in Maycomb. She mentions it to bring Miss Caroline’s upbringing into question and show that she isn’t to be trusted.


Once again, Scout comes into conflict with a female authority figure—this time, Miss Caroline. Scout tries to explain to her teacher about the Cunninghams and is punished for it, which seems unfair to Scout and sours her on the idea of school. This conflict is, however, slight compared to the bigger, more violent conflicts of later chapters. Rather than develop this as a primary conflict in the novel, Lee uses this episode to help develop Scout’s character (as an intelligent, somewhat obstinate girl).


One example of this would be Miss Caroline saying that she employs experiential learning, then telling Scout not to read at home or let Atticus teach her.


One example is Scout saying that Miss Caroline “looked and smelled like a peppermint drop.”


Education. This chapter marks the beginning of a divide between formal education and individual education, which becomes more obvious as the novel progresses. Scout’s teacher Miss Caroline takes a kind of totalitarian approach and tells Scout to stop learning how to read and write at home, because it would interfere with her education. “You won’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade,” she says, ignoring the fact that Scout already knows how. Scout’s disillusionment with Miss Caroline and school leads her to seek her personal and moral education elsewhere.

Shame. Miss Caroline unintentionally embarrasses Walter Cunningham by offering him money for lunch without realizing he can’t pay her back. The shame he feels stems less from his family’s financial situation and more from the fact of not being understood. Everyone in town knows that he’s poor and has learned not to embarrass him by offering him things, but Miss Caroline, a newcomer, has to be told about how things work. Throughout the novel, we’ll see characters feel shamed for one reason or another, and this shame will help us understand the social structure in Maycomb.

Tradition. Tradition often goes hand in hand with superstition, which can at times have negative effects on a character’s thoughts and behaviors. In this chapter, the best example of a tradition is one where people spit into their hands to shake on a bargain. Miss Caroline isn’t familiar with this tradition, and this further distances her from the rest of the town.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

Scout chases down Walter Cunningham and grinds his face into the dirt at lunchtime because of what happened with Miss Caroline. Jem stops her from beating him up, however, citing the fact that their fathers know each other (Scout said in Chapter 2 that Walter’s family were so poor that they paid Atticus for his services with gifts of wood, holly, and chestnuts). Jem then invites Walter to lunch, bragging on the way home about how he once touched the Radley house. At lunch (which Scout calls “dinner”), Scout criticizes Walter for pouring syrup over his entire plate. Calpurnia is livid because of this and punishes Scout by making her eat in the kitchen instead of at the dinner table. Scout thinks this is reason enough to fire Calpurnia, but Atticus refuses to.

Back at school, Miss Caroline screams, “It’s alive!” as if she’s seen a mouse. In fact, it’s a cootie living in Burris Ewell’s hair. None of the kids are bothered by this, least of all Burris Ewell, but it leaves Miss Caroline shaken up. She’s not prepared to face Burris Ewell, one of the Ewell clan of children who show up on the first day of school, then ditch for the rest of the year. Burris doesn’t leave until Miss Caroline starts crying and the other kids have to comfort her. Back home, Scout is even more confused when Calpurnia says she missed Scout while she was at school. When her father tells her it’s time to read, it’s too much for her, and she goes to sulk on the front porch. She and Atticus strike a compromise: if she goes to school, they can keep reading together in secret.


This chapter has several examples of alliteration—Miss Caroline’s “sudden shriek,” the Finches’ “silver saucer,” and Burris Ewell’s threat, “Make me, missus,” to name a few.


The Dewey Decimal System. Jem erroneously refers to this as a teaching method when it is, in fact, a classification system that libraries use to arrange their books. It was first employed in the 18th Century and was already in use in many schools by the 1930s, when the novel is set.


The conflict in this chapter is largely benign, as it was in Chapters 1 and 2. Both Scout’s conflicts with Calpurnia and Walter stem from the conflict with Miss Caroline in Chapter 1, which in itself demonstrates Scout’s often quarrelsome nature. When she describes Calpurnia as “fractious,” it’s clear that Scout is really talking about herself and isn’t, as a child, the best judge of her actions.

Burris Ewell vs. Miss Caroline. Once again, Miss Caroline’s lack of familiarity with Maycomb’s ways leads to conflict, this time with Burris Ewell, who has been showing up for the first day of first grade for three years and is just about to leave when Miss Caroline sees a cootie on his head and screams. Burris’s attack of Miss Caroline and school in general is mean-spirited and ugly and leaves her in tears. Scout and all the other children have to comfort her and explain that it’s just his way. As we’ll see later, the Ewells are all like that.

Scout vs. Calpurnia. This conflict flares up in the middle of the chapter, when Calpurnia punishes Scout for criticizing Walter’s fondness for syrup. Their fight is so contentious that Scout actually wants Atticus to fire Calpurnia because of it. He of course does no such thing, and Scout is left smarting for the rest of the afternoon, until she comes home to find that Calpurnia has made her favorite cracklin’ bread. When Calpurnia tells Scout she missed her, the girl is so befuddled that she doesn’t know what to think. Their conflict isn’t over yet, but will begin to ebb after this chapter.

Scout vs. Walter Cunningham. When the chapter opens, Scout is chasing down Walter and grinding his face into the dirt because he’s indirectly responsible for her getting in trouble with Miss Caroline in Chapter 2. Eventually, Jem pulls Scout off of Walter and invites him over to their house for lunch. Scout, unable to fully let go of their fight, criticizes him for pouring syrup all over his plate. Part of this disdain for him stems from Scout’s superior social status: Walter Cunningham is from one of the poorest families in Maycomb, and, intentionally or no, Scout thinks that she’s better than Walter. This will change later in the novel, but, for now, Scout has no respect for Walter.


Lee’s use of diction is most apparent when Scout’s narrative voice breaks to allow Atticus’ use of legal jargon to seep through. Whenever this happens, the distinctly Southern character of Scout’s voice is enhanced, while Atticus’ formal speech and mannerisms become more apparent.


Scout’s narrative voice makes use of many idioms, including: “I’ll be dogged,” “what in the Sam hill are you doing?” and Scout’s warning that she would “fix” Calpurnia or get back at her. These idioms contribute to the authenticity of Scout’s voice and emphasize her Southern roots.


In addition to the alliterative phrases “sudden shriek” and “silver saucer,” Scout uses repetition in the scenes at school when she refers to the character Little Chuck Little, who appears, contrary to his name, to be something of a scrappy fighter, capable of scaring the bigger (and meaner) Burris Ewell. Lee uses repetition to trick the reader into thinking Little Chuck isn’t capable of violence.


Harper Lee uses the symbols in this chapter to indicate social status. Later in the novel, symbols will be used as tools of character development, as elements of moral and logical arguments, and, collectively, as a method of emphasizing key themes (for example, innocence and justice).

Atticus’ Pocket Watch. Unsurprisingly, Atticus’ pocket watch is a symbol of time and its passing. He tends to take it out of his pocket when he wants to think, and in so doing imparts the watch with a sort of ruminative power, as if it were a talisman.

Cooties. When we say someone has cooties, we typically mean that they’re dirty and shouldn’t be touched or associated with (often, this is said of young boys). That Burris has a literal cootie in his hair is a symbol of his self-imposed social isolation, which he cultivates with vicious satisfaction.


Compromise. Atticus and Scout strike a bargain at the end of this chapter: if she goes back to school, then they can continue reading together in secret. He uses this as an opportunity to teach her about the idea of compromise, which he defines as two or more parties making concessions in order to reach an agreement. There will be many compromises in this novel, some more balanced than others.

Courage. The Finch children, being kids, have an underdeveloped idea of what constitutes real bravery. As such, Jem believes that running up and touching the Radley house was an act of great courage on his part, though Scout is quick to point out that he’s obviously still afraid of the Radleys. Later in the novel, their idea of courage will develop and become less childish.

Education. As in Chapter 2, education is a major theme and a source of some disillusionment for Scout. Her conflict with Miss Caroline sours her on formal education and makes her long for Atticus to take Miss Caroline’s place and homeschool her instead. This doesn’t happen, but from here on out the elementary school and the teachers there will be a source of frustration and amusement for Scout, who holds many of their teaching methods in disdain.

Empathy. Atticus attempts to teach Scout about empathy when he tells her, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view....” This is the equivalent of telling her to walk in someone else’s shoes in order to understand them. Scout doesn’t know how to do this as of yet, and it isn’t until the final chapters that she learns this lesson.

Gossip. Yet again, much of the gossip in this chapter concerns Boo Radley, whom Walter calls a “hain’t.” (A hain’t is a ghost or a spooky person).

Humor. Much of the humor in the novel stems from Scout’s narrative voice, which is naturally sharp and humorous, while at the same time being sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of life in Maycomb. She’s an innately perceptive character who enjoys pointing out curious facts and behaviors, such as the fact that sometimes Dr. Reynolds will accept payment in the form of a bushel of potatoes for his help delivering a baby. Lee uses these comical moments to temper the more serious events of the novel and provide some much needed levity to the narrative.

Loneliness. When Scout returns from her first day of school, she’s surprised to find that Calpurnia missed her and was lonely without her and Jem around the house. This loneliness helps develop Calpurnia’s character, which has been fairly flat thus far, thanks to Scout’s view of her as a disciplinarian. As the narrative progresses, Lee will continue to use loneliness as a way of creating empathy for her characters, particularly those who have been misunderstood.

Superstition. The children in Maycomb believe in “hain’ts,” or ghosts. That Walter calls Boo a hain’t suggests that there’s something otherworldly about him that frightens the children. Later, Scout will learn that this isn’t true, but for the moment, at least, the children hold onto their superstitions.

Violence. Though the conflict between Burris Ewell and Miss Caroline has its humorous moments, it is, by and large, a frightening encounter, with Burris calling Miss Caroline a “slut” and behaving in an inappropriate manner. There’s also a moment during this fight when Little Chuck Little threatens Burris and sticks his hand into his pocket as if he has a knife there. Little Chuck Little was earlier described as having infinite patience, and his sudden threat of violence here is meant to indicate that Maycomb isn’t as safe as it would purport to be.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Unsurprisingly, Scout finds the Dewey Decimal System boring and finds school to be a waste of time. One day, while running past the Radley house on her way home, she spots a bit of tinfoil in the knothole of an oak tree on the Radley lot. Inside, Scout finds two pieces of chewing gum. It’s unclear at first who leaves her this gift. Jem doesn’t believe she found it and makes her spit it out when he gets home from school, but later, when they find more tinfoil with a pair of Indian head pennies, he becomes curious. He knows there aren’t many people who go by there (Cecil Jacobs walks a mile out of his way to avoid the Radley house), which makes it especially strange.

Two days after Jem and Scout find the Indian heads, Dill arrives from Meridian. He tells them a bunch of tall tales about seeing conjoined twins and riding with the train engineer, then pretends to predict the future. Jem scorns these superstitions, explaining to Dill about Hot Steams, which are spirits that can’t get to Heaven and hang around on Earth, trying to suck the life out of people who pass through them. Tired of talking and playacting, they decide to roll around in a spare tire, which leads to Scout accidentally rolling too fast onto the Radley property. When Scout recovers she runs out of the yard, leaving the tire for Jem to retrieve.

After this, the children act out a play, One Man’s Family, based on the rumors about the Radleys (in particular, Boo’s attack on Mr. Radley). Whenever Nathan Radley walks by, they pause in the middle of a scene so he won’t know what they’re doing. Atticus figures it out, though, and this is Scout’s second reason for wanting to quit the game—the first, she says, is the fact that when she rolled onto the Radley property, she heard someone inside the house laughing. She assumes this is Boo.


One example of this would be "we polished and perfected it" (referring to the Boo Radley play).


Time Magazine. A popular magazine first published in March, 1923. It’s among the most influential magazines in the United States, and the fact that Scout reads it is further proof of her intelligence and her very advanced reading level.

Metaphor. A good example of this would be Scout inching "sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system," where school is compared to a treadmill that runs endlessly and gets you nowhere. This is very telling and reveals Scout's true feelings about school.

Simile. One example of this would be Scout popping out of the tire "like a cork onto the pavement."


Games. “Summer was Dill,” Scout says, meaning that when he arrives, their lives are enriched, and they play bigger, more elaborate games, like the play they act out in this chapter. This play marks the beginning of a major shift in the character of their games, which become less innocent and more dangerous in the proceeding chapters.

Lies. Characteristically, Dill’s first words in this chapter are lies, which he insists on telling despite the fact that nobody believes them. Dill’s lies are, however, innocuous, and cover up his insecurities, so that one can hardly fault him for having a little fun. Other characters don’t have such innocent intentions, though, and we’ll see the damage that lies can do during Tom Robinson’s trial.

Superstition. Like a hain’t, a Hot Steam is a spirit, like a ghost, who can’t get to Heaven. A Hot Steam is more malevolent than a regular hain’t, however, and hangs around Earth, trying to squeeze the life out of people who walk through their namesake hot places. That most of the biggest superstitions in this novel have to do in some way with death represents the fear that an untimely death produces in the main characters.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

That summer, Dill proposes to Scout and then forgets about it. Despite Scout’s attempts to jog his memory by beating him up, Dill ignores her and grows closer and closer to Jem. This frees her to spend more time with their neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, a middle-aged woman who likes to garden and lets the Finch children run through her yard as much as they like as long as they don’t disturb her azaleas. Miss Maudie knew Scout’s uncle, Jack Finch, a strange man who proposed to her every Christmas by shouting across the street. She never married him and is, in fact, a widow, having been married to a man we never meet, but that doesn’t stop Uncle Jack from trying to get her goat, so to speak.

One evening, Scout asks Miss Maudie if Boo is alive, and she explains that his real name is Mr. Arthur Radley and that of course he’s alive. His father, Mr. Radley, was a foot-washing Baptist (as opposed to a regular Baptist like Miss Maudie), and this appears to have had some effect on Boo, though it’s unclear what it is, exactly. According to Miss Maudie, most of the gossip about Boo comes from Stephanie Crawford and the African American community, which is commonly believed to be more superstitious than the rest of Maycomb. Miss Maudie didn’t put any stock in this gossip, though.

The next morning, Jem and Dill tell her about their cockamamie plan to send Boo a note through the broken shutter on the side of the Radley house. Jem plans to do this by sticking the note to an old fishing pole and trying to drop it onto the windowsill. This is, unsurprisingly, ineffective, and Atticus catches them in the act. He gives them a long lecture about not tormenting Boo, and then uses his skill as a lawyer to trick the truth about the play out of Jem. Jem, who used to say that he wanted to be a lawyer like Atticus, waits until Atticus is out of earshot to yell that he isn’t so sure he wants to be a lawyer after the way Atticus treated him.


The Second Battle of the Marne (July 15 - August 6, 1918). Unbeknownst to the Germans, this was to be their last major offensive of World War I and would mark the beginning of the Allied advance. About one hundred days after the battle, the Armistice that ended the war was declared. This was a particularly bloody and important battle, and the fact that Scout compares it to Miss Maudie’s war against nut grass reflects the sheer level of intensity that Miss Maudie brings to this endeavor. It’s also a pithy observation that suggests that, in spite of Scout’s evident boredom in the classroom, she did, in fact, learn something.


One example of an idiom is “get your goat,” which Uncle Jack uses in reference to his (repeated) proposals to Miss Maudie, whom he likes to tease (unsuccessfully, Scout says).


Miss Maudie tells Scout that foot-washing Baptists think "women are a sin by definition." This is untrue, of course, but it's still a metaphor because it equates two unlike things, women and sin, in an attempt to demonstrate how these foot-washers think and feel.


One example of this would be Miss Maudie telling Scout that the Radley house is a "sad house," meaning that it's not the fearsome place Scout believes it to be. It's "sad" because the things that happen inside it are sad or elicit pity from Miss Maudie.


Gossip. In this chapter, Miss Stephanie Crawford becomes a more prominent force within the Maycomb gossip mill. We'll later discover that she is in fact the biggest gossiper in town, but for now, she's just a source of amusement. When Miss Maudie asks her if she made room for Boo in bed, Scout misses the sexual implication and just thinks that it's Miss Maudie's voice that shuts Stephanie up for a while.

Sin. Miss Maudie tells Scout that foot-washers believe "women are a sin by definition." This won't be the last time we hear that something is a sin. Mr. Radley believed that anything that's "pleasure is a sin." Atticus thinks that it's a "sin to kill a mockingbird." The question of what is and isn't right in the eyes of God preoccupies many characters in the novel and establishes a kind of moral high ground that others either ignore or aspire to, depending on their own definition of sin.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

On Dill's last night in Maycomb, the kids all go down to Miss Rachel's fishing pond. While there they happen to see Mr. Avery across the street urinate in the light of the streetlamp. He appears to do it from ten feet away, which leads Jem and Dill to have a literal pissing contest. After that, the boys want to peep into the Radley house, and they go sneaking into the yard. Jem and Scout hoist Dill up so that he can see through the broken shutter. When Dill doesn't see anything, they try the back window, where they nearly get caught by Mr. Nathan Radley.

The kids narrowly manage to escape. Scout trips amongst collards, and Jem gets his pants caught in the fence after Nathan fires his shotgun, assuming that they're really an African American man that's trespassing on his property. The town, hearing the gunshot, comes out into the street, where Dill makes up a lie about winning Jem's pants while playing strip poker in order to cover up what really happened. Atticus is suspicious of this lie, but accepts it, and Dill goes to Miss Rachel's for the night, stopping only to kiss Scout goodbye, having remembered that they were engaged.

Later that night, Jem goes back for his pants, but refuses to let Scout come with him. The two of them have been sleeping on the screened back porch, so Atticus doesn't hear him leaving. Scout freezes for a moment because she hears Atticus's cough and fears that they've been caught, but it proves to be a false alarm. Jem comes back and refuses to talk about what happened, though he's clearly shaken up. They both have trouble falling asleep that night.


"One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes" by the Brothers Grimm. One of the many German fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. In it, Little Two-Eyes is a young girl shunned by her mother and two sisters, who hate her for having "normal" eyes. When a knight comes along, Little Two-Eyes's sisters hide her under a cask in the hopes that the knight will speak to them, instead. This doesn't work out for the two sisters, and Little Two-Eyes winds up marrying the knight. Jem alludes to this story to suggest that he and Scout are Little One-Eye and Little Three-Eyes, respectively.


Sound. This is the first chapter where sound (and the lack of it) makes a real impact on the narrative. As the children walk down the street, they listen to the sounds of porches creaking, lights flickering, distant characters laughing. Lee uses these sounds to create an apprehensive feeling in the reader and contribute to the spooky mood associated with the Radleys. The creeping silence they hear is broken by the loud blast of Mr. Nathan Radley's shotgun, which scares the children both because it's a deadly weapon and because the sound is so forceful. Later that same night, when the silence sets in again, Scout and Jem have trouble falling asleep, because they think any little sound could be Boo Radley coming to get them.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

Jem tells Scout what really happened when he went back for his pants that night: when he snuck back, he found that someone had mended them and left them on the fence for him to find. What's more, that someone didn't do a very good job of mending the pants, which leads Jem to think that someone knew he was coming back for them, like they read his mind. While they're talking, they pass the knothole, where they find a ball of twine. Scout convinces Jem to leave it there for a few days, in case it's someone's secret hiding place. When the ball is still there days later, they decide to keep it.

Soon after Jem goes through a phase where he tries to walk like an Egyptian, he and Scout find a pair of soap dolls that look just like them in the knothole. This confirms their suspicion that these knothole items are indeed intended to be gifts and that someone is trying to be their friend. Next, they find a watch and knife on a chain that Atticus says would be worth ten dollars if it were still running. Jem tries to fix the watch, but fails. Still, he wears it around, imitating Atticus, who has a real pocket watch that belonged to their grandfather.

When the kids go to place a thank you letter into the knothole, they find that Mr. Nathan Radley has already filled it up with cement. He tells them he did it because the tree is sick, but Jem asks Atticus, and he says the tree isn't sick at all. Later, Scout finds Jem crying and doesn't understand why. It's implied that he's crying because he realized that Boo was giving them the gifts and that Nathan tried to stop him.


One example of this would be the pants sitting on the fence "like they were expectin'" Jem.


Gifts. Traditionally, gifts are symbols of one's affection or appreciation for their recipient. In the case of the gifts left for Jem and Scout in the knothole, they're communiques meant, most likely, to build trust between Boo and the Finch children and prove to them that there's no reason to be afraid of him. However, because the kids are forced to infer who left these gifts for them, their true intent is the subject of some speculation.

Jem's Pocket Watch. Unlike Atticus' pocket watch, which is a symbol of time and social status, Jem's pocket watch is a symbol of his respect for his father, whom he tries to emulate by carrying the watch and chain he finds in the knothole. It's also a symbol of their burgeoning friendship with Boo Radley.

The Knothole. The knothole is a medium of communication and, thus, symbolizes the connection that Boo tries to establish with the Finch children. His gifts represent his affection for Scout and Jem. When the knothole is cemented up, that line of communication closes, symbolizing the divide between Boo and the other characters in the novel.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis

Maycomb has an unusually cold winter that year. Mr. Avery tells Jem and Scout that the weather changes when children disobey adults, which makes them feel responsible for the cold. When old Mrs. Radley dies, people hardly take notice. Atticus goes over to the house, which prompts Scout and Jem to ask after Boo, but Atticus rebuffs their questions. The next morning, it starts snowing, and Scout assumes the world is ending. When she realizes it's not, she wants to play in the snow, and she and Jem go about making a snowman with a frame of dirt and a covering of snow. When Atticus sees it, he tells them to alter it a bit so it doesn't look too much like Mr. Avery.

That night, the temperature dips to 16°—the coldest night Atticus can remember. He wakes Jem and Scout up because a fire has broken out at Miss Maudie's house. Atticus tells them to stand in front of the Radley house, where they'll be out of the way while the men work. The fire truck has to be pushed from the center of town, because the cold made it stall out. Meanwhile, Atticus and the other neighbors carry Miss Maudie's furniture out of the house. Mr. Avery manages to fall off the upstairs porch. Unfortunately, the fire truck is too late, and the fire eats up into Miss Maudie's roof. Eventually, the house collapses, and the fire trucks leave. One had come from Clark's Ferry, sixty miles away.

When Atticus rejoins the children, he's cross with Scout, because he thinks she disobeyed him to fetch herself a blanket. In fact, Scout hadn't realized that she had a blanket or that Boo slipped up to her while the house was burning to lay the blanket on her shoulders. When Atticus figures out what happened, Jem begs him not to tell Nathan Radley about it, telling him that Nathan is crazy and might be keeping Boo from contacting them. Atticus agrees to keep it between them, and he tells the kids they don't have to go to school the next day because of what happened. So the next day they sleep in until noon and then head over to Miss Maudie's. She's in pretty good spirits for someone whose house just burned down. She already has plans to build a new one.


Appomattox. It's unclear whether Miss Maudie is referring to the Battle of Appomattox Court House or to the Battle of Appomattox Station. The former was one of the final battles of the American Civil War and resulted in a decisive Union victory and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The latter was fought the day before the Battle of Appomattox Court House and is considered part of the Appomattox Campaign. The battles took place on April 8th and 9th, 1865. Atticus alludes to Appomattox to emphasize that it hasn't been this cold in Maycomb for a very long time.

The Rosetta Stone. Discovered in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Mr. Avery alludes to it when he lies to the Finch children about their bad behavior being the cause of the cold weather. According to him, it's written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobey adults, the seasons change. Of course, the Rosetta Stone says no such thing. Mr. Avery is trying to make them feel bad by using an elevated allusion that they won't understand. It works.


Absolute Morphodite. The Finch children's naive pronunciation of "hermaphrodite," which refers to any organism with both male and female sexual organs or characteristics. Their snowman isn't a hermaphrodite, but they continue to use this term, to the great amusement of Miss Maudie.

Personification. Some examples of this would be the fire that "devoured" Miss Maudie's house and the siren that "wailed" down the street, "screaming" like a person would.


Some examples of this would be Miss Maudie's house looking "like a pumpkin" as it burns orange and Miss Maudie's hat encased in ice "like a fly in amber."

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens with a fight between Scout and her classmate Cecil Jacobs, who announces to the entire school that Atticus "defend[s] niggers." Scout takes offense to this and shouts at him to take it back, but refrains from getting into a physical fight for fear of being punished. Atticus has to tell her not to use the word "nigger" because it's "common," meaning that the only people who say it are people who don't know any better. Thereafter, Scout uses the word Negro, instead, and asks Atticus if all lawyers defend African American people. He explains to her that it's his job to defend Tom and that, if he succumbed to peer pressure and refused to defend Tom, like the other citizens of Maycomb want him to, he wouldn't be able to hold up his head in town. He intends to defend Tom even though he knows he won't win.

Christmas comes, and, with it, Uncle Jack, Atticus's brother, who stays with them for a week. He likes to make Scout laugh, but is also a very serious man—a doctor—who removes her splinters and warns her not to swear. On Christmas morning, Jem and Scout play with the air rifles Atticus bought them, but aren't allowed to bring the rifles with them when they go see Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Alexandra, Atticus's sister, at Finch's Landing. Aunt Alexandra is so unlike Atticus in every way that Jem thinks she was switched at birth and is actually a Crawford. Her son, Francis, is the most boring kid alive, according to Scout. He asked for a bowtie for Christmas. What's worse, he says bad things about Atticus defending Tom, which leads Scout to punch him in the face.

Uncle Jack punishes Scout for fighting with Francis. Later, when they return to Maycomb, Scout tells him that he was unfair to her and explains why she punched Francis, but asks him not to tell Atticus, because she doesn't want to disappoint her father. Still later, Scout overhears Uncle Jack and Atticus talking. Uncle Jack says he doesn't want to have children. Atticus says Scout's use of bad language is just a phase. He knows that she tries to obey him, and he's sorry that she's going to have to deal with the ugliness of the trial soon. He knows that she's listening, but wants her to hear this so that later she'll understand.


General Hood (1831 - 1879). John Bell Hood, a brilliant Confederate general whose reputation was destroyed by his defeats in the Atlanta Campaign and the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. According to Scout, her cousin, Ike Finch, the last living Confederate veteran of the Civil War in Maycomb, has a beard like General Hood's, which grows several inches long and juts powerfully out from his chin. That so many of Scout's allusions refer to the Civil War and Confederate generals serves as a potent reminder of the South's dark history.

House of Commons. Traditionally, this refers to the lower house of the British Parliament, but may, in other contexts, refer to the equivalent house of the Canadian or Irish parliaments. Uncle Jack alludes to it while trying to answer Scout's question asking what a "whore-lady" is. It's unclear exactly how the two things are related.

Lord Melbourne (1779 - 1848). A Whig politician who served as the British Prime Minister from 1835 to 1841. He was involved in a couple sex scandals, one involving his wife, who had an affair with Lord Byron, and another involving his friend, the author Caroline Norton. It's unclear how exactly Lord Melbourne relates to what Scout and Jack were talking about before.

The Missouri Compromise. This United States federal statute was devised by Henry Clay and illegalized slavery in Louisiana Purchase territories north of the 36°30′ parallel, except within the state of Missouri. According to Cousin Ike, the Missouri Compromise marked the beginning of the end for the antebellum South, whose way of life was destroyed when they could no longer rely on slave labor.

Stonewall Jackson (1824 - 1963). Sometimes referred to as Ol' Blue Light by his men, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate general who earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run, where he and his brigade of Virginians stood their ground against a Union attack. Cousin Ike alludes to him when discussing the Civil War with Scout and Jem.


Once again, the primary conflicts in this chapter involve Scout. This time, her conflicts are with men, not women, and therefore have a different feel and character. In this chapter, Scout actively attempts to hold back and keep out of trouble, out of respect for Atticus, but finds this difficult.

Scout vs. Cecil Jacobs. This chapter opens with Scout shouting at Cecil to take back the mean things that he's said about Atticus. Remarkably, Scout is able to refrain from getting into a physical fight this time, but only because she has already spoken to Atticus and he has explained to her that he has a moral duty to defend Tom Robinson. Her cousin Francis, however, doesn't get off so easily.

Scout vs. Francis. Like Cecil Jacobs, Francis speaks ill of Atticus because he's defending Tom Robinson. However, because he's related to Scout and should know better than to speak that way about relatives, Francis doesn't get off as easy as Cecil did. Scout patiently tortures him for a little while, trapping him in the kitchen and shouting at him occasionally before finally punching him in the face. She doesn't explain why she does this to Aunt Alexandra, and she ends up being punished by Uncle Jack.

Scout vs. Uncle Jack. Though Scout loves Uncle Jack, they come into conflict because he doesn't want her using swear words or bad language. When he hears that Scout has been fighting with Francis, he punishes her without first waiting to hear her side of the story. Once he does hear it, though, he apologizes for being cross with her, later telling Atticus that he doesn't want any children of his own, because he doesn't understand them.


An example of an idiom would be "to draw a bead on someone," which Scout uses when she has a fight with Francis. Generally, the phrase refers to aiming a gun (drawing a bead on your target), but in this context refers to Scout keeping an eye on Cecil Jacobs, whom she decides not to fight.


Heritage. In this chapter, Scout relates the particulars of her family's heritage, including the architecture of Simon Finch's house, which is exceptionally peculiar (his daughters all slept in one bedroom, the staircase to which could only be accessed through his master bedroom). Scout tells us this not to impress upon the reader how old and wealthy her family was, but to describe Finch's Landing, a new setting that the reader has never seen before. Thus, the long expositional passages about the house and her ancestors are less a product of Scout's interest in her heritage than they are of Lee's need to quickly orient the reader in a new setting.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens with the humorous line, "Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty." This serves as the premise of the chapter, which Atticus later disproves through his actions. In the beginning of the chapter, Scout and Jem are embarrassed by Atticus because he's old, doesn't play football, works in an office, wears glasses, and intends to defend Tom Robinson in court. What's more, he won't teach them how to shoot their new air rifles. He does, however, tell them not to shoot down mockingbirds, because it's a sin. Miss Maudie elaborates: mockingbirds don't do anything but fly around and make music for us to enjoy. She also says that Atticus was a master checker player (a fact that Scout finds even more embarrassing). Irritated, Scout aims her air rifle at Miss Maudie's behind that evening, but Atticus stops her from shooting.

One Saturday, a rabid dog by the name of Tim Johnson comes twitching slowly down the road to the Finch house. Calpurnia rushes the children inside and calls Atticus at the office. He drives up with Heck Tate, the Sheriff, who confirms that Tim Johnson does indeed have rabies. Jem makes the grim observation that the dog is "lookin' for a place to die." Heck Tate can't make the shot, so he hands the rifle to Atticus, who protests at first, because he hasn't shot a gun in thirty years. His children are surprised to learn that he was once called One-Shot Finch because of his deadly aim, and they have a hard time processing it when Atticus shoots Tim Johnson. Miss Maudie explains that Atticus gave up shooting when he realized that it gave him an "unfair advantage" over other living things. Jem later calls Atticus a "gentleman" because of it.


Some examples of this would be Miss Stephanie Crawford's "face framed" in the window or the idea that mad dogs "leaped and lunged at throats."


Swimming. In Chapter 4, Jem was described as "treading water" at the Radleys' gate, pausing a brief moment before running in after the tire Scout left on the Radley lot. Lee uses a second swimming-related image in Chapter 10 when Scout says Atticus moved slowly, "like an underwater swimmer." The swimming motif thus becomes linked to the theme of time, which appears in the novel to ebb and flow like water.


One example of this would be Tim Johnson shivering "like a horse shedding flies."


Guns. In this chapter, guns are both symbols of death and (occasional) sources of amusement, as when Scout aims her air rifle at Miss Maudie's behind. These air rifles are toys and downplay the more traditional symbolism associated with guns (that of death and destruction). When Atticus shoots Tim Johnson, that symbolism comes to the forefront, but is tempered by the fact that Atticus has to kill Tim Johnson to keep his family and the rest of Maycomb safe from the dog's rabies. Thus, guns are also methods of protection and symbolize the need for safety.

Mockingbirds. When Atticus tells the children that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird, he establishes it as a symbol of innocence and, ultimately, of vulnerability, because the mockingbird can't defend itself. Miss Maudie explains that the mockingbird is innocent because it doesn't do anything but make music for people to enjoy. Later, we'll see how Tom Robinson and Boo Radley themselves become the symbolic mockingbirds of the book.


Age. Scout's erroneous assumption that Atticus is feeble because he's fifty further emphasizes the age differences between Scout, Jem, and Atticus. Jem, who is five years older than Scout, has pulled away from her, in terms of interests and maturity level, but when compared to Atticus and other adults in the novel, the two seem more alike, thus proving that age, like time, is relative.

Death. Tim Johnson's death isn't the first in this novel, in which both Mr. Radley and Mrs. Radley have already died without Scout so much as batting an eyelash, but it is the first death that has a real effect on the Finch children, who are shocked by their father's skill with a gun. Tim Johnson, an innocent dog who happened to be infected with rabies, is sometimes considered a mockingbird, like Tom and Boo, but the fact of his disease muddies the symbolism considerably.

Innocence. Mockingbirds are symbols of innocence, which makes this one of the most important themes in the novel. In addition to the symbolic mockingbirds of Tom and Boo, innocence can be found in Scout, Jem, and Dill, who undergo a loss of innocence later in the novel, when they watch Tom's trial. Unsurprisingly, Lee associates innocence with youth and the natural world—two things that are traditionally considered innocent and pure.

Sin. In previous chapters, Lee established sin as a theme in relation to Christianity and the sometimes extreme beliefs of Christians in Maycomb. Here, Atticus reorients the theme of "sin" to a purely moral or personal belief in what's right and wrong, effectively eliminating the extreme religious connotations of the word "sin." This is an important change, because it allows Scout and Jem to develop their sense of morality independent of their religion.

Time. Thus far in the narrative, the pocket watches have hinted at the theme of time, which has by and large had little effect on the novel, except where Scout has dipped into flashback and employed foreshadowing. In this chapter, time becomes an important theme, both in relation to age and to the speed of events, as when it slows to a crawl while Atticus prepares to shoot Tim Johnson. In the beginning of the chapter, Scout makes a point of saying that Atticus is old and feeble, but her perception of time and age changes when Atticus shoots the dog. Suddenly, she realizes that time is relative and that the way she perceives time can be affected by her emotional state.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis

This chapter focuses on Mrs. Dubose, the cantankerous old woman who sits out on her porch and yells terrible things at the children of Maycomb. She's so mean, in fact, that Cecil Jacobs walks a mile out of his way just to avoid her house. One Saturday, the day after Jem's twelfth birthday, he and Scout walk into town to buy a steam engine and a baton, and on their way there Mrs. Dubose yells at them that Atticus is "no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" This is racist and classist and makes Jem so mad that after he buys their toys, he takes Scout's baton and hacks all the blooms off Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes. Naturally, this doesn't go over well with Atticus.

Jem's punishment is to read to Mrs. Dubose for two hours every day after school and on Saturday for an entire month. During this process, Mrs. Dubose's health deteriorates to the point where her mouth seems to move of its own volition, allowing great ropes of saliva to pour out of her mouth. After she dies, Atticus reveals that she was a morphine addict and that she'd quit cold turkey around the same time Jem destroyed her camellias. She was sick because she was going through withdrawal while Jem and Scout sat with her. Because of this, Atticus thinks Mrs. Dubose is the bravest person that he has ever met. This is an important lesson about courage for Jem and Scout. Part I ends with Jem thinking about Mrs. Dubose's bravery while staring at a camellia.


Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. This is the first book Jem reads to Mrs. Dubose. It's about a young nobleman who is disinherited by his father and winds up going on an adventure, first being wounded in a tournament, and then being captured by his enemies, before finally marrying his true love, Lady Rowena. This story of knights and valor appeals to Jem, and it allows Lee to build on the theme of courage.


Jem vs. Mrs. Dubose. Scout's narration makes it seem like Mrs. Dubose has ongoing conflicts with almost every single character in the novel. Of these conflicts, the biggest and most important is between her and Jem. He's so upset over her calling Atticus trash that he destroys her camellias, and as punishment he's forced to read to her six days a week for over a month. During her lifetime, these two are never able to reconcile, but after she dies, Jem begins to understand why she was the way she was.


An example of this would be when Scout and Jem wait for Atticus after Jem destroys all of Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes. Scout says, "Two geological ages later," Atticus returns, which clearly exaggerates how long it took and builds on the theme of time.


Camellias. Mrs. Dubose leaves a single Snow-on-the-Mountain camellia for Jem after she dies. This flower alone symbolizes the end of their conflict, embodying Mrs. Dubose's forgiveness and Jem's worth in her eyes. Collectively, however, the camellias are a symbol of Maycomb's racist heritage, both because they're white and because camellias are the state flower of Alabama, which of course has a long history of racism and segregation.


Courage. Thus far in the narrative, courage has largely consisted of being willing to touch or just approach the Radley house, but in this chapter courage starts to take on a more serious character, with Mrs. Dubose fighting through a very painful and largely unnecessary withdrawal because she wanted to die "free," without being beholden to anyone or anything. Atticus thinks that she's the bravest person he's ever met because of this, but Jem and Scout have trouble understanding this, at first. Later in the novel, we'll see how this first lesson in courage affects their understanding of Tom's trial and Atticus's actions.

Time. Once again, time is most noticeable to Scout when it seems to drag, as when the alarm clock in Mrs. Dubose's house keeps them there a little bit later every day. In this chapter, Scout and Jem lose much of their precious free time on weekday afternoons and consequently begin to feel that their responsibility to Mrs. Dubose, like school, is a tremendous waste of time. Only after Atticus explains to them about her morphine addiction does Jem begin to think that perhaps all this time wasn't completely wasted and that, in the end, he did learn something.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

Part II begins with Scout emphasizing the divide between her and Jem. He's twelve now and has pulled away from Scout, bossing her around and telling her to act like a girl, though her tomboy clothes never bothered him before. This would be fine to Scout if Dill were there, but he's forced to stay in Meridian because he has a new stepfather. What's worse, Atticus is called away for an emergency meeting of the State Legislature, so Scout and Jem are left in the care of Calpurnia. If not for an incident where Scout and Jem, along with a few of their friends, took advantage of the absence of authority figures and tied a girl named Eunice up in the furnace room at Church, then maybe they'd be allowed to go to Church on their own on Sunday. Instead, Calpurnia decides to take them to First Purchase African M.E. Church, so called because it was the first purchase the freed slaves made with their wages.

For the most part, the African Americans Jem and Scout meet at First Purchase are very polite to them and don't mind having white children in their church. The primary exception to this is Lula, a large, seemingly seven foot tall woman who doesn't like that the kids are there. Lula wants this church to be just for African Americans, a safe space where their community can come together, without having to fear white people or their presence. Reverend Sykes, however, welcomes Jem and Scout to their church. Though they don't have hymnals, the Reverend is able to lead the flock through hymns using a process called "lining," that is, reading a hymn line by line so members of the congregation can read or sing it back. When collection time comes, Reverend Sykes demands that the congregation come together to give ten dollars to Helen Robinson, Tom Robinson's wife, who is, unsurprisingly, having trouble finding work. After Church, Scout finally learns what Tom is on trial for: he has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell's daughter.

In this same conversation, Scout also learns that Calpurnia is older than Atticus, that she's one of only four African Americans in Maycomb who can read, and that she was taught to read by Miss Maudie Atkinson's aunt, Miss Buford. When Jem asks Calpurnia why she speaks differently (that is, more colloquially) around African Americans, Calpurnia says if she spoke like a white person at home it would seem like she was putting on airs. This leads to Scout asking if she can come to Calpurnia's house sometime. Calpurnia says she would like that.

Unfortunately, when they get home from Church, they find that Aunt Alexandra has come to stay with them and that she might have something to say about Scout visiting Calpurnia.


The Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone. First published from 1765 to 1769, Blackstone's Commentaries is divided into four volumes and for many years was considered the definitive book on English law. That Calpurnia taught Zeebo how to read out of it seems absurd to Jem, who knows that the commentaries are extremely dry and difficult to get through for a first-time reader.

Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane, which sits at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples are said to have slept in the garden on the night before his crucifixion. Every pew in First Purchase comes with fans that have a "garish" image of Gethsemane on it (garish, no doubt, because the Garden of Gethsemane isn't appropriate subject matter for a cheap fan).

"The Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt. Hunt's allegorical painting depicts Jesus standing at a door, preparing to knock, as in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." First Purchase uses a rotogravure print of the painting as decoration.

"On Jordan's Stormy Banks." A religious hymn composed by Samuel Stennett, a Seventh Day Baptist. There are several other hymns sung during the scene in church, one of which is called "Jubilee."

Moses. A Biblical figure famed for parting the Red Sea and leading the Jews out of Egypt, where they'd been enslaved. Calpurnia alludes to him when she says that, if she were to talk "properly" (like a white person) at home, then it would seem like she was putting on airs like Moses, meaning that it would seem like she was trying to be bigger and more important than she is.

Rotogravure Print. A kind of print made using a rotary printing process, which is itself a type of intaglio printing in that it uses an image engraved onto a carrier (usually a cylinder) to print copies of a pre-created image for widespread distribution. The rotogravure print of William Holman Hunt's "The Light of the World" is the only piece of decoration in First Purchase, which indicates to the reader both that the church is poor and that the congregation believes Jesus is indeed the light of the world.


Part II marks an important shift in the nature of conflict in the novel. In Part I, we saw that many of the conflicts were between either Scout and another character or Jem and another character. In Part II, as Scout's world starts to expand and the trial swings into full force, that changes, and the conflicts become more complicated, stemming from issues of racism, sexism, and classism.

Calpurnia vs. Lula. When Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to First Purchase, most of the African Americans there are happy to accept the Finch children, in part because they know what Atticus is doing for Tom and respect him for it. Lula, however, doesn't want the children there, because she wants this space to be reserved solely for African Americans. In this, we can see the products of segregation, which has put unnecessary strain on this encounter.


We've seen before how Atticus's diction, as a lawyer, differs from Scout's. In this chapter, diction again becomes important when Jem asks Calpurnia why she uses the same colloquial diction that other African Americans use when she clearly knows better. Calpurnia explains this to him with an allusion: if she were to speak like a white person with her black friends it would seem like she was putting on airs, like Moses. In this, we can clearly see how one's use of diction is associated with one's intelligence, with the assumption being that anyone who can't speak the "right" way in Jem's mind being uneducated and low class.


One example of this would be when Scout says the Governor of Alabama wants to "scrape a few barnacles off the ship of state," where the state government is figured as a ship with an underside littered with useless, clinging barnacles (laws, politicians, etc.) that need to be scraped off.


One example of this would be Scout's over-starched skirt coming up "like a tent" when she sits.


Racism. Understanding the effect racism and segregation has had on the African American community in Maycomb is key to understanding Lula's problem with the presence of the Finch children. Rather fairly, she wants First Purchase to be a safe haven for African Americans, who are persecuted by whites everywhere else they go. By bringing to white children to their church, Calpurnia has, in Lula's mind, betrayed her race and invited their enemy to sit at the table, so to speak. No one else in the congregation appears to feel this way about the Finch children in particular, but it's entirely possible that, if Calpurnia had brought any other white people, things would've been different.

Religion. Given that this novel is set in Alabama in the 1930s, it's safe to assume that everyone in town is Christian and belongs to some Protestant sect, if not to the Catholic Church. It's unclear exactly what denomination Calpurnia and the African Americans at First Purchase belong to, but this is of less importance than their religious practices, which seem to be founded on charity, devotion, and community. In this chapter, we get the sense that the African American community has come together to support Tom and Helen Robinson. This stems both from their belief in charity and the continued devotion they feel to the community.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

Unbeknownst to Jem and Scout, Atticus has arranged for Aunt Alexandra to come live with them indefinitely, so that Scout can have some "feminine influence" in her life. Aunt Alexandra leaves her own husband and son behind, but this seems not to bother her at all, really. She fits right in with the women in Maycomb, especially people like Miss Stephanie Crawford, and immediately begins asserting her social dominance. She declares that one poor teenager's suicide is a result of his family's "morbid streak," as opposed to the Funny, Drinking, and Gambling streaks that other families have. That Scout and Jem don't believe in Aunt Alexandra's "Streak" theory causes a bit of tension in the household.

Aunt Alexandra shows Scout and Jem a book written by their Cousin Joshua, who, according to Atticus, went crazy in college and tried to kill the president. When Jem relates this last part back to Aunt Alexandra, she gets huffy and questions whether the children understand how important their heritage is. This leads to an uncomfortable scene where Atticus tries to impress upon them that they're the product of "gentle breeding," though they both know that this isn't really how he feels. He jokes that maybe he's going crazy, too, in an attempt to put Scout and Jem at ease. This is only moderately successful.


William Wyatt Bibb (1781 - 1820). A US Senator and the first Governor of Alabama. Scout alludes to Bibb when she explains how, when the Governor sent a team of surveyors to Maycomb, a clever tavern owner by the name of Sinkfield got the surveyors drunk and convinced them to draw their lines in a shape favorable to Sinkfield and, thus, to Maycomb.

Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair. This is a fake book written by Scout's Cousin Joshua. Aunt Alexandra presents it to Scout in the hopes of interesting her in the Finch family heritage. This backfires.

Reconstruction Era (1865 - 1877). A period directly following the end of the American Civil War, when there was a concerted effort to rebuild the South, first by enforcing the end of slavery and then by reintegrating the South into the Union, ensuring that there would be no more internal conflict. Many Southerners believed the Civil War destroyed their way of life, and this Reconstruction Era brought many "great" families to ruin. As a result, Maycomb grew smaller and more insular, becoming the "tired old town" that Scout described in the first chapter.

The War Between the States (1861 - 1865). Another name for the American Civil War. Though this name was rarely used during the years of fighting, it became popular afterward as former secessionists attempted to avoid the word "civil," which implied that there was fighting between two parts of the United States rather than between the Union and the recently seceded (and, therefore, autonomous) Confederacy. Today, we refer to this war primarily as the Civil War.


One example of this would be when Scout says Sinkfield owned a tavern at the "dawn of time," meaning that it was ages ago, in her mind. This is yet another example of Scout being unable to understand the subtleties of time and assuming that anything that didn't happen recently is part of the ancient past.


One example of this would be when Jem says Cousin Joshua "went around the bend," as in, went crazy and tried to assassinate the President.


Scout uses a simile when she says Aunt Alexandra fit in "like a hand into a glove."


Heritage. Of the Finches, Aunt Alexandra is the only one who's truly interested in their heritage. She wants to impress upon Scout and Jem just how genteel and well-bred they are, and so she shows them a very important-looking book written by their Cousin Joshua. This backfires on her, however, and Jem and Scout end up getting a very uncomfortable lecture from Atticus because of it. Scout has, by virtue of her narrative, become a keeper of their family's heritage, but not of the heritage Aunt Alexandra has selectively edited for the public record. Scout tells the reader everything, even and perhaps especially if it's embarrassing.

History. Related to the theme of heritage is the theme of history, which takes a much broader view of the past. Despite not seeming particularly interested in either history or heritage as a child, Scout has become a de facto historian who relates both the public and personal history of Maycomb for the reader's edification.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis

Two chapters later, Scout finally gets around to asking Atticus what "rape" is and tells him about that day at Calpurnia's church. Aunt Alexandra, of course, doesn't approve and won't allow Scout to visit Calpurnia's house. A small fight ensues, in which Aunt Alexandra tries to force Atticus to fire Calpurnia, to no avail. Jem then patronizes Scout for being young, which causes those two to fight. Atticus has to come break it up and send them to bed. Alone in her room after, Scout thinks she feels a snake, but it turns out to be Dill, who has ridden the train by himself because he wants to escape his new stepfather, whom he doesn't like. He tells them that he was bound in chains but escaped to join a small animal show, but in reality he just stole thirteen dollars from his mother's purse and took the nine o'clock train to Maycomb Junction, then walked the rest of the way to the Finch house. This adventure has left him very hungry.

Dill's mother doesn't know where he went, so Jem calls Atticus in to help. He goes over to talk to Miss Rachel while Dill eats and takes a bath. Miss Rachel then comes over to scold Dill, but then lets him stay there, like he wanted. Later, Dill climbs into bed with Scout, and they talk about his real reasons for running away: his mother and stepfather weren't really "interested" in him, which seems to mean that they ignored him and that, when they didn't ignore him, they expected him to act more like boys his own age. Dill, who has already been established as an odd character, didn't like that.

This chapter ends with Dill telling Scout fanciful stories about an island of babies "waiting to be gathered like morning lilies." Scout then asks why Boo Radley hasn't run away, and Dill says he might not have anywhere else to go. The sadness of this is tempered by the sweetness of Dill and Scout's relationship, which provides some much needed emotional relief before Tom's trial.


One example of this would be the kids "squirm[ing their] way through the sweating sidewalk."


Herbert Hoover (1874 - 1964). The 31st President of the United States. He was in office from 1929 to 1933, and the beginning of his first and only term roughly coincided with the 1929 Stock Market Crash, which drove the country into the Great Depression. Hoover, though not directly responsible for the Stock Market Crash itself, wasn't able to pull the country out of the Depression, making his four years in office pretty grim for the American public. Only after Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office did things begin to improve. Scout alludes to Hoover when she points out the "Hoover cart" that someone is driving. (A Hoover cart is one that has been fitted with the wheels of a car and is being pulled by a mule or horse. It's called a "Hoover" cart because it was invented during Hoover's presidency.)


In this chapter, the various conflicts parallel each other: Atticus's conflict with Aunt Alexandra is similar to Scout's conflict with Jem in that they're all siblings disagreeing over the way Scout and Aunt Alexandra are supposed to act around each other.

Atticus vs. Aunt Alexandra. Their fight in this chapter stems from a larger conflict over how Atticus raises his children. Aunt Alexandra is critical of his parenting skills, particularly where it comes to Scout, who hasn't had a strong (white) female role model growing up. Aunt Alexandra's presence is in itself a result of her questioning Atticus's ability to raise his children and is, thus, a threat to Scout and Jem, who would prefer to think of Atticus as a stand-up (if old and bookish) father.

Scout vs. Aunt Alexandra. This conflict stems from the really fundamental difference in the way these two characters think about gender and self-expression. Scout likes to wear overalls instead of dresses and to speak her mind instead of being demure, and in many ways this makes her a rebel, because polite society in Maycomb is more aligned with Aunt Alexandra and her now outdated belief that girls should be feminine, wear dresses, and defer to men. Scout doesn't agree and therefore doesn't respect Aunt Alexandra's authority. This leads to trouble.

Scout vs. Jem. This conflict stems from the age difference between Scout and Jem, which has become far more pronounced over the last few chapters. Jem, who's now old enough to be called Mister Jem, has begun to take on airs and to talk down to Scout, which understandably irritates her. When he has the gall to suggest that he'll spank her if she crosses Aunt Alexandra (as if he even has the right), Scout jumps him and tries to beat him up. This levels the playing field between them once again, if only because engaging in the fight with Scout means that Jem is in no way superior to her. The fight is eventually broken up by Atticus, who tells Scout that she only has to mind Jem when and if he can make her (knowing, no doubt, that he can't). We don't see Jem's response to this.


Scout uses an idiom when she says the only way that she could leave the room "with a shred of dignity" was to go to the bathroom.


One example of this is Dill "shiver[ing] like a rabbit" when he hears Miss Rachel's voice.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens on a dark note, with Heck Tate and several other men showing up outside the Finch house to tell Atticus that there might be trouble when Tom is moved to the town jail. These men don't intend to hurt Tom themselves, but give Atticus an ominous warning that he could lose everything because of this case. Atticus doesn't think so and turns his back on the other men with complete confidence, though Jem and Scout, watching from inside the house, are terrified. Jem's lie about the phone ringing breaks the tension outside and causes the group to scatter.

Inside, Jem asks Atticus if those men were part of a gang like the Ku Klux Klan. Atticus explains (somewhat erroneously) that the KKK is gone and is never coming back, then tells the kids not to worry, because those men were still their friends and neighbors. The next day, Sunday, these men approach Atticus again outside church, but Scout and Jem don't hear what they say. After church, the kids bum around, bored out of their minds, and then settle in for a lazy evening when to their surprise Atticus announces that he's going out and takes an extension cord with him. Curious, the Finch children fetch Dill, who's still staying at Miss Rachel's, and follow Atticus into town. They find him sitting outside the jailhouse, reading the newspaper.

Soon after the children find Atticus, a mob approaches him, intending no doubt to lynch Tom. To Scout's dismay, these men are strangers hailing from Old Sarum, and though they're related to the Cunninghams, they have no reason to refrain from hurting Atticus. Scout jumping in between the mob and Atticus shames them enough for them to stop, particularly after Scout kicks one of them in the groin and calls out Mr. Cunningham (Walter's father) for having legal troubles; because of this, the men shuffle off, leaving Atticus and the kids alone.

Before they go home, Tom calls down to thank Atticus for protecting him. Then Mr. Underwood reveals that he has been watching all along, holding his loaded shotgun at the ready in case there was any real trouble and he needed to defend Atticus.


Gothic Architecture. An architectural style popular in the late medieval period and characterized by the use of pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses, which were built in a comically small scale inside the jailhouse, which consists of only two cells. The Gothic style is meant to make it seem foreboding and sinister, but its size turns it into a joke.

Henry W. Grady (1850 - 1889). A journalist who helped reintegrate the Confederacy into the Union following the Civil War. His stance as a white supremacist complicates Atticus's seeming admiration for him, making the fact that he forces Jem to read Grady's work very questionable.

Ku Klux Klan. A hate group often referred to as the KKK or, simply, the Klan. It was first founded in the 1800s, around the time of the Civil War, but didn't gain momentum until the early 1900s, when they first began burning crosses and organizing mass parades to assert their white supremacist beliefs. The traditional image of a Klan member is that of a man draped in a white sheet with a pointed hat on top. Atticus erroneously says that the Klan is dead, but in fact it still exists today, and the kids are right to be afraid that the Klan will intervene in Tom's trial (even though they don't, in the end).


Fear. Up until the moment Scout jumps into the circle of men, all the fear in this chapter belongs to the children: fear that Atticus is in trouble, fear that trial the will destroy him, fear that the men won't let him go home. Once Scout shows up, however, the fear shifts to Atticus, who worries that both she and Jem will get hurt if this turns into a fight. In this, we see that Atticus's only vulnerability is his children and that he has been trying to keep them safe by keeping them away from the trial and any discussion of it. Unfortunately, he won't be able to protect them from everything.

Light vs. Dark. Traditionally, "light" and the color white are associated with goodness or purity, while "dark" and the color black are associated with evil. However, given the racially charged subject matter of the novel, Lee avoids associating black with evil and instead focuses on how light is associated with goodness, education, and enlightenment. When Atticus sits alone in the light of that one bulb, he appears to be an oasis of morality and rationality.

Manners. In this chapter, Scout misinterprets Atticus's lessons in manners to humorous effect, dropping the subject of Walter Cunningham because Atticus told her it was impolite to make people talk about things only you're interested in talking about. Scout stops asking Mr. Cunningham about his son, reverting to her first line of questioning: his entailment. Needless to say, Mr. Cunningham doesn't want to talk about this, either.

Racism. This is the first chapter in the novel where Maycomb's racism is directly linked to violence. Thus far, it has mostly been a sociological phenomenon affecting the way people think while dictating where they can and cannot live. Here, that racism shows its violent potential for the first time and prepares the reader for what lies ahead in Tom Robinson's trial.

Safety. In a poignant reversal of roles, Atticus, who previously defended his children from the rabid Tim Johnson, himself has to be defended from the mob by Scout, who jumps in front of him to be his human shield. This emphasizes the fact that Atticus can't protect his children from all of the bad things in the world and that pretty soon they'll have to face something they might not yet be able to understand.

Shame. Once again, the theme of shame is connected to one of the Cunninghams. In Chapter 2, we saw Miss Caroline embarrass Walter Cunningham by offering him money for lunch, and now we see Scout embarrass Walter's father by reminding him that he's drunkenly threatening a man who has done nothing but help him through his legal troubles. Mr. Cunningham sobers up and goes away with his relatives from Old Sarum, but it's only because Scout put him in his place.

Violence. Thus far, the violence in the novel has been fairly innocuous, consisting mostly of Jem and Scout fighting and the children being afraid of Boo. Up until the Cunninghams came up to Atticus with the intent of killing Tom, the most violent thing to happen was Boo stabbing his father in the leg with a pair of scissors. Here, the threat of violence is sinister enough that it shakes Atticus up and makes him worry about exposing his kids to the trial. It's set to start on Monday.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

This chapter marks the beginning of Tom Robinson's trial, which will be the primary focus of the narrative for the next five chapters. The action picks up where it left off in Chapter 15, with Jem, Scout, and Atticus heading home and then having a somber breakfast the next morning. It seems like the entire town is on the way to the courthouse to watch the trial. Some overzealous Baptists passing by Miss Maudie's house criticize her flowers for being sinful, but Miss Maudie criticizes the zealots right back. In town, Dill sees Dolphus Raymond (a white man) drinking from a paper bag and sitting with the African Americans, and Jem explains that this is just Dolphus's way. We will see more from him later.

The kids refrain from going to watch the trial until after lunch. Atticus had spent the morning in voir dire, or jury selection, so when they finally arrive the trial is just starting. The courthouse is so packed that they end up sitting in the balcony with Reverend Sykes and the African American community that has come to support Tom. On the way to their seats, Scout overhears that Atticus has been appointed by the court to defend Tom, meaning that he's required to (a fact he neglected to tell the kids, though that would've made it easier for them to defend him to his detractors). For this reason, many of the people in the courthouse don't begrudge his defending Tom, though they worry that Atticus is actually going to try to prove Tom's innocence. This seems inappropriate to them. Any other lawyer would've let Tom go to the chair.

Scout spends some time describing the courthouse's architecture (eclectic and disjointed) before moving on to describing the jury and the spectators. Judge Taylor, who sits as the bench looking like a shark with his pilot fish (stenographer) writing around him. She tells an amusing little tale about Judge Taylor throwing out a frivolous lawsuit pitting the Cunninghams vs the Coninghams (their nominally different relations), then adds that Judge Taylor had a way of chewing dry cigars down to nothing. Then Heck Tate takes the stand, and the trial truly begins.


Ecclesiastes 6:4. In the King James Version of the Bible, the full verse reads: "For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness." Those zealots who drive by Miss Maudie's house allude to this verse to suggest that Miss Maudie's is letting her vanity about being a great gardener get in the way of her faith and her piety. She snaps right back at them with another Bible verse that drives them away.

Proverbs 15:13. In the King James Version of the Bible, the entire verse reads: "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Miss Maudie quotes the first half of this verse to the zealots who criticize her gardening and, in so doing, effectively tells them not to look so sour and judgmental.

William Jennings Bryan (1860 - 1925). An American statesman from Nebraska famed for his skill as an orator. He's perhaps best known for his "Cross of Gold" speech, in which he argued that the gold standard was halting progress in America and preventing the economy from growing. Miss Stephanie Crawford alludes to him to suggest that the crowd heading to Tom's trial is disproportionately large, given that Tom is not as famous or important as someone like William Jennings Bryan.


Fire. In Chapter 8, when Miss Maudie's house burned to the ground, "fire" was a menacing image and threatened to destroy all of the houses on her block. Since then, fire has become associated with Miss Maudie and her garden, which is "ablaze with summer flowers." Fire in this instance is not an image of destruction but rather one of beauty, energy, and vitality. Even though the fire burned down Miss Maudie's house, she was able to rebuild it as she liked, making it more beautiful than before. Thus, the fire motif is both about destruction and renewal.

Swimming. In keeping with Scout's description of Atticus appearing to move like an underwater swimmer in Chapter 10, here she described Judge Taylor as an old, sleepy shark with his pilot fish swimming around him. This characterizes him as a big, lumbering, powerful man and emphasizes how slow his movements are (though, as we'll soon find, his mind is actually very quick).


Scout may be making a pun when she describes Judge Taylor as "a sleepy old shark," where the word "shark" is often used pejoratively to refer to lawyers.


One example of this would be Scout saying Judge Taylor looks "like a sleepy old shark."


Racism. This is most obvious in the fact that the African Americans are segregated to the balcony and not allowed to sit on the main floor of the courthouse along with the white people. It's also clear, just from the conversation that Scout overhears, that Atticus is the only reason Tom's getting a decent defense. If not for him, he'd be shafted and have no chance in court. It's implied through this that African Americans don't have the same legal protections that white people do and that racism has been systematized in Alabama to the point where any African American on trial is assumed to be guilty before the trial even begins.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

Heck Tate's testimony starts with him being questioned by Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor. He relates the events of the day in question: Bob Ewell came to find him on November 21st of the previous year and brought him back to the house, where Mayella had been beaten up. She said it was Tom who beat her, so Heck went to arrest him. When Atticus cross examines him, more details come out: Heck didn't call a doctor, despite the severity of Mayella's injuries; Mayella had a black eye on her right side; and there were finger marks around her throat where she'd been choked. This is the end of Heck Tate's testimony.

Next, Bob Ewell takes the stand, looking to Scout like "a little bantam cock of a man" ("bantam" meaning chicken). Scout takes the time to explain that the Ewells live in a ramshackle little home down by the dump, with a fence made out of random bits of things they've pulled from the dump while looking for food. Their house isn't as nice, in Scout's opinion, as the cabins that the African American citizens live in, though these are also situated right next to the dump. It's understood in this chapter that Bob Ewell's drinking is the cause of his family's poverty and that he's not a man worth respecting, but that they're all listening to his testimony because he's white and is accusing a black man of rape.

Once Mr. Gilmer starts questioning him, Ewell goes into a sensationalized account of the rape he says he saw. This is, of course, a lie, which Atticus will prove later, but it's dramatic enough that the audience erupts and Judge Taylor has to bang his gavel for five minutes to call them down. In an effort to keep them quiet without having to close the courtroom off to spectators, he threatens all of them with contempt charges. The trial continues, with Judge Taylor and Mr. Gilmer asking some clarifying questions. Then Atticus cross examines him, beginning again with questions that focus on Mayella's injuries. He then has Ewell write his name to show that he is left-handed, and, therefore, capable of having given Mayella a black eye on her right side. Jem thinks that this will be enough to prove Tom innocent. Scout isn't so sure.


Atticus vs. Bob Ewell. It's safe to say that Bob Ewell has conflicts with everyone: his daughter, Atticus, Tom, and just about everyone else in the courtroom. His behavior on the stand makes a mockery of the court, and his obvious lies bring him into conflict with Atticus, who has no respect for him. One could argue that Bob Ewell's conflicts all stem from the fact that he thinks he deserves to be respected when he doesn't.

Metaphor. One example of this would be Scout saying that Ewell is "a little bantam cock of a man," where the word "bantam" means a certain breed of chicken.


Flowers. When Ewell writes out his name, Scout says Judge Taylor looks at him as if he were a "gardenia in bloom." This picks up on the flower imagery established through Miss Maudie's character and neatly (if briefly) dehumanizes Mr. Ewell, whose behavior has been pompous or "flowery" in the sense that it has been flamboyant. Note that Mayella Ewell is also said to have grown several red geraniums in jars, a fact that is meant to endear her to the reader.


One example of this would be the repetition of the word no in the passage that reads: "No truant officers could keep their numerous offspring in school; no public health officer could free them from congenital defects…"


One example of this is Scout saying that Mr. Gilmer can make a "rape case as dry as a sermon," where "dry" means boring.


Boredom. Unlike the boredom Scout and the children have experienced in previous chapters where they ran out of games to play during the summer, the boredom in this chapter comes as a result of the trial not being as exciting as the spectators originally expected it to be. They want to be entertained by the trial, and when it isn't immediately thrilling, they get restless. This boredom wanes at the end of the chapter when Ewell starts putting on a show.

Law. When Atticus starts questioning Ewell, Ewell accuses Atticus of trying to trick him. His outburst doesn't reflect well on him, but isn't entirely off the mark: as Scout points out, Atticus is adept at asking questions to get the answers he wants and avoiding the ones he doesn't. The law, though a righteous and formidable thing with the capacity to do great good in the world, is also something that can be manipulated or used to manipulate, as when it's used unfairly against Tom Robinson.

Violence. The violence in this chapter is indirect, related to us on the witness stand rather than in scene. We learn from Heck Tate's testimony that Mayella Ewell has accused Tom of raping her and that Bob Ewell claims to have witnessed this act of violence. Though we'll soon find that Tom never raped Mayella, the sensational nature of the case and the presence of the spectators makes the violence seem especially lurid.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

Next, Mayella takes the stand and promptly bursts into tears. Judge Taylor has to comfort her and tell her not to be afraid of Atticus or his questions, which earns her the sympathy of the court and makes Scout wonder if she has good sense. Mayella then testifies that she was sitting out on their porch on the night in question and that when Tom walked by she offered him a nickel to break up a chiffarobe for her—that's when he raped her, she says. When Atticus starts cross examining her she accuses him of "mocking" her by calling her Miss Mayella. She's not used to being treated so politely, and Judge Taylor has to explain to her that Atticus doesn't mean anything by it. Still, the cross examination starts off badly.

Atticus then asks her a series of questions that establish how old she is (nineteen), what her home life is like (hard and lonely, spent taking care of her younger siblings), and if she has any friends (she doesn't). She insists that her father has never hurt her, but does admit that he drinks. Atticus then repeats back her prior testimony about being choked and beaten and asks her to confirm that Tom was the one who raped her. Tom stands up, and that's when Scout and the spectators see that his left arm (the one he's supposed to have beat her with) hangs lifelessly at his side, having been crushed in an accident when he was younger. Seeing this, Jem and Scout realize that Mayella has been lying about what happened. Mayella figures out that this is what Atticus was getting at, but it's too late.

Atticus begins asking her questions so pointed and incisive that Mayella stops answering—where were her siblings? Why didn't they hear her? Why didn't she run? These are the holes in her story and Atticus makes them very obvious to the court. Finally, Mayella snaps back at Atticus, saying that Tom did rape her and that she won't answer anymore questions. Afterward, the state rests its case, and Judge Taylor calls for a ten minute break before Atticus calls his first witness. Some of the spectators do some stretching, but most stay in place, waiting for the trail to start up again. It won't take long. The chapter ends with Atticus saying he only has one witness.


One example of this is Mayella accusing Atticus of mocking her with all his "Maamin and Miss Mayellerin." Atticus is, of course, just being polite.


Atticus vs. Mayella Ewell. This conflict stems from a misunderstanding: Mayella thinks Atticus is sassing her by calling her Miss and ma'am. In reality, Atticus is just being polite, and Mayella's failure to understand this is meant to indicate that she has had a hard and lonely life in which no one, not even her father, has shown her any respect.


One example of this would be Mayella twisting her handkerchief "into a sweaty rope."


Mockingbirds. Though Tom and Boo are the primary symbolic mockingbirds of the novel, an argument can be made that Atticus is also figured as a mockingbird. In this chapter, Mayella even accuses him of "mocking" her, which may be Lee's way of playing on the word and indicating to the reader that Atticus is innocent of what she accuses. He's also a mockingbird in the sense that he hasn't done anything wrong by defending Tom, whose case he was assigned, even though he's vilified in the eyes of the public.


Honesty. Midway through this chapter it becomes clear that Mayella is lying about what really happened and that Tom couldn't have possibly hurt her, because his left arm doesn't work. When Mayella hesitates to clarify how Tom beat her and in what order events occurred, it's obvious that she has made up her story, but that she hasn't prepared herself for cross examination. There are holes in her testimony, and Atticus points them out with his questions. Unfortunately, this doesn't change the fact that she's a white woman and it's her word against a black man's.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens with Tom Robinson attempting to guide his left arm (the bad one) to swear on the Bible. When he fails, he takes the oath without placing a hand on the Bible. Atticus then asks him his age (twenty-five), if he has any children (three), and if he has ever been in trouble before (once; he did thirty days for disorderly conduct). Atticus asks him all this to prove to the jury that Tom has nothing to hide. He then asks Tom about Mayella. Tom testifies that he'd gotten to know Mayella over a period of a couple months when she asked him to do various odd jobs around the house for her, including busting up that chiffarobe. It's clear that Tom was the only person to ever really be nice to Mayella, and that this is what ended up getting him in trouble. He denies hurting her. In fact, she came onto him.

It happened like this: Mayella saved up seven nickels so all of her siblings would go into town to buy ice creams. This meant that she and Tom would be alone and that she could flirt with him in private, without her family seeing. She had him stand up on a chair to reach for something, then, when she hugged his legs, he jumped down, and she hugged him again, this time kissing him on the cheek. (Tom also testifies, "She says what her papa do to her don't count," but Atticus doesn't press him to explain this, just leaves it for the jury and the reader to figure out. This line makes it clear that Ewell was the one who raped his daughter.) Tom then says that Ewell saw Mayella kiss him through the window and that he threatened to kill his own daughter, calling her a "whore." It shouldn't come as a surprise that Tom ran away as fast as he could. This revelation leads his boss Link Deas to announce to the court that Tom was always a good worker and that he never caused any trouble. Judge Taylor throws Link Deas out of the courthouse, but the truth has already been said. Tom is innocent.

Then it's Mr. Gilmer's turn to question Tom. He doesn't believe that Tom would help Mayella out of the goodness of his heart and badgers him until he finally says that he did all of those odd jobs for her because he "felt sorry for her." The white people in the audience don't like this, because in their opinion it's inappropriate for an African American to feel superior enough to a white person to feel sorry for them. Mr. Gilmer then asks Tom why he ran away so fast if he was innocent, and Tom says that he knew he'd be arrested even though he didn't do anything (the implication being that an African American has no chance when a white person accuses them of something). This upsets Dill enough that Scout has to take him outside, where they talk about what happened. Dill thinks Mr. Gilmer was mean to Tom, but Scout knows from experience that he was being easy on him. Still, Dill thinks it's wrong. He doesn't have the stomach for it.


The Bible. In the context of a courtroom, the Bible becomes a symbol of truth and justice. Swearing on it is considered the highest oath, and it's traditional for witnesses to rest their hand on the Bible when they swear to tell the truth on the stand. Tom, unfortunately, can't place his left hand on the Bible, because that's his bad arm, but it's important to remember that he still takes the oath (he just does it verbally, without touching this Bible). Tom's oath is considered binding by Judge Taylor and is thus just as powerful as the oaths all the other witnesses took.

Mockingbirds. Tom's innocence makes him a symbolic mockingbird. Given that he's at the center of the biggest and most important narrative arc in the novel, it's safe to say that the entire novel is arguing that it's a sin to kill him (or, in this chapter, to put him on trial for a crime he didn't commit). It's clear to Scout and to anyone whose mind isn't clouded by racism that Tom is innocent and that putting him on trial is in itself a serious injustice; but that won't change the verdict, unfortunately.


Innocence. Up until the beginning of Tom's trial, innocence took the form of childish innocence, of the kind that leads Jem to believe that Atticus will win the case with pure logic. In this chapter, innocence becomes a more weighted term, taking on legal connotations indicating that Tom is innocent (not guilty) of a crime. His innocence stems not from his youth or naivete but from the fact that he did not do anything wrong. Unfortunately, being innocent doesn't mean that he'll be found not guilty.

Racism. Tom points out the underlying racism of his arrest when he says that he ran away because he was afraid of having to face "what [he] didn't do," meaning that he'd be blamed for something that he didn't do and not be able to prove his innocence because it would be a white man's word against his. This speaks to the systemic racism in Maycomb and the South at that time that made it near impossible for an African American to be treated fairly in the legal system. Tom is lucky in that he had Atticus to defend him. Other men in his position fared much worse in court.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis

Dill, still upset about the trial, accepts a drink from Dolphus Raymond, who, it turns out, hasn't been drinking whiskey at all but rather Coca-Cola. He explains that he does this to make it easier for the people of Maycomb, who can write off his behavior (like having children with an African American woman) to the fact that he's a drunk. In reality, he doesn't like to drink much, but it just makes things easier if people think he does. He tells Scout and Dill this because he saw how Dill got upset at the trial and knows they'll understand, because they're not racist. They do, however, want to see the rest of the trial, so they leave Dolphus Raymond behind and head back inside.

When they sit down again, Atticus is giving his closing argument. He argues that there is no real case against Tom, that there's no medical evidence to suggest that a rape actually happened, and that Mayella has accused Tom of rape simply because she's afraid of what will happen if people think that she came onto him and not the other way around. It's taboo for a white woman to be at all attracted to a black person, so to save herself any embarrassment, she covers up what she did with a lie. Tom, on the other hand, hasn't lied to the court once, and as Link Deas said, he is and always has been a good, hard-working, and respectable person. He wouldn't hurt Mayella, and he didn't. She lied.

Atticus concludes by quoting the old phrase "all men are created equal," which was first used by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. If all men are created equal, he says, then surely Tom deserves better than he has gotten in court. The chapter ends with Calpurnia walking into the courtroom, looking for Atticus.


Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955). A Nobel Prize winning physicist famous for developing the Theory of Relativity and creating the formula E=mc2. He's generally considered to have been one of the most intelligent people to ever live, and Atticus alludes to him here as a paragon of intelligence, saying that the courtroom is the one place where a stupid man can be the equal of someone as smart as Einstein.

John D. Rockefeller (1839 - 1937). An American industrialist well-known for both his wealth and philanthropy. His namesake plaza in New York City (home of the building colloquially known as “30 Rock”) is a good example of his status within the New York City financial industry in early 20th Century America. His name quickly became synonymous with wealth and prestige. Atticus alludes to him to suggest that the courtroom can make a poor man the equivalent of a rich man like Rockefeller.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826). One of the original Founding Fathers and the Third President of the United States. He famously wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal," though he himself had slaves and is widely believed to have fathered children with one of them, Sally Hemings. Atticus alludes to Jefferson not because he was a slaveowner (or a hypocrite) but because he was a major proponent of democracy.

Uncle Tom. The titular character of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1952, just two years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. Stowe, a staunch abolitionist, wrote the book to expose the horrors and injustices of slavery, which had by then been banned in Northern states for almost fifty years. Following its publication, the abolitionist movement saw a strong resurgence, which led to the Civil War. However, in recent years, the character Uncle Tom has been criticized as meek and appeasing, and the phrase "Uncle Tom" is used to describe black people who are eager to please white people and, often, quick to betray other black people.


One example of this would be when Scout says that she couldn't decide "which fire [she] wanted to jump into" (the fire of getting too close to Dolphus Raymond, a known sinner, or of the court). In this context, the fire is a dangerous situation she's willing jumping into despite knowing that it could lead to trouble.


One example of this would be Atticus's pen "winking" in the light.


One example of this would be when Atticus says Mayella's lies are "as black as Tom Robinson's skin," where "black" means dark or evil when it refers to the lies.


Atticus's Clothes. According to Scout, Atticus never loosens or takes off any of his clothing until before bed, which makes the fact that he takes off his jacket in court somewhat alarming for her. His clothes have in many ways become a symbol of his propriety and moral fortitude, so any loosening of his clothes appears, at first, like a loss in stature. This doesn't, however, affect his skill as a lawyer and in the end does nothing but emphasize the fact that this is a difficult case, even for Atticus.

Colors. Black and white are traditional symbols of good and evil, and Lee uses them here to suggest that Mayella's lies are evil. However, Lee doesn't associate black people or dark skin colors with evil, and this is important to keep in mind when Atticus says the lies are "as black as Tom Robinson's skin." He's merely playing on traditional color symbolism to make a point, as when he says that his case is "as simple as black and white," meaning that it's obvious Tom is innocent.


Light vs. Dark. Previously, Lee associated Atticus with light and goodness when he sat under the little light bulb in Chapter 15. Here, she makes the connection between "black" and "evil" when she says the lies that Mayella and her father tell are "as black as Tom Robinson's skin." This is a simile that serves to establish the color black as a symbol of evil and darkness. It's important to note, however, that Atticus doesn't associate Tom himself with evil, and that this is merely a rhetorical device that he uses to prove a point: Mayella is the guilty one, not Tom.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis

Calpurnia passes Atticus a note saying that his children have gone missing. It's then revealed that they've been sitting up in the balcony all along. Atticus tells them to go home and eat dinner, and if the jury hasn't come back by the time they return, then they can stay and watch the verdict. The children are gone for about an hour, in which time Calpurnia scolds them, Aunt Alexandra nearly faints, and Jem proudly claims that Tom should be acquitted. Atticus knows that he won't be, but refrains from telling Jem this. When they get back, the courtroom is just as they've left it, and the Reverend has even saved their seats.

Scout nearly falls asleep before the verdict comes back: guilty. She watches as in a dream as her father walks down the aisle toward the door. All of the African Americans stand up as he passes out of respect, and Scout stands with them.


Calpurnia uses an idiom when she tells the children she'll "skin every one of [them] alive."


Swimming. Once again, Lee uses the image of an underwater swimmer to indicate when events happen very slowly (or at least appear to). This time, it's the jury who appear to move slowly as they return to announce the verdict, whereas Atticus, who has been described as an underwater swimmer once before, moves surprisingly quickly after Tom is convicted. The speed with which he leaves might indicate that he's upset about the verdict.


An example of this is the the courthouse clock "suffer[ing]" the strain of keeping time.


One example of this would be when Scout refers to Jem as Calpurnia's "precious Jem," punning on the phrase "precious gem," which is meant to indicate how highly Calpurnia thinks of Jem.


Scout uses a simile when she says that the feeling in the courtroom was the same as that of a cold February morning when everything went still, even the mockingbirds. This stillness is a result of both anticipation and fear, as Tom and the spectators await the verdict.


Calpurnia's Apron. When Calpurnia arrives in the courthouse, she's wearing "a fresh apron." This is notable for two reasons: that the apron is fresh, meaning that she must've changed it to go out in public, and that she wears it even inside the courthouse, though she's only required to wear it inside of the Finch house. Her apron is thus a symbol both of her servitude and of her pride, because she makes sure to always look clean, fresh, and proper. She might be a servant, but she's a respectable (and very formidable) woman, and that is clear from the way she wears her apron.


Time. Lee continues to build on the theme of time by slowing it down while everyone waits to hear the verdict. She draws on the motif of swimming and swimmers to indicate that time is moving very slowly and that Scout's perception of time is affected by her physical and emotional state (she is worn out after the long trial). It's telling that nearly every scene where time has slowed down for Scout corresponds to an event that she has trouble understanding: the trial, her father's skill as a marksman, and Mrs. Dubose's fight against addiction.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

After the verdict, Jem starts crying, saying it isn't right. Together, they all head home, exhausted, and sit up for a while, considering what happened. Aunt Alexandra tells Atticus she's sorry about the verdict, but wishes the children hadn't watched the trial. Atticus says that they had every right to watch and the racism of the trial is "as much Maycomb County as missionary teas," meaning it is part of their heritage and way of life, unfortunately.

In the morning, they discover that the African American community has left them a pile of gifts on their back porch to thank Atticus for defending Tom. There are tomatoes, beans, pickled pigs' knuckles. Atticus grins at those. Soon after, Dill comes in and tells them that Miss Rachel said a few nasty things about Atticus and the trial ("if a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it's his head"). When they go outside, Miss Stephanie Crawford, Mr. Avery, and Miss Maudie are all talking out on Miss Maudie's porch. Miss Stephanie asks them a series of gossipy and irritating questions, but Miss Maudie saves them from this by inviting them in for cake. She made one little one each for Scout and Dill, but cuts a slice from a big one for Jem, in recognition of his being older.

Jem's feeling glum because of the verdict and thinks no one tried to help Tom, but Miss Maudie corrects him, suggesting that Judge Taylor deliberately chose Atticus to defend Tom so that he'd get a fairer trial. She says Atticus is the only lawyer who could've made the jury deliberate on a case like this for that long—if anyone else had defended Tom, the jury would've found him to be guilty in five minutes. Outside, Dill says that Miss Stephanie Crawford and all the other gossips should be "ridin' broomsticks," meaning that they should be recognized for the witches they are. He declares that when he grows up he's going to be a clown and spend all day laughing at other people, especially the terrible ones.

When Miss Stephanie and Miss Rachel wave to the kids, they feel obliged to go up to them. The adults then tell them to get inside, because there's been trouble: Bob Ewell spat in Atticus's face and threatened to "get him if it took the rest of his life."


An example of this is when Ewell said he'd "get" Atticus "if it took the rest of his life." He will in fact die in the process of trying to get back at Atticus, which makes this line especially ominous.


One example of this would be when Mr. Avery "nearly blew [the kids] off the sidewalk" with his sneezing fit.


Scout uses an idiom when she says, "I stole a glance at Jem."


Perhaps the most important metaphor in this chapter comes at the end, when Dill says that Miss Stephanie and the other gossips should be "ridin' broomsticks," the implication being that they're witches and that the Tom Robinson trial has been a metaphorical witch hunt. Another example is Dill eating in "rabbit-bites," which further solidifies the image of him as a rabbit that Harper Lee introduced in Chapter 14 when he "shivered like a rabbit" at the sound of Miss Rachel's voice.


Clowns. Dill has long been a joker in this novel, so it's fitting that he would want to be a clown when he's older. Though his reasons for wanting this are sad (he's disillusioned with the world and wants to laugh at the racist people who convicted and vilified Tom), the clown is nevertheless a symbol of humor and mirth. For Dill, being a clown would merely be a continuation of his youth and would represent his childish innocence, which makes it difficult for him to cope with the harsh reality of the adult world.

Gifts. In Chapter 7, we saw how the gifts in the knothole were symbols of Boo's affection for the Finch children. In this chapter, the gifts on Atticus's back steps are symbols of the respect and gratitude that the African American community feels for Atticus. They appreciate the fact that he defended Tom despite the backlash and want to thank him somehow, so they give him what they can: food. This is an incredible gesture that almost moves Atticus to tears.


Gossip. The morning after the trial, the children make a pointed effort to avoid any gossip about the trial. However, when they head outside, they're immediately confronted by Miss Stephanie, Mr. Avery, and Miss Maudie, who've been gossiping on Miss Maudie's porch. Dill later says that all of these town gossips should be "ridin' broomsticks," because it would be a more accurate representation of their character. In this metaphor, we can clearly see that gossip has become a malicious force, and that the kids are trying to avoid it for good reason.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 23 Summary and Analysis

After hearing the story of how Bob Ewell spat in Atticus's face and dared him to fight, Scout and the kids set about trying to force Atticus to carry a gun and defend himself. They try a number of different tactics: asking him, throwing a tantrum, refusing to eat. Eventually, Atticus realizes just how scared they are and explains that he's willing to let Ewell spit in his face if it means Mayella and Ewell's other kids are spared a beating. Atticus doesn't think they have anything more to fear from Ewell, but Aunt Alexandra isn't sure. Atticus destroyed Ewell's credibility on the stand, and he's the kind to hold a grudge.

Scout and Jem then ask Atticus about Tom, who has been sent to Enfield Prison Farm in Chester County, seventy miles away. His wife and children aren't allowed to visit him. This sparks Jem to wonder if rape shouldn't be a capital offense and if the jury could've been more lenient with Tom. Atticus then explains to Jem that the law isn't fair sometimes and that judges and juries should be careful when sentencing convicts to death, particularly when the death penalty disproportionately affects black men (as it still does today). He tells them in no uncertain terms that any white man who takes advantage of a black man is trash and that someday karma is going to come for racists like Ewell.

It all comes back to the makeup of Tom's jury. Unfortunately, women weren't allowed to serve on juries in Alabama in the 1930s, so someone like Miss Maudie, who could've made a difference in Tom's trial, wasn't allowed to sit on the jury. However, there was one hold-out who kept insisting that Tom deserved an acquittal: one of the Cunninghams from Old Sarum. It turns out that Scout and Atticus earned the entire Cunningham family's respect that night outside the jailhouse, and on a hunch Atticus put one of them on the jury, thinking perhaps that this would work in his favor. It was a risk, but it almost worked. Because of this, Scout's opinion of Walter Cunningham changes and she makes plans to invite him over once school starts. Unfortunately, Aunt Alexandra doesn't like this idea. She thinks that Walter is trash. Evidently, she and Atticus have different definitions of that word.

Afterward, Jem shows Scout a hair (he thinks is) growing on his chest, and the two discuss Jem's theory that there are four different kinds of folks in Maycomb: people like them, people like the Cunninghams, people like the Ewells, and then the African Americans. This is not terribly unlike Aunt Alexandra's caste system. Scout thinks there's only one kind of folks—folks—but Jem isn't so sure. He's beginning to think that Boo Radley stays inside all the time because he wants to.


Popular Mechanics. One of the longest running magazines in the United States. First published in 1902, it's a popular technology magazine featuring sections about cars, trucks, home repair, and the outdoors. Jem is reading it when he complains to Atticus that Tom's conviction isn't fair.


Atticus vs. Bob Ewell. This conflict has its roots in Chapter 17, when Atticus embarrassed Ewell on the stand. He didn't expect Ewell to confront him about it and doesn't consider Ewell a threat, but this conflict will in fact prove fatal for Ewell later in the novel. It's also connected to the themes of pride, racism, and violence, which have at various times been associated with Ewell.


Lee foreshadows Tom's death in Chapter 24 by having Atticus discuss the death penalty here.


Class. Much like Aunt Alexandra does with her caste system, Jem attempts to divide Maycomb up into different types (or classes) of people determined by whether or not the person can read and write. In other words, he's attempting to impose artificial methods of social stratification based on one's level of education. His system isn't perfect, and Scout disagrees with it, saying that there are only folks—just folks, no different classes. This is a very egalitarian view not unlike the line "all men are created equal" that Atticus quotes during Tom's trial. Jem thinks this theory is naive, but Lee herself, though she appears to align herself more with Scout, doesn't take sides in this argument.

Death. Looming over this entire chapter is the knowledge that Tom has been sentenced to death and that if his conviction isn't overturned on appeal he'll very likely be executed for a crime that he didn't commit. This upsets Jem and leads Atticus to explain that the death penalty isn't used as fairly or as carefully as it should be. This conversation foreshadows Tom's death in the next chapter.

Fear. At the beginning of this chapter, the kids are so gripped with fear that Ewell will do something to harm Atticus that they try to convince him to carry a gun. Atticus tells them not to worry, but this doesn't assuage their fears, and the entire family expects there to be trouble ahead. Curiously, all of them assume that Atticus will be the target of Ewell's rage, and none of them fear for their own safety. This will prove to be a mistake.

Innocence. In many ways, this entire novel is about the loss of innocence Scout and the children experience, and this chapter marks an important point in their moral and psychological development, as they begin to understand just how unfair the justice system can be.

Law. Hand in hand with law is justice, and wherever the two diverge in this novel racism is the culprit. Though Atticus is a very good and very respectable lawyer, he's aware that some laws need to be changed and knows that, in spite of this necessity, changing the law will take a long time. When he explains this to the children, he's effectively telling them that the society they live in is flawed and that society's problems will take a long time to fix. This is, naturally, quite discouraging, but not entirely without hope: there are more people in Maycomb who think Tom's innocent than the kids realized.

Pride. In the beginning of the chapter, Ewell accuses Atticus of being too proud to fight him. This says more about Ewell's pride, which was wounded during the trial, than about Atticus's pride, which is firm and well-founded, rooted as it is in his sense of honor and moral code. That he's willing to take Bob Ewell's verbal abuse to save Mayella a beating says wonders about his character, just as Ewell's propensity for violence further damages his public image.

Racism. Yet another example of racism in this novel is that Tom is sentenced to death rather than twenty years in prison. This is part of a larger, systemic problem that results in the majority of prisoners on death row being African American. Today, African Americans and other minority groups are disproportionately represented in prison populations, just as they were in the 1930s.

Safety. Once again, we see that when safety becomes a concern, people often turn to guns or weapons to protect themselves and their family. In this case, Scout and the kids are urging Atticus to carry a gun, knowing how deadly he can be and understanding that he must protect himself from Ewell. The kids don't, however, take their own safety into account, and this will cause problems later.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis

When the chapter opens, Calpurnia is backing through the swinging door, carrying a charlotte (a kind of cake). Aunt Alexandra is hosting her missionary circle's tea party, and Scout, having been left behind by Jem and Dill, gets caught up in the middle of it. After listening to them discuss the plight of the Mrunas, a tribe of Africans living in squalid conditions, she makes the women laugh by saying that she's wearing her britches under her dress. One of the ladies asks her if she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, but she says she just wants to be a lady, which is a little white lie. The ladies then go back to discussing the Mrunas, as well as a man named J. Grimes Everett, the missionary who's living with the Mrunas.

This somehow leads to a discussion of Tom and how the African Americans in Maycomb reacted to the trial. Some of the missionary women were upset that their servants were sulking afterward. Apparently, their servants' legitimate feelings are an inconvenience to them. Lee uses this fact to illustrate the essential hypocrisy of the missionary circle, which professes to care about the dying people in Africa but treats African Americans like trash back home. One Mrs. Merriweather even says that "some people" (meaning Atticus) have stirred up the African Americans lately, because he thought he was doing the right thing by defending Tom. Mrs. Merriweather disagrees with his actions, and this makes Miss Maudie so mad that she asks if Atticus's food "sticks" when it goes down, meaning that she has some nerve talking about Atticus that way while eating his food and sitting in his house.

Soon after, Atticus comes home with the news that Tom is dead—shot seventeen times while he tried to escape from prison. Atticus asks Calpurnia to come with him to tell Tom's wife the news. Hearing this, Aunt Alexandra breaks down, asking Miss Maudie what more Maycomb expects of him—he's already done what they were too afraid to do, already worried himself sick over Tom's trial. Miss Maudie tries to soothe her by saying they expected great things from him because they respect him, but this doesn't seem like enough. Scout, who wasn't allowed to go with Atticus and Calpurnia, decides that if Aunt Alexandra can go back in and sit with those hypocrites like a lady then she can, too.


Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962). Wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady of the United States. She was a very powerful political figure in her own right and would go on to be selected as the First Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights after leaving the White House. Eleanor was interested in many social issues and fought for equality for African Americans, which is the main reason that Mrs. Merriweather disapproves of her. Lee alludes to Eleanor Roosevelt to suggest to Scout and the reader that even in 1935 there were people fighting for equal rights.


Gender. Gender has been a major theme in this novel. In particular, Scout's refusal to adhere to traditional gender stereotypes and wear dresses has led to conflict with Aunt Alexandra, who thinks that she should act more like a lady. This makes the missionary circle's little gathering especially fraught, because it puts Scout and her mannerisms in the spotlight. There's some tension in the beginning about Scout's behavior, but this is lost in the tragedy of Tom's death. In its aftermath, Scout feels that the appropriate thing to do in that situation is to behave like a lady, which in this context has the same impact as Jem acting like a gentleman (that is, a mature, respectable person).

Hypocrisy. This theme goes hand in hand with racism and has run through the entire novel, becoming most noticeable in those moment where it's clear that African Americans and white people are treated very differently, both in town and by the justice system. In this chapter, hypocrisy is found in the missionary circle, which is composed of ladies who profess to care about poor Africans but then turn around and treat their African American servants with disdain.

Religion. Lee builds on the theme of religion by introducing readers to the ladies of Maycomb's missionary circle. Like the religious community at First Purchase, the circle is typically exclusive to a single race, is interested in charity work, and upholds the social and the moral values of its community. Unlike First Purchase, however, the circle is hypocritical, judgmental, and self-important, and its primary goal appears to be self-preservation rather than religious devotion. Lee uses this chapter to draw a comparison between the missionary circle and First Purchase and show the reader how hypocritical Maycomb can be.

Respect. In Chapters 21 and 22, we saw the great depths of the African American community's respect for Atticus when they stood up for him as he passed and when they left him gifts on the back steps to thank him for defending Tom. In this chapter, we can see that at least some of the white citizens of Maycomb also have a great deal of respect for Atticus, because they entrusted him and no one else with Tom's defense. Miss Maudie says that this is a sign of their esteem, but Aunt Alexandra and Scout don't think this is enough.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens with Jem telling Scout not to kill a roly-poly that had found its way inside the house. Scout is lonely now because Dill has gone back home to Meridian for the school year, and she can't stop thinking about what happened the day before he left: how Tom was killed and how Atticus went to tell his wife the news. Atticus and Calpurnia happened to drive past Jem and Dill while they were swimming, and Atticus allowed them to tag along to the Robinsons' house. They watched from inside the car as Atticus tells Helen what happened to Tom. "She just fell down in the dirt," Dill says. "Just fell down in the dirt."

The news spreads fast, and for two days nobody in Maycomb can talk of anything else. Then the gossip dies down, and things go back to normal until Mr. Underwood writes a column about it in the paper, decrying Tom's murder and saying that it's a sin to kill a cripple. He even likens this to "the senseless killing of songbirds," unwittingly echoing Atticus's line about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird. No one seems to pay any attention to this. Bob Ewell even makes it plain that he considers Tom's death a success. According to Miss Stephanie, he's supposed to have said, "One down and about two more to go." Those two are Judge Taylor and Atticus.


Scout uses a metaphor when she says that Tom was already guilty in "the secret courts of men's hearts" even before the trial began. This implies that every person has their own idea of justice, and that these courts determine what's right and wrong long before anything goes to trial.


One example of this is when Dill repeats himself, saying, "She just fell down in the dirt. Just fell down in the dirt." This repetition is meant to emphasize the effect Tom's death has on Helen and the trauma Dill experiences in witnessing Helen's grief.


Mockingbirds. In this chapter, the symbolism of mockingbirds expands to include all songbirds, which are here likened to disabled people in that they're supposed to be defenseless (this is an ableist viewpoint, but Mr. Underwood's intentions are honorable: he's arguing that Tom's murder was a sin and that it was unfair to put him on trial, because he never had a chance). This solidifies the idea that Tom is the symbolic mockingbird of the novel.


Innocence. Perhaps the most sudden loss of innocence in the novel is Dill's, because he's absent for most of the year and doesn't experience Maycomb's racism first hand. Instead, he loses his innocence in the span of a few weeks, between when Tom is convicted and when he's killed. His repetition of the phrase "she just fell down in the dirt" when telling Scout how Tom's wife reacted to his death indicates that this has been traumatic for him. Scout and Jem are equally traumatized, but their loss of innocence is gradual, taking place over the course of the novel. Tom's innocence is, to the reader, unquestionable, but, as Scout notes, was lost in Maycomb before his trial even began.

Murder. Noticeably, Lee never uses the word "murder" to refer to Tom's killing. Atticus simply says that Tom was "shot" and killed. Mr. Underwood goes the furthest in comparing Tom's murder to "the senseless slaughter of songbirds," where the word "slaughter" indicates the savage, unnecessary nature of the killing.

Sin. Hand in hand with the theme of murder is sin. This chapter fulfills the title's promise and makes Tom the symbolic mockingbird, killed senselessly as he was trying to escape. Lee has given the reader several different reasons why Tom's murder is a sin (that he's disabled, that he's innocent), but in the end it feels like a sin because it's so egregiously over the top. As Atticus notes, "They didn't have to shoot him that many times."

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 26 Summary and Analysis

When school starts again, Scout is in the third grade and Jem is in seventh. He joins the football team as a waterboy, and he and Scout see less and less of each other. Scout walks by the Radley house alone now, and though she isn't scared of it and regrets tormenting Boo, she still wants to see him one day. Atticus warns her not to bother Boo and reveals that he knew about their little excursion into the Radley lot all along; he says they were lucky Nathan Radley missed. Scout is puzzled yet again by Maycomb's behavior (resenting Atticus for defending Tom, yet reelecting him to the state legislature) and decides to withdraw from people and never think about them.

Then one day in class she's forced to pay attention. Her teacher Miss Gates forces the students to do a Current Events presentation every week, and one of Scout's classmates, Cecil Jacobs, brings a newspaper clip about Adolf Hitler, who has begun putting Jews in concentration camps—this is 1935, fully four years before the invasion of Poland, and Hitler is still consolidating his political power as Germany's new head of state. Hypocritically, Miss Gates decries Hitler's actions against the Jews, even though on the day of Tom's trial she said horrible things about African Americans that suggested they deserve their persecution.

Later that night, she talks to Jem, who's "stuffing" in order to gain weight for football. When she starts talking about the trial, he grabs her and tells her never to talk about that with him again. He and Scout have grown apart in the last few chapters, but this outburst still takes her by surprise. It startles her enough that she seeks comfort with Atticus, who tells her that she's too big now to sit in his lap, but that she shouldn't let Jem get her down. Someday, he'll be himself again.


"Sweetly Sings the Donkey." An old children's song with an unknown author and publication date.

Euphemism. During Cecil's Current Events presentation, he informs the class that Hitler has been "washin' all the feeble-minded," but fails to understand that the "showers" in Hitler's concentration camps are really gas chambers, and that "washin'" is a euphemism for killing them. Lee uses Cecil's naivete to emphasize the horrors of war and prejudice.

Simile. One example of this is "the events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room."


Hypocrisy. Yet again, we see a disconnect between what Maycomb's citizens profess to believe about racism and their actions toward African Americans. Seemingly sensible people like Miss Gates who say that they're against the persecution of the Jews turn a blind eye to their own persecution of black people within their community.

Racism. In this chapter, we're introduced to yet another pervasive breed of racism: Anti-Semitism, which led Hitler and Nazi Germany to torture and kill millions of Jews in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. The exact number of deaths is unknown, just as the exact number of deaths during the centuries of slavery in Europe and the United States is unknown, but these deaths do put Tom's death into perspective: had he been tried in a different time period, the trial would've been even more of a farce (if there was a trial at all). Tom's trial itself thus takes place at an important step in Southern history, in which fair-minded and anti-segregationist people began to take positions of power and sway public opinion. It would be decades before the Civil Rights Movement was able to secure a modicum of equal rights for African Americans.

Weakness. Previous chapters have emphasized both physical weakness (Atticus's supposed feebleness) and mental weakness (Maycomb's racism and hypocrisy). In this chapter, Cecil refers to the Jews and other victims of the Nazis as "feeble-minded" in order to explain why they're being persecuted in the concentration camps. This is in line with the tendency for oppressors to demonize all of their victims in order to justify their acts of oppression. Thus, the feebleness or weakness of the Jews is a lie being perpetuated to rationalize the prejudice the Nazis (and racist citizens of Maycomb) enact on a systemic level.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 27 Summary and Analysis

That October, things begin to settle down in Maycomb. Three big things happen: 1) Bob Ewell gets a job working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), but quickly loses it due to his laziness, 2) Judge Taylor's house is nearly broken into one Sunday night—the implication being that Ewell was the one who did it, and 3) Ewell starts stalking Helen Robinson and has to be run off her boss Link Deas' property. Aunt Alexandra worries that Ewell is holding a grudge against everyone related to Tom's trial (including Atticus), but Atticus says not to worry, because he has confronted everyone in their own way and had his time in the limelight. Ewell thought he'd be a hero, but everyone in Maycomb knows he's a liar. He's sour about it, but Atticus is convinced he won't do anything serious.

Things in Maycomb return to normal, with two minor changes: 1) the National Recovery Act is struck down and 2) a group of children whose identities remain hidden break into the cellar of a pair of spinsters, Miss Tutti and Miss Frutti, who claim to have heard the culprits (Syrians, they say), despite being stone deaf. This happens on Halloween, before the pageant in the high school auditorium. Scout unwillingly plays a ham, wearing a heavy costume made out of chicken wires and cloth. She expects her entire family to come, but Atticus refuses, leaving Jem to walk her to the school. As Scout says, this begins "[their] longest journey together."


James "Cotton Tom" Heflin (1869 - 1951). A United States Senator and Congressman and suspected leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). In this chapter, Atticus alludes to Cotton Tom when Scout asks if he's a radical, suggesting that he's as far from it as possible. Critics have pointed to this line to suggest that Atticus is actually racist, but that his ethics prevent him from behaving in a racist fashion toward African Americans. This aspect of his character is expanded upon in the sequel, Go Set a Watchman, in which a grown-up Scout is disappointed to hear that her father has attended meetings of the KKK. Whether Atticus is or is not a racist is still up for debate, but his actions in this novel are nevertheless interpreted as courageous and progressive.

The Ladies' Law. From the 1907 Alabama Criminal Code: "Any person who enters into, or goes sufficiently near to the dwelling house of another, and, in the presence or hearing of the family of the occupant thereof, or any member of his family, or any person who, in the presence or hearing of any girl or woman, uses abusive, insulting or obscene language must, on conviction, be fined not more than two hundred dollars, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail, or sentenced to hard labour for the county for not more than six months." Basically, this law is meant to prevent women and ladies from being catcalled on the street and subjected to the indignities of the world. It's a very outdated law, but effectively prevents Ewell from harassing Helen Robinson further.

National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA). This law was passed by Congress in 1933 and granted the President permission to regulate some industries to prevent inflation and stimulate the economy. It was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, which brought an end to the NRA. This act is widely considered a failure and—as evidenced by the continued depression in Maycomb—did little to relieve the poverty there.

Works Progress Administration (WPA). One of the most significant facets of the New Deal made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in an effort to pull the country out of the Great Depression. It provided funding for the creation of public buildings and utilities and employed musicians, artists, and skilled laborers in an attempt to revitalize the economy. Ewell gets a job working for the WPA in an undisclosed capacity, but quickly loses the job because of his laziness and alcoholism.


Bob Ewell vs. Everyone. In the wake of Tom Robinson's trial, everyone in Maycomb understands that he and Mayella lied on that stand and that Tom died for no reason other than Ewell wanted to be thought of as a racist hero. When this backfires he becomes bitter, lashing out at all of the characters who embarrassed him at the trial or are associated with it. Atticus says Ewell is just blowing off steam, but as we'll see in the following chapter, he's wrong.


Aunt Alexandra's fear that Ewell will exact his revenge serves as foreshadowing of his attack on Jem and Scout in Chapter 28.


Aunt Alexandra uses the idiom "somebody just walked over my grave" to mean that she has had a premonition of something bad happening.


One example of this would be Ewell telling Link Deas not to look at him "like [he] was dirt."


Change. This chapter marks an important shift in Maycomb: its citizens go from being more or less united against Tom to being completely united against Ewell, whom they hold in disdain. In Link Deas's response to Ewell's harassment of Helen Robinson, we can see that many characters in Maycomb (in fact, a majority of those Scout elects to spend time with) are against racism and segregation in its various forms. Though most of the changes in Maycomb are slight, this one will eventually go on to spark radical social change in the South.

Law. Thus far in the novel, there haven't been many allusions to specific laws, with the one exception of Jem and Atticus's discussion of the rape statute, which made rape a capital offense in Alabama at that time. In this chapter, Lee refers directly to laws and organizations that provide some order to Maycomb and are a benefit to the community (particularly to Helen Robinson, who for once is afforded the same rights as a white woman when Link Deas threatens to invoke the Ladies' Law against Ewell).

Revenge. Aunt Alexandra is right when she says Ewell is the kind to hold a grudge. To him, revenge is less about getting back at people who have wronged him than about healing his wounded pride. If he were, for instance, allowed to stalk Helen, then he would be able to assert his dominance and, in so doing, restore his social status as a white male (with all its associated privileges). Instead, he's reduced to the "dirt" he is and lashes out because of it.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 28 Summary and Analysis

Scout and Jem's long journey begins on Halloween night, when they walk past the Radley house in the dark. There's no moon, and Jem teases that there might be a Haint waiting for Scott in the yard between their house and the school. Scout nearly falls and admonishes Jem for not bringing a flashlight, but they make it to the school okay, only getting scared once when Cecil jumps out of the bushes and surprises them. The inside of the school is full of all sorts of fun things, like a House of Horrors and big blobs of taffy. After the band plays the National Anthem, the pageant begins. Mrs. Merriweather, the teacher organizing the pageant, gives a long speech about a one Colonel Maycomb, the town's namesake.

Scout is sleepy by then and performs her part in a daze, missing her cue the first time but finally hitting it on the second. Someone offers them a ride home afterward, but Jem declines, and they set out walking across the yard. Jem hears something, and they stop, listening. Scout then shouts, "Cecil Jacobs is a big wet he-en!" They inch their way towards the big oak tree nearer the street, then Jem cries out for Scout to run. Their stalker attacks, and Scout is caught and squeezed until she can hardly breathe. Then, suddenly, someone pulls the attacker off her. There's a scuffle, and the attacker falls. He then carries Jem back to the house. Jem's arm is broken, and he has blacked out from the pain. Aunt Alexandra quickly calls for Dr. Reynolds. Atticus calls Heck, in case the attacker is still out there.

Scout worries that Jem is dead, but Dr. Reynolds assures her otherwise as he assesses her injuries in the hall outside Jem's room. Heck then arrives and takes a long time explaining that Bob Ewell is dead—stabbed under the ribs with a kitchen knife.


Two examples of this can be found in the line "Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs."


"Dixie." A popular 19th Century folk song supposed to have been written by Daniel Decatur Emmett. The term "Dixie" or "Dixie Land" is a very common nickname for the South, where the song became a kind an anthem.

Spanish-American War (1898). Fought between Spain and the United States in 1898, this brief war was sparked when the U.S.A. intervened in the Cuban War of Independence. This was not an altruistic move on the part of the United States, as they'd been actively pursuing Spain's territories in the Pacific Ocean prior to the war and were interested in controlling Cuba. Though Cuba would eventually gain independence, the 1898 Treaty of Paris granted control over the island to the United States for a short time. The men backstage at the pageant are wearing hats soldiers wore during this and other wars.

World War I (1914 - 1918). Often referred to as the Great War during the Great Depression, World War I is considered one of the deadliest wars on record, with fighting taking place in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific, as well as North and South America. Some of the men backstage are wearing helmets in this style.

Onomatopoeia. There are two examples of this in the line, "What I thought were trees rustling was the soft swish of cotton on cotton, wheek, wheek, with every step," where "swish" and "wheek" are words used to imitate the sound of Ewell's pants.


Death. Of the three major deaths in the novel, Bob Ewell's is the only one that takes place in the present action and the only one that Scout experiences up close (though she doesn't realize it at the time). It's also perhaps the least affecting, in the sense that it evokes no sympathy from the reader and is not considered a tragedy. Our sympathies lie with Scout the entire time, and there's never a doubt in the reader's mind that she'll survive. This brush with death instead throws the rest of the novel into perspective, reminding us that moral fortitude like Atticus's isn't always enough to keep his children safe from the real world. In the end, Boo, who saves Jem and Scout, is the true hero of the novel, not Atticus.

Journeys. In many ways, this entire novel has been one long journey leading us to this moment when Jem's arm breaks. Scout foreshadowed this event in the first chapter of the novel and has been working up to it ever since. Now that the moment has finally arrived, we realize that this isn't an ordinary accident and that we've essentially been reading the build-up to a near-death experience that has an enormous effect on how Scout and Jem see the world. Their journey to this moment has been one of trauma and heartache, and in the process they've lost their childish innocence. In this light, their journey has led them to grow up and wrestle with the themes of death and courage.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 29 Summary and Analysis

After the revelation of Ewell's death, Heck Tate asks Scout to recount everything that happened. He asks her questions along the way, wondering what she shouted and if Atticus heard it, which he didn't. Heck then explains that there were perforations on Ewell's clothes and skin, which he realizes were made by the chicken wire from Scout's ham costume. He calls Ewell a coward, and Atticus, still a little in shock, says he never thought Ewell would come after his kids. He was, of course, drunk at the time, which probably made it easier for Boo to pull him off Scout. He's the one who saved them; Scout didn't realize it before, but understands that it's him when she looks him in the eye. She says, "Hey, Boo," and nearly cries.


Atticus uses an idiom when he says Ewell was "out of his mind," meaning crazy.


One example of this is Heck's assertion that if we always followed our premonitions then "we'd be like cats chasin' our tails."


Courage. Lee continues to build on the theme of courage by revealing that Boo was the one who saved the kids and that he came out of his house for the first time in what might be years in order to do so. This kind of courage doesn't stem from moral fortitude, but rather from the raw human desire to protect those we love. In this sense, Boo is like Atticus in that he's extremely protective of Scout and Jem, but unlike him in that he's willing to kill a human being in order to do it. Atticus never even considered the possibility of Ewell attacking the kids, which is perhaps his only failure in the novel.

Cowardice. Hand in hand with courage is cowardice, which is what leads Ewell to attack Atticus's children in the dead of night rather than face Atticus man to man in daylight. Ewell's actions are both furtive and malicious and evidence a weak moral character that made Ewell a pariah during his lifetime. His attack on the children figures him as an entirely worthless human being.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 30 Summary and Analysis

Hearing Scout use the nickname "Boo," Atticus gently corrects her: "Mr. Arthur, honey." That's his real name: Mr. Arthur Radley. Scout's instinctive fear of Boo makes her run to Jem's side, but she calms down soon enough and leads Boo to the porch, where she offers him the rocking chair, thinking that he'll like the dark. On the porch, Heck and Atticus disagree about who should take the blame for Ewell's murder. Atticus wants to claim Jem did it in self-defense. Heck insists that Boo was the one who did it, but says it would be a "sin" to bring such a shy man into the public eye, suggesting that Ewell simply killed himself. Atticus is morally opposed to this, but Scout is in favor of it. She says it would be like shooting a mockingbird, harkening back to the title of the novel.


Luke 9:60. In the King James Version of the novel, the full verse reads: "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Heck alludes to this verse when he says "let the dead bury the dead," meaning, let's put the matter to rest and end the cycle of violence.


Mockingbirds. In previous chapters, we've seen how both Tom Robinson and Atticus can be figured as symbolic mockingbirds, persecuted in spite of their innocence. Here, Scout makes it clear that Boo Radley is another mockingbird and that, though he has, in fact, committed a crime (that of killing Ewell), his intentions were so honorable that he remains innocent of any wrongdoing. Heck even says, "I never heard tell that it's against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime." He's the sheriff and thus has the authority to sweep the truth under the rug in this case, but under different circumstances (for instance, if Boo were African American like Tom), that wouldn't have been a possibility. The various symbolic mockingbirds demonstrate how different innocence is to people of different races.


Heroism. From the theme of courage comes the theme of heroism, which we saw in a nascent form back in Chapter 10, when Atticus had to shoot the rabid dog Tim Johnson. Here, Boo becomes a hero by quite literally saving Scout and Jem's lives and protecting them from Ewell. His heroism appears to come out of nowhere, fueled not by a sense of morality (like Atticus's) but by his affection for the Finch children, with whom he has developed a friendship almost without their knowledge. It takes a moment for Scout to understand what happened or why Boo saved her, but in the end she feels an enormous amount of gratitude for him. He's perhaps the greatest hero in the novel.

Innocence. This is the last we see of this theme, which has run its course throughout the novel. Ewell's death raises the question of what to do with Boo, the innocent man who acted like a hero. Like Atticus, Boo's innocence is twofold: he doesn't deserve to be vilified by the public, and his intentions are entirely honorable. Unlike Tom and Atticus, Boo is protected from the public, and he's able to go home without anyone besides Heck Tate and the Finches knowing who he is. In the end, he's the only character whose innocence remains intact after the traumatic events of the novel.

Sin. Many characters have used the word "sin," defining it variously as: killing a mockingbird, killing a disabled person, and bringing a shy man into the public eye. Here, Heck Tate's insistence that it would be a sin to spotlight Boo underscores that when we sin we're making a choice (either to do the right thing or not). However, when we consider the fact that people define "right and wrong" differently, it becomes clear that, like morality, "sin" can be relative. Some people would ardently disapprove of Heck's actions. Others would agree. Scout is one of the latter, and as the reader we are meant to side with her.

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 31 Summary and Analysis

When this final chapter opens, Boo is still at the Finch house, coughing dreadfully and shuffling around uncomfortably. Scout takes him to Jem's room so they can say good night. Jem is asleep, and Boo hesitantly strokes his hair in farewell before Scout leads him out of the house. She asks him to offer his arm so that it would appear he was escorting her—and not the other way around. She walks him to his door and then never sees him again. This saddens her, as does the realization that he gave them all those gifts in the knothole and that they never gave anything back in return. She turns to leave, but stops on the porch.

From Boo's front steps, she looks out at the town: at Miss Maudie's flowers, at Mrs. Dubose's old house, at the sidewalk where she and Jem played. She realizes that this is what Boo sees when he looks out and that he thinks of this as his town, his friends. Thinking of everything that happened from his perspective, she understands how he came to feel protective of her and Jem. They're his children, in a way. He protects them. Scout doesn't realize this until she stands in his shoes, so to speak, the way Atticus told her to. It took her almost the entire book, but she finally learns how.

On the walk home, Scout thinks that, though she and Jem are going to get older, there isn't much left for them to learn, because they've been through so much that now they're mature and have a highly developed sense of morality. When she gets home, she finds Atticus sitting in Jem's room, reading The Gray Ghost, which Jem talked about in Chapter 1. She asks him to read it aloud, but falls half asleep and has to be put to bed. As Atticus helps her, she mumbles that she heard every word he said, that she remembered the plot of the book that he was reading, and that "he was real nice," referring, perhaps, to Boo, or to one of the characters in Jem's book. Atticus tells her most people are nice once you get to know them, then goes to sit by Jem. He'll still be there when Jem wakes up in the morning, Scout says, ending the novel on a comforting note.


Empathy. Earlier in the novel, Atticus told Scout that it's impossible to understand someone until you walk around in his shoes. Scout didn't understand at the time, but when she stands on Boo's porch, she is at last able to see things from Boo's perspective. It's an important moment in her emotional and psychological development and indicates that she has learned Atticus's lesson. Her ability to feel empathy for Boo and for other characters indicate that she has matured.

Maturity. Scout has learned many lessons over the course of the novel and, as a result, has matured into an intelligent young woman with a complex understanding of the racial and sociopolitical problems in Maycomb. When she at last sees the world from Boo's perspective, she learns her final lesson, which Atticus attempted to teach her at the beginning of the book: to look at things from another person's perspective and to show them understanding and empathy. Given Scout's often fractious nature, it's no surprise that this was the most difficult lesson for her to learn. That she finally does so indicates that her maturation is complete (at least, within the content of this novel).