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,...
(The entire section is 1279 words.)