Narrated by Scout (Jean Louise Finch) in first person retrospective (looking back as an adult on her childhood) Brother Jem, father Atticus, housekeeper Calpurnia black, a mother figure to Scout (and Jem)
Finch family background: Simon Finch, an apothecary from England settling in Maycomb County, creates family fortune and builds Finch’s Landing. Ancestry is important to Maycombians.
Maycomb, Alabama is a tired old town 1933 Depression era, segregated South
The Radley’s and Boo’s story (wrong crowd, father’s punishment, hyperbole surrounding Arthur (Boo) Radley 15 years and never seen until scissor incident-Boo at 33, not seen again after that)
Dill: Charles Baker Harris, a “pocket Merlin” (based on Harper Lee’s actual childhood friend, Truman Capote) comes to visit, staying with his aunt, Miss Rachel Haverford, the Finches next-door neighbor.
Old Mr. Radley is sick, and later dies. Mr. Nathan comes home from Pensacola and takes Mr. Radley’s place.
Scout’s long-awaited first day of school-she is told she has learned to read and write the “wrong” way. Is upset that she is not allowed to read with Atticus every night, because Miss Caroline’s methods do not support the way Scout learned from him.
Miss Caroline Fisher, Scout’s teacher, fresh from teacher’s college: “looked and smelled like a peppermint drop”, was not from Maycomb and didn’t know their ways, i.e. a Cunningham won’t take anything he can’t pay back (.25 for lunch).
Jem’s inaccuracies: big brother information that isn’t always correct. The Dewey Decimal System (he says it is the new teaching methods) and explaining entailment (having your tail in a crack).
Walter Cunningham Jr. comes for noon dinner, Calpurnia reminds Scout about being gracious and polite to any guest in her home.
Burris Ewell, older than the other students, filthy, had “cooties”, only attends the first day of school each year, was disrespectful and mean to Miss Caroline
Little Chuck Little an example of typical Southern gallantry (polite, well-mannered) despite being poor.
Theme: pg 39 Atticus teaches Scout a way to get along with people…”you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Atticus offers a compromise-they will continue reading together at night as long as Scout agrees to continue to go to school.
Items in the Radley tree knot-hole: Scout finds two pieces of foil wrapped chewing gum
Jem and Scout find a foil wrapped ring box with two polished Indian head pennies from the early 1900’s
Another of Jem’s inaccuracies: Indian head pennies come from Indians and they make you have good luck.
Dill returns for the summer and they begin to play the Boo Radley game
Scout’s roll in the tire leads her to the porch step of the Radley house. She remembers hearing low laughter when she hit the porch and fell out, dazed.
Jem and Dill begin spending more time together, excluding Scout
Scout turns to Miss Maudie for companionship
Miss Maudie: “a chameleon lady”, a widow, loves gardening, known for her crisp speech and her Lane Cake.
always tells the truth to the kids-especially explaining the Radleys to Scout foot-washing Baptists (Mr. Radley)-they believe anything pleasurable is a sin.
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of-oh, of your father.”
Jem’s plan to send a note to Boo by fishing pole on his windowsill-fails; Atticus catches them and forbids them from continuing to bother the Radleys.
Jem plans a night-time raid on the Radley’s, hoping to see Boo. While Scout and Dill look on from the back gate, Jem climbs on the porch to look into the window. The shadow of a man falls across Jem, they run and a shotgun is fired.
Jem is caught on the fence, so leaves his pants there and runs.
The neighborhood gathers to see what has happened, and Mr. Nathan Radley says there was a Negro in his collard patch (untrue-it was the kids). The kids make up an excuse for what they were doing: playing strip poker (which explains Jem’s missing pants).
Jem goes back later that night to collect his pants. Scout fears he will be shot.
Dill returns to Meridian, as summer draws to a close.
Jem tells Scout, “When I went back for my breeches-they were all in a tangle when I was getting’ out of ‘em, I couldn’t get ‘em loose. When I went back, they were folded across the fence…like they were expectin’ me.” And, “They’d been sewn up-not like a lady sewed them, like somethin’ I’d try to do. All crooked.”
More knot hole items: a ball of twine, carved soap images (a boy and a girl-looking like Jem and Scout), a tarnished spelling medal, a pack of chewing gum, a broken pocket watch on a chain with an aluminum knife.
Jem and Scout write a thank you note for the items and planned to put them in the knot-hole, but Mr. Nathan sealed the hole with cement, saying the tree was sick. The tree is healthy-Jem is upset that their connection with their gift giver is closed.
Mrs. Radley dies of natural causes that winter, but her death causes “hardly a ripple.”
Unusually cold weather, (neighbor Mr. Avery blames bad weather on bad children). First snow since 1885.
Jem and Scout make a snowman that looks too much like Mr. Avery-fix him to make him look half man/half woman (‘morphodite”-hermaphrodite).
Miss Maudie’s house catches fire at night, the neighborhood comes out to help save furniture and put it out. Scout and Jem stand by the Radley house and watch-Scout is very cold. When returning to their house later, Atticus notices a blanket around Scout’s shoulders, “Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight, in one way or another.” Boo placed it there without the children noticing. Jem tells Atticus everything about their attempts to contact Boo, the items in the tree…
Miss Maudie figures she’ll rebuild a smaller house, with more room to plant flowers-she hated that “old barn” anyway.
Cecil Jacobs (student at school) says Atticus “defends niggers”. The Tom Robinson (a Negro from Calpurnia’s church, a good family man) case that Atticus is taking, causing high talk around Maycomb that he shouldn’t do much about defending him. Atticus says … “if I didn’t I couldn’t hold my head up in town, I couldn’t hold my head up in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you and Jem not to do something again.” “Every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine.”
Atticus asks Scout to “hold your head high and keep those fists down.”
Theme “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.” p.101
Christmas, Uncle Jack visits from Tennessee, Atticus’ younger brother, a bachelor, a doctor, and Scout’s favorite relative.
Scout has begun swearing/cussing in hopes Atticus will figure she picked up the habit from school, and not require her to attend any longer. Uncle Jack does not like this behavior from Scout.
The family joins Aunt Alexandra and her family for Christmas at Finches Landing. Aunt Alexandra compared to Mount Everest: cold, and there; fanatical about Scout’s unladylike clothing and behavior.
Other family members, Uncle Jimmy-never speaks (to Scout), and her cousin, Francis-boring, a tattle-tale, insults Dill, and calls Atticus a “nigger lover” Scout punches him and gets in trouble-Uncle Jack tackles her to the ground and yells at her.
Scout and Atticus teach Uncle Jack a couple things about children: Scout, “…you’re real nice, but you don’t understand children much…you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it, you just lit right into me.” Atticus, “Jack, when a child asks you something, answer him for goodness’ sake…children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults. And later about Scout’s swearing: “Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it.
Atticus discusses the particulars of the trial with Jack, that the jury couldn’t possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells’. He hopes Scout and Jem continue to come to him for information so they don’t catch Maycomb’s usual disease (racism).
Jem and Scout don’t have bragging rights on their father-he is “old and feeble”, unlike their schoolmates’ younger fathers.
Theme: p 119, Atticus: referring to their air rifles, “Shoot all the blue jays you want, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie explains further: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in people’s corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” It is wrong to hurt or kill something/someone who is innocent.
Symbolism: mockingbird = innocence
Tim Johnson, rabid dog. threat to neighborhood. Mockingbird reference p. 125. Atticus and Sherriff Heck Tate come to investigate, Tate hands gun to Atticus, who kills Tim Johnson with a single shot to the head. The children learn that Atticus is an excellent marksman, and that his nickname used to be Ol’ one-shot. Jem is particularly proud of his father.
Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, the Finch’s neighbor. Mean, crotchety, critical of Jem and Scout about their behvior and that their mother would turn over in her grave over the way Atticus is raising them-that they will amount to nothing. She calls Atticus a nigger lover, which enrages Jem. He takes Scout’s baton and beats her camellia bushes until they are ruined. Atticus makes him go to Mrs. Dubose to talk to her afterward. His punishment is to clean up the mess, and to go read to her every day after school and on Saturdays.
Scout accompanies Jem, fearful something bad will happen to him. Her home is scary, and her appearance is worse. They spend each afternoon doing this for many weeks, until the alarm clock never rings to announce the end of their reading sessions.
In reality, Mrs. Dubose is trying to kick a morphine addiction. She is terminally ill, but wishes to overcome the addiction before she dies. Jem’s reading is a distraction that allows her to go longer and longer periods of time between morphine injections. Some time later Mrs. Dubose dies.
Atticus explains her plan, and admires her courage, a Theme: p.148, “She wanted to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody.” “You know, she was a great lady.” “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do…she was the bravest person I ever knew.”
End of Part I Part II Chapter 12
Jem is twelve, and shows signs of maturity that distance him from Scout-Calpurnia begins calling him “Mister Jem”
Dill not coming for the summer, his mother has married and he has a step father
Since Atticus is at the legislature for two weeks, Calpurnia brings the children to her church-First Purchase African ME Church
Lula only member who objects to the children attending-first time Scout and Jem experience racism.
Reverend Sykes takes up collection for Helen Robinson (Tom’s wife), who can’t find work.
Zeebo leads members in hymns, linin’ because only four of congregation read.
Aunt Alexandra has come to stay.
Aunt Alexandra there to be “positive influence” on children, specifically Scout
Scout’s definition of “Fine Folks” people who do the best they can with the sense they have. Aunt Alexandra’s: the longer a family has been squatting on a patch of land, the finer it is.
People of Maycomb can be expected to behave according to their family “streaks”, no Crawford minds his own business, all Bufords walk that way, every third Merriweather is morbid…
Aunt Alexandra wants Atticus to instill sense of Finch heritage “who they are-gentlemen and ladies” to the children. Atticus tries, but feels ridiculous and his talk with children is awkward and unnatural -he tells them not to worry yet.
Chapter 14 “From rape to riot to runaways”-Atticus
Town of Maycomb discussing trial and disapprove of Atticus’ role in it.
Scout asks Atticus about rape, which he defines for her.
Atticus and Aunt Alexandra learn Calpurnia took children to her church. Alexandra scandalized, suggests Atticus let Calpurnia go since Alexandra is there to help. He refuses. Calpurnia is a good influence on children, helps out immensely, and the children love her. Aunt Alexandra and Atticus argue over the way Atticus has raised the children, particularly Scout; saying she needs to learn lady-like ways.
Scout and Jem fight over causing trouble for Atticus.
Scout thinks a snake is under her bed, in reality it is Dill, who has run away from home, saying he was mistreated by his new father-chained in the basement
Jem “breaks the remaining code of their childhood” by telling Atticus about Dill.
Dill later admits to Scout that his parents don’t mistreat him, they ignore him.
Reference to Boo: Scout, “Why do you recon Boo’s never run off?” Dill, “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to…”
Dill allowed to stay
Foreshadowing: “a nightmare was upon us.”
Grown men in Maycomb stand outside in the front yard for two reasons, death and politics…a group of concerned citizens approach Atticus about “trouble” brewing over Tom Robinson. Link Deas, Dr. Reynolds, Mr. Avery, Heck Tate…Would like a change in trial venue-outside of Maycomb. Atticus thinks it is not necessary. Also, wants to establish the truth- “Link, that boy may go to the chair, but he’s not going till the truth’s told…and you know what the truth is.”
Atticus goes to jail with an extension cord and light, and sits outside reading the paper.
Jem, nervous and fearing for his father’s safety, sneaks out (along with Scout and Dill) to make certain Atticus is alright. Four cars arrive filled with country men (the Old Sarum Bunch) and ask Atticus to move aside and let them have Tom Robinson.
Atticus tells them to go home and that Sherriff Heck Tate is nearby. The men know he isn’t because they called Heck and his men out to the country under false pretenses (a snipe hunt).
Scout breaks through group of men to see her father. Atticus asks Jem to take them home, Jem refuses to go. A man grabs Jem, Scout kicks him.
Scout recognizes Mr. Cunningham among the group and speaks to him-he pretends to not recognize her, and she continues talking to him about his son Walter, the work Atticus has done for him, and the payments he has made against his entailment. Eventually, her one-sided conversation unnerves Mr. Cunningham, who crouches at her level and tells her he will say hello to his son Walter for her. He tells the gathered men to leave and go home, averting the crime they came to commit (lynching Tom Robinson).
Mr. Underwood (the owner and editor of the town newspaper) had a double-barreled shotgun, and had been watching the gathered men from his window above The Maycomb Tribune Office
Atticus, Jem, Scout, and Dill go home; Tom is safe for the night.
As they review the events of the night before, Atticus notes that it was unusual to have Mr. Underwood protecting him and Tom, as Underwood despises Negroes.
Scout and Atticus discuss Mr. Cunningham’s behavior, and his reason for being at the jail-to kill Tom, and to hurt Atticus if necessary. Atticus explains mob mentality, but that mobs are made up of people, human beings, which distinguishes our race from animals. Atticus says Scout made Walter Cunningham walk in HIS shoes for a minute-which was enough to avoid trouble. Thematic reference
Trial begins, almost circus-like atmosphere, many people in town to see the trial: Mennonites, Foot-washers, country folk, Idler’s Club (who spend every day watching courthouse action), Miss Stephanie; the only person not interested in the proceedings is Miss Maudie, who thinks it is morbid to watch “that poor devil on trial for his life.”
Mr. Dolphus Raymond introduced as a wealthy landowner who is publically drunk all the time, and who prefers the company of black people to “his own”. He lives with his black common law wife and has multiple mixed-breed children. His history is that his fiancé killed herself the night before their wedding (because he was going to keep his black mistress).
By the time the children get to the courthouse, there are no seats remaining. Reverend Sykes finds them a place to sit in the balcony (where the black citizens sit).
Judge Taylor introduced: amiable, white haired, ruddy-faced, who runs his courtroom casually, but professionally (appears to be sleeping, but is actually listening intently). Unusual habit of not smoking, but consuming a cigar throughout the day.
Prosecuting attorney-Mr. Gilmer, balding smooth-faced man anywhere between 40-60 years old.
Sheriff Heck Tate’s testimony: night of November 21st, Mr. Ewell came in saying someone had raped his daughter…found her lying on the floor, beat up, and said she had been raped by Tom Robinson. Tate went to Robinson’s home and arrested him.
Atticus questions whether a doctor was called because she was so beat up- bruised around the head, shoulders and neck, and a black RIGHT eye.
Robert E Lee Ewell was called to the stand, “…a little bantam cock of a man rose and strutted to the stand…a shock of wispy new-washed hair stood up from his forehead; his nose was thin, pointed, and shiny; he had no chin to speak of-it seemed to be part of his crepey neck.-metaphor
Description of the Ewell property behind the town dump, dirty, unkempt, squalid home, except for a corner of the yard with perfectly tended pots of red geraniums. The flowers were said to be Mayella Ewell’s.
Mr. Gilmer asks questions about the night of November 21st, Mr. Ewell’s crude replies lead to Judge Taylor using his gavel repeatedly and threatening to clear the courtroom if there are any more outbursts. Testifies that he heard screaming, ran to the window and saw Tom raping his daughter, ran to Heck Tate’s office. On cross examination, Atticus again asks about why no doctor was called for Mayella’s injuries. Atticus also asks Bob to write his name, indicating that he is left-handed (implying that Bob, not Tom Robinson was the person to give Mayella her black right eye).
Mayella Violet Ewell is called to the stand to testify-a thick-bodied girl accustomed to strenuous labor, yet looks as though she tries to keep clean.
Mr. Gilmer questions Mayella about the events of November 21st. She asked Tom to come in the yard and break up a chiffarobe for her. When she went to get a nickel to pay him, he attacked her and raped her.
Atticus questions Mayella, and she is afraid of him, also thinks Atticus is mocking her because he is being polite-calling her ma’am, and Miss Mayella.
Atticus asks a series of questions designed to paint a picture of the bleakness of her life-living in squalid conditions, no friends, no school, no mother, and an abusive father.
Atticus begins to attack the inconsistencies in her story, ending with having Tom stand up, which shows his crippled left arm. It would be physically impossible, or at least unlikely for him to have choked her, beat her and raped her using just one arm/hand.
Mayella refuses to speak/testify any further.
Tom testifies, cannot place his left hand on the Bible, it keeps slipping off.
He is 25, married, has three children, and works for Mr. Link Deas.
He passes the Ewell house every day to get to and from work.
Mayella often asked him to come in the yard and do things for her. He did it without being paid because he could see she didn’t have money or much help from her father or her siblings.
The 21st she asked him into the house to fix a door that wasn’t broken. The children are all gone; she sent them into town for ice cream. She said it took her a year to save up enough nickels for all of them (planning this for a long time).
Mayella makes a pass at Tom (hits on him), hugging him and trying to kiss him. Tom tries to get away without hurting her. In the meantime, Bob Ewell looks in the window and sees what is happening and says, “You goddamn whore, I’ll kill ya.”
Tom runs, explaining that he ran because “if you was a nigger like me, you’d be scared too.”
Gilmer questions why Tom would do the work without being paid, that he had his eye on Mayella for a long time.
Tom makes the fatal error of saying he did those things for Mayella because he felt sorry for her. Gilmer, “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?” A black person feeling sorry for a white person is incomprehensible to white people during this time period-it is presumptuous, given their social standing.
Dill begins to cry. He cannot tolerate the way Mr. Gilmer speaks to Tom. Jem makes Scout take him out of the courtroom, where Dill explains why he’s crying, Dolphus Raymond comes up and says he understands why Gilmer’s racist behavior makes Dill feel sick. “You’re not thin-hided; it just makes you sick, doesn’t it?”
Dolphus offers Dill a drink from his bottle, which turns out to be simply Coca-cola, not whiskey. The children ask him why he pretends to be drunk.
“…I don’t care that they (people of Maycomb) don’t like it-but I don’t say the hell with ‘em, see?” Folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey, that’s why he won’t change his ways-he can’t help himself. People could never understand he lives with black people because he chooses to.
He trusts the children to keep his secret because he says children understand better than adults. Explaining Dill’s tears “Things haven’t caught up with that one’s instinct yet…cry about the simple hell people give other people…cry about the hell white people give colored folks without even stopping to think that they’re people too.”
Cheating a colored man: Atticus: cheating a colored man is ten times worse than cheating a white man.
Back to the courtroom, where Atticus is giving his summation speech: the state has not produced medical evidence; their two witnesses’ testimony has been called into question and contradicts the defendant’s.
“Mayella has broken a rigid and time-honored code of society…she tempted a Negro.” “She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man.”
“…there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal…a court.” “…in this country our courts are the great levelers.” Specifically to the jury: “In the name of God, do your duty.”
Calpurnia brings a note that the children are missing. Mr. Underwood points them out in the balcony. Atticus makes them go home for supper, but allows them to come back to hear the verdict. Jem believes the jury will acquit Tom quickly.
The children return to the courthouse and the verdict still is not in; they wait further.
Mockingbird reference: Scout senses a feeling similar to the time in February when the rabid dog was about to be shot… Symbolism and metaphor: Innocence is about to be destroyed (Tom’s, Jem’s, Scout’s).
“A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted…” Guilty verdict.
Atticus gathers his things to leave, and walks down the center aisle. Reverend Sykes and the other people in the black section are standing, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin.’” They are showing their respect for him, and their gratitude to him.
Jem cries at the injustice of the verdict. Aunt Alexandra says to Atticus, “I’m sorry brother.” She says she didn’t think the children should have been allowed to stay in the courtroom. Atticus says, “This is their home, sister, we’ve made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it.”
Jem asks Atticus how they (the jury) could do it (guilty verdict). His reply, “I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it-seems that only children weep.” Like Dolphus Raymond-only innocent children understand racism and injustice.
The next morning, Calpurnia shows Atticus all the food the black community has sent to him in appreciation. Atticus is moved to tears at their generosity.
Neighborhood reaction to the verdict: Miss Rachel, “If a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it’s his head.” Miss Stephanie, Mr. Avery and Miss Maudie are talking. Miss Maudie calls the children over; she has made a Lane cake (and two small ones for Dill and Scout-Jem receives a slice from the large cake, for adults).
Miss Maudie talks to the children, “Don’t fret, Jem. Things are never as bad as they seem.” And “…there are some men who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.” And “We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.” She explains that some people of Maycomb tried to do the right thing, like Judge Taylor appointing Atticus to the case. “And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step-it’s just a baby step, but it’s a step.”
The neighbors are still talking and the children sense something is wrong. Miss Stephanie tells them, “…this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life.
The children are frightened by Bob’s threat; Atticus isn’t too concerned, but he explains to Jem, “See if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute, I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial…” Thematic Reference
Atticus plans to appeal Tom’s case to a higher court. Tom is at Enfield Prison, 70 miles away. If he loses his appeal, he will be executed.
Discussion about cheating a black man-Atticus says, “Whenever a white man does that (cheats) to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
Atticus says the jury took time to come back with a verdict because one man in particular took time to wear down: a Cunningham from Old Sarum.
Scout says she wants to invite Walter Cunningham to dinner, or to stay overnight for a visit, but Aunt Alexandra says she can’t because, “…you can scrub Walter Cunningham ‘til he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem.” “You should be friendly and polite to him; you should be gracious to everybody, dear. But you don’t have to invite him home.” Scout, “Why can’t I?” Aunt Alexandra, “Because-he-is-trash, that’s why you can’t play with him.”
Scout later when talking to Jem about it, says, “…that boy’s not trash, Jem. He ain’t like the Ewells.”
Jem talks about (the caste system in Maycomb) four kinds of folks, ordinary kind like us, the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.
Discussion of why each kind of folks don’t like the other, and Jem explains that, “…the reason Aunty’s so hipped on the family is because all we’ve got’s background and not a dime to our names.” Jem: background is how long your family’s been readin’ and writin’. Scout, “There’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Jem says, if there’s one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? “I think I understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time…it’s because he wants to stay inside.”
Aunt Alexandra hosts the Ladies’ Missionary Circle. Mrs. Grace Merriweather gives a report on the squalid lives of the Mrunas (a tribe of people living according to their own cultural mores in Africa-considered to be uncivilized and who live in “poverty and immorality” in Africa). J. Grimes Everett is the “only missionary who is the only white man who will go near them.” Tells Scout she is fortunate to “…live in a Christian home with Christian folks in a Christian town. Out there in J. Grimes Everett’s land there’s nothing but sin and squalor.” –Irony, the sin and squalor perpetrated by the Ewell family is ignored and tolerated.
Scout confuses Mrs. Merriweather’s meaning, and thinks she is talking about the Ewell family, when in reality; Merriweather has begun gossiping with another lady about Helen Robinson, and her situation following the trial.
Discussion follows about how “they” are sulky, and dissatisfied and grumbling about the outcome of the trial (the black community).
Mrs. Merriweather begins in a subtle way to criticize Atticus, “…there are some good but misguided people in this town…who think they’re doing right…but all they did was stir ‘em up.”
Miss Maudie speaks harshly to Mrs. Merriweather, “His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?” This embarrasses and angers Merriweather, but stops her.
Aunt Alexandra is grateful for Miss Maudie’s loyalty.
Atticus comes home unexpectedly, looking for Calpurnia. He wants her to go with him to Helen Robinson’s place. Tom Robinson is dead. He was shot (seventeen times) while trying to escape from prison. He has lost hope, and decided to take his chances on running.
Alexandra reveals her concern for Atticus and frustration with the people of Maycomb, “…they’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do…” Maudie responds by saying, “…we’re paying him the highest tribute we can pay a man…” When asked, “Who?”, Miss Maudie replies, “The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only…the handful of people in this town with background (people who believe in fairness, justice, not based on skin color).
Scout, Miss Maudie, and Aunt Alexandra rejoin the ladies, pretending nothing of significance has happened. Scout, “After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.”
Symbols of innocence: the roly- poly that Scout almost crushes after playing with it. Jem stops her: “Why couldn’t I mash him?” “Because they don’t bother you.” The little girl at the Robinson house, who Atticus helps down the stairs. Helen Robinson, after hearing the news about her husband: “…she just fell down in the dirt, like a giant with a big foot just came along and stepped on her.”
Mr. Underwood’s editorial: “Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.”
Bob Ewell is heard saying (about Tom’ death), “…it made one down and about two more to go.”
School started again. Scout’s daily trips past the Radley house remind Scout of their obsession with Boo. The house no longer terrifies her, yet she still would like to see Boo before she dies. “So many things had happened to us, Boo Radley was the least of our fears.”
Current Events with Miss Gates: WE ARE A DEMOCRACY. Scout, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.” Miss Gates discusses the Jews in Europe being persecuted by Hitler. “Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced”, says Miss Gates. Scout is troubled by this lesson, and confused, because after the trial, Scout heard Miss Gates say, “…it’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were getting’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us.”-about black people in Maycomb. Scout recognizes Miss Gates’ prejudice.
Things settle down; however three events serve to foreshadow that Bob Ewell is dangerous.
Bob acquires and loses a WPA (government issued, Depression relief) job within three days, he is too lazy. When collecting his welfare check, claims Atticus took his job.
One Sunday night at home, Judge Taylor hears a scratching noise on his screen door, but nothing is there. His wife returns home to find him reading, with a shotgun across his lap.
The Ewells “chunk at” (insult, threaten) Helen Robinson as she goes to and from work (for Link Deas). Deas threatens Bob Ewell, who begins following Helen, making threats behind her as she walks to work. Link Deas promises to have Ewell arrested under the “Ladies’ Law” (decency toward women enforced), and Ewell finally stops.
Halloween pranks went too far in Maycomb last year (moving Miss Tutti’s and Miss Frutti’s furniture to their basement was the last straw), so a pageant at the high school auditorium is planned (by Mrs. Grace Merriweather): Maycomb County: Ad Astra Per Aspera (from the mud to the stars). Scout is to be a ham in the presentation. Mrs. Crenshaw makes her costume out of chicken wire, and it is so big, she needs help getting into and out of it.
Atticus and Alexandra are both too tired to attend the pageant. Atticus asks Jem to escort Scout. Foreshadowing “Thus began our longest journey together.”
Chapter 28 Climax of the novel
Halloween is an unusually warm, dark night. Jem and Scout walk to the school. Symbolism: Mockingbird reference “High above us a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness…”The pageant is a success, especially entertaining is when Scout (who has fallen asleep inside her costume (due to Mrs. Merriweather’s dramatic droning), runs on stage late, just as Mrs. Merriweather enters the stage- illustrating a similarity between “Pork!” (a pig) and Mrs. Merriweather-the audience loves it. Mrs. Merriweather yells at Scout for ruining her pageant, and Scout is embarrassed. She and Jem wait to leave after everyone else has gone home.
Jem and later Scout notice that someone is following them as they walk home.
Someone attacks them, crushing Scout in her costume, and pulling Jem away from her. She hears Jem scream, and then someone begins squeezing her until he is pulled off of her. She feels a body that isn’t Jem’s, but that of a man, with whiskers and who smells of whiskey. Scout sees someone carrying Jem to their house. Atticus and the man carry Jem inside. The doctor is called, and Heck Tate.
Doctor Reynolds examines Jem and Scout. Jem has a badly broken arm, bumps and bruises, but will be okay. Heck investigates the area and finds Bob Ewell dead, with a kitchen knife stuck under his ribs.
Heck asks Scout to tell what she remembers about their walk home after the pageant. She relates the details. Tate examines her costume, and says that the chicken wire matches holes in Bob’s sleeves and arms. He points out the clean mark a knife cut made through the wire, indicating that Bob “meant business”, had stabbed Scout-but only cut her costume (the costume saved her life). Scout tells more about the scuffle and identifies the man in the room as the person who carried Jem home. She realizes gradually that the man is Boo Radley.
Atticus introduces Arthur to Scout, saying he already knows her. Boo, who has been unnerved by the people in the room being able to look at him, smiles and visibly relaxes when he looks at Scout.
Heck Tate, Atticus, Boo and Scout go outside to talk about the events of the evening while Dr. Reynolds puts a cast on Jem’s arm. Atticus chooses the porch because it is darker than the living room.
Heck and Atticus begin discussing what to do next. Atticus begins putting together details in his mind for Jem’s defense. He believes Jem is responsible for killing Bob. Heck Tate is surprised, and tries to tell Atticus how that couldn’t be possible. Atticus thinks Heck is suggesting they cover up Jem’s murder by saying Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Atticus won’t allow the dishonesty-it isn’t how he has raised his children. Heck is firm about the fact that Jem didn’t stab Ewell (he didn’t), and that Bob killed himself (fell on his knife) in the struggle (a lie). Heck Tate removed Bob Ewell’s switchblade from the crime scene, and says the switchblade was taken from a drunk downtown earlier in the evening (it wasn’t, it was Bob Ewell’s knife). Heck Tate says that Bob Ewell probably found the kitchen knife in the dump and sharpened it to murder the children with it (the kitchen knife was from the Radley household-Boo grabbed it and ran to protect his children). Heck Tate is trying to protect Boo, and to serve justice, “There’s a black boy dead or no reason, and the man responsible for its dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch.”
Thematic and symbolic reference to mockingbirds and innocence through Heck Tate: “…takin’ the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways (Boo) into the limelight-to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head.” And also from Scout, who was told “the story” about Bob Ewell falling on his knife. She understands, and says, “Yes sir, I understand. Mr. Tate was right.” “Well, it would be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
Atticus thanks Boo for what he has done. “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”
Boo, who has been sitting next to Scout during Heck’s and Atticus’ conversation, has said nothing the entire time. He stands up and indicates to Scout that he would like to see Jem. Scout brings him to Jem’s room, where Boo looks at him with a blend of curiosity and concern. He touches Jem’s hair. He speaks only once, saying, “Will you take me home?”
Scout leads him to the front porch steps, and he has not let go of her hand. She changes their position from her leading him, to her walking on his arm across the street (in case someone like Miss Stephanie Crawford was watching, she would see a man escorting a young lady across the street, not a pitiful man being led by a girl). Arthur walks up his steps, across his porch, and goes inside. Scout never sees him again.
“Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, (other tree items)… and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.”
As Scout turns to go, she sees her neighborhood from Boo’s perspective. She realizes their lives, in particular, Jem’s and Scout’s have been visible to Boo-their make-believe game, Jem destroying Mrs. Dubose’s flowers, Miss Maudie’s fire, their discouraged walk home after Tom Robinson’s trial.. “Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate…Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.”She understands that Boo felt invested in their lives, concern for their welfare…that they did give back to him. Thematic reference: “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”
On the way home, Scout figures Jem will be mad he missed seeing Boo. She also figures the both she and Jem will grow up, but that they haven’t got much else to learn (about life) other than maybe algebra.
Atticus reads to Scout and she falls asleep. The story is The Gray Ghost, in which a character is a good person, but is misunderstood…, much like Boo Radley.