Topics for Discussion
1. Scout describes her father's first law case in this way: "His first two clients were the last two persons hanged in the Maycomb County jail...The Haverfords had dispatched Maycomb's leading blacksmith in a misunderstanding... were imprudent enough to do it in front of three witnesses...They persisted in pleading Not Guilty to first-degree murder, so there was nothing much Atticus could do for his clients except be present at their departure, an occasion that was probably the beginning of my father's profound distaste for the practice of criminal law." How is this passage an example of Scout's style as a narrator? How would you describe this style? Find other examples of passages that illustrate her way of telling a story.
2. Many of the characters have unusual nicknames: Jean Louise is Scout, Jeremy Atticus is Jem, Charles Baker Harris is Dill, and Arthur Radley is Boo. How do you think these nicknames developed, and how do they work as characterization devices?
3. Atticus's name is also unusual. Try to determine the origin of his name (it has Greek and Latin roots), and discuss its symbolic meaning in the story.
4. What role does Dill play in the novel? How is Dill different from Scout and Jem? Does he develop as a character in his own right, or does he merely serve as a contrast to Scout and Jem?
5. Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, receives an education in the ways and means of Maycomb County on her first day of teaching. Who teaches her and what does she learn? Why does Lee include this scene early in the novel?
6. Both Calpurnia and Aunt Alexandria try to raise Scout and Jem properly. How do their values, rules, and methods regarding the children's upbringing differ?
7. The chapters leading up to and describing Bob Ewell's attack on Jem and Scout are full of foreshadowing and suspense. Discuss how Lee sets a mood of foreboding and tension, and show how she offsets this tension with humor.