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.