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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Who is Zeebo in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Zeebo, the garbage collector, is the oldest son of Calpurnia, the Finches' maid.

Mentioned briefly in Chapter 10 in which Atticus shoots the rabid dog, Zeebo lifts the dead Tim Johnson with a pitchfork and tosses it into the back of the garbage truck. Then, he pours disinfectant on and around the place where the dog has fallen, telling the children too not come near the place for a while.

The next time that Jem and Scout see Zeebo is the Sunday that Calpurnia takes them to the First Purchase African M. E. Church in the Quarters in the southern end of town. After the tall woman named Lula accosts Calpurnia, demanding to know why the white children are in the black church, she moves away as others approach. From this group, Zeebo steps forward and greets Jem:

"Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no attention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back....we're mighty glad to have you all."

During the service, Jem and Scout are surprised that there are no hymn-books in the pews. Later, when Zeebo rises from his pew holding a well-worn hymn-book, he tells the congregation that they will sing a certain hymn. Scout asks Calpurnia how they will sing this hymn when there are no books. Calpurnia smiles and tells Scout that she will soon learn. Then, Zeebo clears his throat and reads in a voice "like the rumble of distant artillery" the first line of the hymn, and the congregation sing in melodious unison until Zeebo reads the final line. After the Sunday service is ended, the children learn that Calpurnia has taught Zeebo to read from the Bible and a book given to her by Mrs. Buford in which she learned to read. 

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Zeebo is a garbage truck driver in Maycomb. He collected Tim Johnson's body and is the son of Calpurnia, who was the Finch's housekeeper. She was taught to read by Maudie's Aunt, and in turn taught Zeebo to read, at one point using Blackstone's Commentaries as a text.

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What does Zeebo look like in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Zeebo is Calpurnia’s son.  He is the town garbage man.  Since he is Calpurnia’s son, obviously he is black. However, since he is Cal’s son and she is educated, he is one of the few black people in Maycomb who can read. 

Zeebo is not physically described very often, but his personality is subdued and polite. He seems to know the Finch children fairly well, since his mother works for them.  When Cal takes the Finch children to church, they see Zeebo and are surprised when he leads the entire congregation in song, one line at a time. 

Zeebo cleared his throat and read in a voice like the rumble of distant artillery:

“There’s a land beyond the river.”

Miraculously on pitch, a hundred voices sang out Zeebo’s words. The last syllable, held to a husky hum, was followed by Zeebo saying, “That we call...

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the sweet forever.” (Ch. 12) 

Zeebo is patient, and the whole congregation follows his lead.  He does this several times throughout the service, so that the people can sing without knowing how to read.

Scout asks Calpurnia about this, and she explains to Scout that she did teach Zeebo to read, because there was no school for blacks when he was young. 

Zeebo was Calpurnia’s eldest son. If I had ever thought about it, I would have known that Calpurnia was of mature years—Zeebo had half-grown children—but then I had never thought about it. (Ch. 12)  

So all we really know about Zeebo is that is old enough to have "half-grown children," he is a garbage collector, he is one of only four blacks in Maycomb who can read, and he has deep voice “like the rumble of distant artillery.”  Even though it’s not a physical description, it does tell us a lot about him and his important role in Maycomb, from garbage collector to church line reader.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, who is Zeebo, and what are his jobs?

It is also important to know that Zeebo is Cal's son (but don't think of a little boy... he's a man).  Zeebo is also the "collector" of the body of the rabid dog that Atticus shoots in the street.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, who is Zeebo, and what are his jobs?

The passages that you are looking for are going to be found in chapter 12, right in the middle of the chapter.  Calpurnia ends up taking Scout and Jem to her church, because Atticus is out of town.  She doesn't trust them to go to their own church unsupervised; the last time that they did that, Jem caused a ruckus by convincing a little girl that if she touched the radiators "she wouldn't get burnt if she had enough faith."  So, to Cal's church they went.  They meet Zeebo, who happens to be "the garbage collector," so, a garbage man.  But, once church starts, they realize that he is also in charge of leading the congretation in hymns.  And by lead, it means that he sings out each line, pauses, and waits for the rest of the congregation to repeat each line.  He does this for two reasons:  1.  Most black people couldn't read, so, they just repeat what he says because they can't read a hymnal, and 2.  The church might not have enough money to provide hymnals for all of its members.  So, Zeebo is not only a trash collector, he is a literate hymnal leader and singer too.

I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!

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