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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What happened at the pageant in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In chapter 28, Mrs. Merriweather puts together a pageant entitled "Maycomb County Ad Astra Per Aspera," in which children dressed as various agricultural goods produced in Maycomb step out onto the stage in front of the community. Before Mrs. Merriweather begins calling the children onto the stage, she gives a brief history describing how Maycomb was founded and established. Scout also mentions that Mrs. Merriweather elaborates for thirty minutes on Colonel Maycomb’s exploits. As Mrs. Merriweather is discussing Colonel Maycomb's achievements, Scout accidentally falls asleep. Following the pageant, Scout learns that Mrs. Merriweather shouted "Pork!" several times to no avail. When Scout hears the band playing Dixie, she wakes up and runs onto the stage wearing her pork costume as Mrs. Merriweather triumphantly mounts the stage with the state flag. Scout's untimely entrance causes the entire audience to burst out laughing. Following the pageant, Mrs. Merriweather tells Scout that she ruined the evening, and Jem attempts to console his sister. The Finch children then wait until everyone leaves the auditorium before they begin walking home.

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The action at the pageant is some of the most harrowing in To Kill a Mockingbird. The narrative starts innocuously enough; Jem accompanies Scout to her Halloween pageant. While backstage, Scout falls asleep in her costume, so she misses her cue to come on stage and arrives late. The director of the pageant is very angry at Scout for her error, and she accuses her of ruining the entire play. Scout is so ashamed that she refuses to leave the pageant until almost everyone has gone.

Jem and Scout walk home alone, and they begin to hear noises. They think it is their friend, Cecil, trying to scare them. Eventually, they can hear someone running after them, so they realize it is not Cecil. The pursuer, who we eventually learn is Bob Ewell, attacks them, but is killed by Boo Radley. The attack leaves Jem unconscious, so Boo picks him up and carries him home.

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