To Kill a Mockingbird Additional Summary

Harper Lee

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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.)

Summary

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Narrated by precocious Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who ages from six to eight in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the initiation of Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill into the adult world of prejudice and injustice. Growing up in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930’s, the three children are fascinated by the story of Arthur “Boo” Radley, who, following some youthful misdeed, has been forced into seclusion by his fanatically religious family and subsequently victimized by the community’s prejudice and fear. Although the children view him as a monster to be feared, they simultaneously desire to know and understand him. Meanwhile, their lives are disrupted by the appointment of Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, as defense attorney for an African American man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The children’s introduction to racial prejudice and injustice is swift and severe. Although Finch clearly proves that Robinson is innocent, the all-white jury finds him guilty, and Robinson is subsequently killed in an escape attempt. Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, revealed in the trial to be a liar, seeks revenge on Atticus Finch and, in a drunken rage, tries to murder Scout and Jem. Boo Radley, who had befriended the children in secret, rescues them. The novel ends with Atticus’s fear that society will pay for its injustice but also with the belief that in spite of his losing the case, a small step has been made toward racial justice.

Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s one published novel, is set in a small Southern town. People there are defined by gender, race, and social class, forced to play the roles that history and gossip have assigned to them. When the book was published, it was seen primarily as an attack on racial prejudice. However, it is now more correctly viewed as opposing all infringements on the rights of people to be themselves.

In Maycomb, Alabama, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem are being reared by their widower father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer. Atticus is trying to teach his children respect for others as the individuals they are. Thus Atticus reprimands his children for prejudging their neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who has been shut up in his house since attacking his father years before. Atticus also points out the difference between superficial manners and the behavior of a real lady, such as the unconventional Miss Maudie Atkinson. Atticus even insists that the children respect the bigoted Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who must be admired for her battle against addiction. Atticus explains that there are great differences between people of the same class. Though poor, Walter Cunningham is an upright man, while the equally poor Bob Ewell is reprehensible.

In the second part of the novel, Scout and Jem see their father’s principles put to the test. He undertakes to defend a worthy black man, Tom Robinson, who has been falsely accused of raping Ewell’s daughter. Viewing Tom through the eyes of prejudice, Maycomb’s white citizens convict him, and he is killed. Atticus has, however, made a difference. Maycomb’s blacks now know that at least some, or one, white will treat them fairly. Moreover, before the novel ends, Walter Cunningham has saved Atticus from a mob, and Boo Radley has rescued Jem and Scout from the murderous Bob Ewell.

Harper Lee’s contemporaries recognized the worth of her novel by awarding it the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1961. Decades later, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a classic assertion of the need for human beings to respect others, as they live their lives and search for their identities.

Summary

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1961. It was adapted into a movie starring Gregory Peck in 1962. The movie earned an Academy Award for the script, and Peck won an award for best actor. Critics have pointed out the autobiographical elements of the novel, suggesting that Harper Lee, while growing up in Monroeville, Alabama, was affected by racial tensions resulting from the lack of employment opportunities for blacks and poor whites during the Depression. Her father was a lawyer and Lee attended law school before deciding to write full-time. Biographers maintain that when Lee was Scout’s age, she became aware of the case known as the Scottsboro trials, in which nine young black men were tried on rape charges involving two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.

In the book, an adult Scout reflects on growing up during the Depression in fictitious Maycomb, Alabama, with her older brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus. Calpurnia, their black maid, has taken care of Scout’s family since her mother died when Scout was two years old. During the three-year span of the novel, Scout and Jem, with Atticus’s guidance, learn about the world around them.

The first section of the novel, which is divided into two parts, begins with the narrator reflecting on the year that her brother’s arm was broken, and she attempts to trace the events that led to the accident. She describes her lineage, the major families that make up Maycomb, and the caste system that is deeply embedded into the psyche of all who live there. When Scout is six, she and Jem meet Dill, a boy who has come from Meridian, Mississippi, to spend the summer with his aunt. Together, the children devise plans they hope will get their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley, to come out of his home. They have heard rumors about his life, and they begin to make up stories of their own. When Atticus learns that the children are bothering the Radley family, he encourages them to stop, but their fascination with Boo never...

(The entire section is 860 words.)

Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

To Kill a Mockingbird has been discussed by many critics simply in terms of racial prejudice; however, it is clear that in both the novel and the film the theme is more universal than a portrayal of the evil of racial prejudice. That evil is shown as an example of humankind’s intolerance. In all of its forms, people’s inhumanity to others is the real antagonist of the enlightened. In the novel, there are many minor instances of prejudice, including the encounter between Jem and Mrs. Dubose, with which part 1 of the book ends. These incidents prepare for the concentration on the two major plot lines in part 2. Neither of the plot lines dominates the novel. Structurally, they are brilliantly interwoven. Thematically,...

(The entire section is 1074 words.)

Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

When To Kill a Mockingbird first appeared in 1960, most critics praised it; the following year it won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s, the novel focuses on the trial of an African American man accused of raping a white woman; it is narrated by the young daughter of the man’s defense lawyer. The novel rapidly found a niche in young adult literature collections; by the mid- 1960’s it was widely read in junior and senior high school English classes. At the same time, however, some parents objected to the book’s inclusion in school classes, calling it immoral and citing its use of profanity and explicit details of violence, especially rape. Some adults also...

(The entire section is 405 words.)

Summary

(Novels for Students)

Part One
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the life of its young narrator, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, in...

(The entire section is 1459 words.)