TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
The narrator of the book is Scout Finch, the youngest child of Atticus Finch. Scout begins by telling us of her brother's injured arm and of her family history. The earliest ancestor is Simon Finch, a fur trader who established Finch's Landing outside of Maycomb Alabama. Scout's father is a lawyer and her mother passed away when she was two. She has an older brother named Jem. It is the summer and their neighbor's nephew Dill has come to stay for the summer. They spend the summer playing together and speculating about the Radley house. The most suspicious resident of the Radley place is Boo, who neighbors believe stalks the neighborhood at night. Dill challenges Jem to touch the Radley house, and after a couple of days of pressure, Jem gives in.
The first chapters of the novel paint the town of Maycomb as a quiet and idyllic town. The children play freely, the neighbors gossip innocently on the streets, and everything moves very smoothly. Of course, this will not be the case throughout the novel. These chapters set the tone for a town that is going to be exposed. The lazy rural façade will crumble and the racism and double standards that have been in the minds of the citizens for years will be exposed.
This is where Boo Radley comes into play. The town shows a fear and confusion towards the Radley family. They are different, and this leaves them on the outskirts of the community. The children's games and gossip about the Radleys will mirror the town's attitudes toward Tom Robinson and his plight later. It is the fear of the different and the unfamiliar that shakes this town, and the Radleys are the perfect example of it. They have been neighbors for years, but the town still treats them like fresh news.
On the other side of the Finch house is Miss Maudie Atkinson. She is an older woman from whom Scout learns. She is a kind of maternal figure in the absence of Scout's mother. When her house burns down in chapter eight, Scout and Jem learn an invaluable lesson from Miss Maudie about strength in the face of adversity.
In the fall Dill goes back to his home in Meridian and Scout is about to begin her first year of school. Scout seems to start out on the wrong foot with her teacher, Miss Fisher. Miss Fisher is bothered that Scout reads so well. Scout explains that she has inadvertently learned from her father, and Miss Fisher requests that Scout's father teach her no more. She believes that children should learn by the school's teaching methods. Scout has also learned writing from their African-American cook, Calpurnia.
Soon after this exchange, Miss Fisher finds that Walter Cunningham has no lunch. She tries to give him money, but he will not accept. Scout tries to explain that the Cunningham's take no charity they cannot return. Scout learned this when her father took a case for the Cunningham's and they had to pay in crops, refusing to accept Atticus' generosity. Scout cannot make this concept clear and gets in more trouble with Miss Fisher.
Scout starts a fight with Walter at lunch since she blames him for getting in trouble with their teacher. Jem stops the fight and invited Walter back to their house for lunch. When at home Scout criticizes Walter for the way he eats his food, and Calpurnia scolds her for her behavior.
Back at school, Miss Caroline reacts badly to the "cooties" in a student's hair. The student is Burris Ewell, who is from an extremely poor family. She sends him home, but the class explains that Ewell children only come to the first day of school anyway. When Burris leaves, he shouts obscenities at Miss Fisher, causing her to cry. The class tries to placate her.
While walking home Scout finds two pieces of gum in the tree on the edge of the Radley lot. Later, she and Jem find two pennies in the same tree. The children have no idea who is leaving the items in the tree.
School gets out for the summer and that means the arrival of Dill. The children start coming up with games to keep them occupied. During a game, Scout is rolled onto the Radley while in a tire. This gives Jem the idea for them to pretend to be the Radley family. Atticus finds them playing in the yard and suspects that their game is at the expense of their neighbors and tells the trio to stop. Scout tells Jem that they should listen to Atticus and do what he says, but Jem thinks they can keep plying without getting in any further trouble. Scout, though, is afraid. She believes that the afternoon she rolled into the Radley yard, she could here someone inside of the house laughing at them.
Scout begins to spend more time with Maudie Atkinson, their next door neighbor. She asks Miss Atkinson about Boo Radley. Miss Atkinson explains that the Radleys are very strict Baptists and they stay reclusive for religious reasons.
Meanwhile, Dill and Jem hatch a plan to give a note to Boo Radley. Dill and Scout are instructed to stand watch while Jem tries to slip the note into the house. Dill sounds the alarm that Atticus is coming down the street. The group is caught and Jem admits that they were trying to give a note to Boo. Atticus tells them to quit harassing the Radleys.
On Dill's last evening in Maycomb, the group begins the evening at Miss Rachel's pond. Dill and Jem decide to make one last attempt to see Boo. Scout reluctantly agrees to go with them.
The trio sneaks to the house in the dark. As they move to the window, someone is out in the yard. He walks close to them, and after he passes, the children run for the gate near the schoolyard. A gunshot goes off as they try to escape. Jem's pants are caught on the fence and he has to remove them to go free.
When the children return to the street, they see a large crowd gathered in front of the Radley house. Nathan Radley tells the crowd that some nigger was in his collard patch and that he fired the gun to scare off the intruder. As the crowd talks, Atticus notices that Jem has no pants on. Dill comes up with a quick story that he won them from Jem in a poker game. After evading Atticus, Jem decides to return and get his pants.
School begins and Scout enters the second grade. Jem finally admits to Scout what happened the night he went back for his pants. He found them folded neatly on the fence and someone had done a poor job trying to repair the tear.
On another walk, home they find a grey ball of twine in the tree on the Radley lot. Later, the find two carved soap figures; one of a girl and one of a boy. Another time they find gum and a pocket watch. Scout and Jem decide to leave a thank you note in the tree for whoever is leaving them the gifts. The next day the hole in the tree has been filled with cement. Jem asks Nathan Radley why cement was poured in the tree, and he explains that the tree is ill and needed it.
Maycomb sees it's first winter in years and it startles Scout, who has never seen a snowfall. She and Jem decide to take the opportunity to make a snowman and enjoy what little snow is on the ground.
That evening Scout is woken by Atticus to find that Maudie Atkinson's house is burning. The town gathers to help move out furniture and personal belongings. The house finally collapses and the firefighters rush to make sure that no other houses at threatened by the flames. Jem and Scout watch in awe and fear, so taken with the scene that they do not realize that someone has places a blanket around Scout. Atticus tells Scout that it was Boo Radley who placed the blanket around her. Jem is overtaken with all that has happened and tells Atticus all that has happened with the Radleys.
Jem and Scout go to see Maudie the next morning. They are shocked with her positive attitude about the fire. Maudie sees the fire as a chance to start over and move on.
Scout gets in a fight at school with a boy who says that her father defends niggers. Scout tells Atticus about the fight and asks him what they boy meant. Atticus explains that he is defending Tom Robinson, a black man, and many in the town believe that he should not have taken the case. When someone at school makes a similar comment, Scout heeds her father's advice about fighting, and backs down.
Christmas arrives, and so does Atticus' brother Jack. On Christmas day Jem and Scout receive air rifles as gifts. After opening presents, everyone goes to Finch's Landing to spend the rest of the day. Scout has to deal with her bratty cousin Francis for most of the day. After dinner Francis calls tells Scout that her father is a nigger lover. Although Scout has been good about fighting, Scout attacks him and demands he take it back. This brings the day to an abrupt end. Scout receives a spanking from her Uncle Jack. She explains to Jack why she started a fight with Francis, and he becomes more understanding.
That evening, Atticus talks to Jack about the case and all of the problems that may arise because of it.
Atticus sets some rules with Jem about the use of his new gun. He doesn't wanting him shooting at birds, but he is sure that Jem will. He explicitly tells him never to shoot a mockingbird, since they are the most innocent of the birds.
That afternoon a mad dog wanders down the street. Calpurnia rushes the children inside and calls Atticus to tell him. Atticus arrives with the town sheriff, Heck Tate. Heck aims for the dog, but realizes that he might miss. He tells Atticus that he should take the shot, to the surprise of the children. Atticus kills the dog instantly. The event greatly affects Jem and he warns Scout not to mention this at school. Scout is confused but Jem tells her that if Atticus wanted them to know what a good shot he was, he would have told them.
The summer after second grade the children decide to expand their horizons. They spend more time going into town, which requires them to pass the house of Miss Dubose, who never misses an opportunity to shout at the children. This infuriates Jem, but Atticus tells him not to get upset. On a particular walk, Miss Dubose makes remarks about Atticus to the children. Jem becomes enraged and on the walk home destroys Miss Dubose's bushes. Atticus sends Jem back to clean up his mess and to work on her shrubs for every weekend. When Jem returns he tells Atticus that Miss Dubose wants him to read to her instead.
The next weekend Jem, accompanied by Scout, goes to read to Miss Dubose. Miss Dubose is very ill and spends most of the afternoon in a fog. After several weekends, they are free of reading to her.
Atticus goes to visit Miss Dubose one weekend. When he returns he announces that she has passed away. Atticus explains to the children that Miss Dubose had become addicted to morphine as a result of her illness and that she had spent the final months of her life freeing herself of the addiction. He tells them that their company helped her keep her mind off her pain. Atticus opens a box with a piece of her shrub in it. It is a gift for Jem, who is angered by the gesture. Atticus tells them what a strong and brave woman Miss Dubose was for fighting her addiction.
As Jem grows older he also grows moodier, leaving Scout to spend more time with Calpurnia. Scout watches Cal and realizes that maybe being a girl isn't so bad.
Atticus has to leave the family to attend an emergency session of the legislature. Calpurnia has to stay with the children and take full care of them in his absence. She is not sure if they should be going to church by themselves and decides that they should come with her on Sunday.
When they arrive at Cal's church, the children cause quite a stir. They are the only white faces in the congregation. One woman seems to resent their presence, but the rest of the congregation welcomes them freely. They know Atticus and have the utmost respect for him. While in attendance, the children overhear things about Tom Robinson and his case. His wife cannot get any work in the town and Tom has been accused of rape. Scout is not sure what rape is, but knows it can't be anything good.
As they walk home from church, Aunt Alexandra is waiting on the porch for them.
Aunt Alexandra notifies them that she has come to stay with them. She immediately makes herself at home. When Atticus returns he explains that Aunt Alexandra is here to teach the children, Scout in particular, something about breeding and refinement. Alexandra is not pleased with the way Atticus is raising the children and feels that she is needed. The kids are not pleased by the news, having no idea that they have been behaving improperly.
Scout asks what rape is. Atticus asks her where she heard the word and Scout explains about the trip to Cal's church. Alex is shocked to hear that the children were in a black church. She tells Atticus in confidence that they should let Calpurnia go, but he is adamant that she is part of the family and will not be leaving anytime soon.
Jem takes Scout aside that evening and tells her that she should do her best not to upset Aunt Alexandra. Scout believes Jem is trying to act superior and starts a brawl with him. She is sent to her room and thinks she hears a snake under her bed. Upon closer inspection, they realize it is not a snake, but a runaway Dill. He confesses that he doesn't like living at home and took the train to Maycomb. Atticus allows Dill to stay with them, but informs Dill's Aunt Rachel about the situation.
Dill's parents allow him to stay in Maycomb. One evening, the sheriff stops by the house with a group of men from town. Atticus talks with them and Scout tries to overhear. They talk about Tom Robinson's case and how Tom is being moved into the Maycomb jail.
Everybody from Maycomb heads downtown so that they Atticus suspiciously leaves that evening. The children decide to follow him. They find him in a chair outside of the jail reading a book. They continue to watch him when a group of men approach the courthouse. The group demands that Atticus let them get to Tom, but Atticus won't give in. Jem, Scout, and Dill burst into the scene, much to the shock of Atticus. Scout recognizes one of the men as Walter Cunningham and tries to strike up a conversation. Eventually this awkwardness breaks the group up and they leave. Tom calls out from his cell asking if the men have left. Atticus tells him everything is fine now. Mr. Underwood, editor of the local newspaper next door, calls out to them and says that he had his eye, and his gun, on the situation the whole time from his window above. Atticus takes the children home. Later in the afternoon, the children decide to head into town as well. The children see Dolphous Raymond, a white man sitting with all of the black citizens. Scout and Dill are confused as to why he would keep such company when it goes against most social rules. Jem explains that Mr. Raymond is gossiped about in town and prefers the company of the black community.
The court is uncharacteristically crowded and the children cannot find anywhere to sit. Reverend Sykes, the minister from Cal's church, takes them to where the black citizens are sitting and finds them seats. When they are all seated, Sheriff Heck Tate is the first to take the stand.
Sheriff Tate testifies that Bob Ewell came to him saying that his daughter Mayella had been raped by Tom Robinson. Atticus questions Bob Ewell and asks him about why a doctor was not called. Ewell says that it was plain enough to see what had happened to Mayella. Throughout the testimony Bob also explains that Mayella received a black right eye in the attack. Atticus gets Ewell to admit that he is left handed, part of his plan to make the jury realize that it was Ewell who probably beat Mayella.
Mayella takes the stand. She testifies that she asked Tom into the house to do some chopping. Once they were in the house alone she says that Tom beat and raped her. Atticus makes her clearly state that it was Tom who choked her, beat her and raped her. When she does, Tom stands up to reveal an almost useless left arm. It was badly injured in a farming accident leaving it damaged and much shorter than his right arm. Atticus finally asks Mayella if it was her father, not Tom Robinson, who attacked her that evening. After the intensity of the testimony, the court takes a small recess.
After the recess, Tom takes the stand. According to his testimony, he had been on the Ewell's property many times, helping Mayella with different chores. The evening of the accused crime, he said that she asked him in the house to fix a door. While his back was turned, she wrapped herself around him. He shook her free and she tried to kiss him. Bob Ewell saw them from the outside and called his daughter a whore. Tom testifies that he was very afraid of what would happen to him and so he ran. Link Deas, Tom's employer for many years, suddenly stand up in the courtroom and says that Tom Robinson has never been a problem for him and has never done anyone harm, which causes a stir in the courtroom.
When the prosecution questions Tom, they ask him about his previous conviction for disorderly conduct. He had been in a fight with a man and spent a month in jail for it. The prosecution also asks Tom about why he was always helping out Mayella and what his motives were. Dill finds the prosecutors attitude to Tom so upsetting that he and Scout leave the courtroom.
Dolphous Raymond calls over Scout and Dill. He says that he has something that will help Dill's stomach. He gives Dill a sip of the drink in his paper bag, which the town has always believed to be alcohol. It turns out to be Coca-Cola, which surprises the children. Dolphous explains that he leads the town to believe that he is a drunk so that they have a reason to dislike him. After Dill's stomach improves the children head back into the court for final arguments. When Atticus finishes his closing arguments, Cal enters the courtroom.
Cal has brought a note for Atticus. It is from Aunt Alex stating that the children have been missing all day. Mr. Underwood points out that the children have been in the colored gallery of the courtroom. Atticus tells them to go home for dinner, but that they may return to here the jury's decision. The children go back home with Cal, who chastises them the whole trip home. After a long dinner, the children return to court to find the jury still deliberating. Later the jury returns with a guilty verdict.
Tired and upset by the verdict, everyone goes to bed. When the Finch family wakes up in the morning, food has been brought by many of the families in town. Atticus becomes upset and leaves the house.
The whole town is gossiping about the case. The children talk to Miss Maudie about the case. They are very upset that Tom is going to jail and the town did nothing. But Miss Maudie points out that some people did what they could. She tells the children that Judge Taylor appointed Atticus for a reason; he knew that Atticus was the only lawyer in the town who would do his best to defend Tom.
When the children leave Miss Maudie, they hear the newest bit of gossip. Bob Ewell ran into Atticus in town, spat upon him, and told him he would get revenge one way or another.
Atticus seems unaffected by Ewell's threats, but the children fear for him. Atticus tries to calm them and explain that Bob Ewell was just letting off steam. Later, Scout and Aunt Alex have a fight about Scout's choice of friends. When Scout mentions that she would like to have Walter Cunningham back to the house, Aunt Alex explains that the Cunnunghams are below them and they shouldn't get too close. Scout goes to her room in a mood. Jem approaches her and tells her not to be bothered by their Aunt. And Jem has good news. He shows Scout his very first chest hair.
Aunt Alex hosts a meeting of the missionary league at the Finch home one afternoon. Scout tries her best to associate with the women, but would rather stay in the kitchen with Calpurnia.
Atticus comes home with that bad news that Tom Robinson has died. He was shot by guards at the prison who claim he was trying to escape. Everyone is upset by the news, even Aunt Alexandra. Atticus and Calpurnia leave to go break the news to Tom's wife, Helen.
The fall arrives and Dill goes back home to Meridian and Scout remembers what Dill told her about the day Tom died. Dill and Scout were picked up by Atticus on the way to the Robinson home, but left in the car. Dill watched as Atticus broke the news to Tom's wife, and she fell to the ground and had to be taken into her house.
Scout also remembers an editorial that Mr. Underwood wrote in the paper. Underwood wrote about Tom's death and the sin of killing a crippled man, even if he was trying to escape. The editorial confuses Scout because she cannot understand the motives of those who wanted to punish Tom.
Jem begins his first year of high school and Scout starts the third grade. The class talks about Hitler. Scout's teacher explains how horrible it is the way Hitler treats the Jews. But Scout cannot understand her teacher's position. Scout sees the teacher's attitudes towards Tom as the same thing as Hitler's attitudes towards Jews.
After school, Scout asks Jem about this discrepancy, but the discussion only angers Jem.
Helen takes a job with Link Deas, Tom's former employer. After being harassed by the Ewell's on her walk to work, Helen has to take the long way to Link's house. When Link finds this out he goes to the Ewell' to threaten Bob. Later, Bob begins to follow Helen.
One evening, while alone in his home, someone tries to break into Judge Taylor's house assuming it was empty for the evening. All signs point to Bob Ewell.
Due to last Halloween's pranks, the town organizes an evening at the high school for the children. Scout is recruited to be in the evening's pageant, as a ham hock
Jem and Scout walk to the school, carrying Scout's bulky ham costume. Someone follows them in the dark field, who turns out to be a friend of theirs hoping to scare them.
After the pageant, they head home, Scout staying in her cumbersome costume. They hear footsteps following them, but believe it to be the same friend trying to scare them. They become less certain the situation is harmless and begin to run. Scout runs right into an unidentified person in the dark field. There is a scuffle, but Scout cannot tell what is happening. She runs to the street and sees a man carrying Jem in his arms to their house. She arrives home and finds that a doctor has been called for Jem. Aunt Alex helps Scout out of her costume. The doctor examines Jem. He has a broken arm and is well, but unconscious. The man who saved Jem is in the house, but Scout doesn't know who he is. Heck Tate comes in and says that Bob Ewell is dead under the tree in the field from a knife wound.
Tate asks Scout to explain to him what happened out in the field, but Scout is confused about the details. The costume obstructed her view and it was very dark. While talking, Atticus points out that the unidentified man who helped rescue Jem was none other than Boo Radley.
Scout is shocked to find she is looking at Boo Radley after all these years of mystery. They all move to the porch to discuss what happened, and Heck Tate insists that Ewell fell on his own knife. Atticus, believing that Jem stabbed Ewell, will not allow Tate to cover up what happened. Tate continues to insist, but Atticus won't allow the sheriff to lie for his son. Tate implies that Boo was the one who stabbed Ewell, and he will not force Boo into the town's limelight.
Boo goes to say goodnight to Jem, who is still unconscious. Scout walks Boo back to his home, the second time she has ever been on Radley soil. When she returns, she finds Atticus reading in Jem's room. She falls asleep as Atticus reads to her and he carries her to bed.
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