To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 31 Summary and Analysis

Harper Lee

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.

Themes

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).