To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel about Atticus, a lawyer, and his children, Jem and Scout, living in Alabama. Jem and Scout are infatuated with a spooky neighbor, "Boo" Radley, Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Tom is found guilty by a racist jury and is killed while trying to escape from prison. Bob Ewell, the winner of the case, attacks Jem and Scout to exact revenge but Boo saves them and kills Bob.

Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus, in the tired town of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus is a prominent lawyer and state legislator while both Scout and Jem are young children still in grade school. They are the only children on their street until they meet Dill Harris one summer. In order to occupy themselves, the trio creates plays based on their favorite books. At one point, Dill becomes obsessed with the ominous Radley Place that is owned by Mr. Nathan Radley. His younger brother, Boo, has spent nearly his entire life without leaving the house causing much speculation about what happens behind the closed doors and windows. The trio of children is determine to discover the truth about the Radley family and Boo in particular.

That fall, Scout enters the first grade and finds herself hating it. As the school year progresses, they find gifts in the old oak tree on the Radley property. Dill returns to Maycomb at the end of the school year and he and the Finch children create a new story based on the Radleys. Upon discovering the subject of their play, Atticus prohibits them from continuing the role play. He urges them to put themselves in the shoes of another so that they can see life from that person's perspective. However, Dill's last night in Maycomb finds the three sneaking onto the Radley property in an attempt to see Boo through the windows. where Thinking there is a black prowler in his collard patch, Mr. Nathan Radley shoots at the children and Jem loses his pants in the subsequent escape over the fence. When he returns for them, he finds them mended and folded nicely as if waiting for him. Jem and Scout continue to find more gifts in the tree and Jem begins to realize that Boo is the giver. The children decide to leave a note causing Nathan Radley to plug the knot -- hole with cement. Following the old oak tree incident, Miss Maudie's home catches on fire after the first snowfall in well over fifty years. During the course of watching the fire, Scout is wrapped in a blanket by a mystery man. Convinced that Boo did it, Jem tells Atticus about the pants and the presents in order to prevent Boo from getting into trouble.

Atticus is assigned to a high profile rape case involving a black man by the name of Tom Robinson. His accuser is Mayella Ewell; she lives behind the garbage dump with her poor and trashy family of eight including seven siblings and an abusive father. Atticus' acceptance of the case create problems for both Jem and Scout who are subjected to verbal abuse from other children, adults, and the rest of the Finch family. Atticus is called into session with the state legislature and must leave Scout and Jem with Calpurnia for two weeks. Calpurnia takes them to the local black church known as First Purchase, where they are warmly accepted by most of the congregation.

Atticus' sister, Alexandra, comes to live with the Finches so as to help her brother raise his children as well as to have a positive influence on Scout's development into a young lady. That summer, Dill, runs away from Meridian and his mother's new husband. The time of Tom Robinson's trial is near; however, he is held in the basement level of the local jail. A mob gathers to lynch Tom as retribution for the Ewell rape; however, Scout unwittingly uses her faith in human goodness in order to prevent the altercation from escalating. She recognizes one of the men, and her polite questioning about his son shames him into dispersing the mob.

The children must sit in the colored balcony with the town's black citizens because the courtroom has reached capacity. They spend the entire trial there watching Atticus provide evidence that the accusers, Mayella Ewell and her father, Bob, are lying. In fact, the actual events of the night in question include Mayella propositioning Tom Robinson and being caught by her father. In order to hide the residual guilt and shame the family would feel for Mayella's indiscretion, they accuse Tom of rape and assault. Atticus proves, to no avail, that the marks on Mayella's face are from wounds that her father inflicted; upon discovering her with Tom. Yet, despite the significant evidence pointing to Tom's innocence, he is convicted by the all-white jury. After some time on a prison work farm, Tom later tries to escape and is shot to death. In the aftermath of the trial, Jem's faith in justice is badly shaken, and he lapses into despondency and doubt.

Despite the guilty verdict, Bob Ewell holds Atticus and Judge Taylor responsible for humiliating Bob in front of his peers. He commits several criminal acts as part of a larger revenge scheme; including harassing Tom Robinson's widow Helen, breaking and entering Judge Taylor's home, and attacking Jem and Scout while they walk home from the Halloween pageant. Fortunately for Mrs. Robinson, Link Deas intervenes on her behalf and Boo Radley does the same for Jem and Scout. He saves the children from the clutches of Bob Ewell by stabbing Ewell fatally during the struggle. Boo gently brings Jem home so that his serious wounds can be attended. Sheriff Heck Tate arrives to take a report, the conclusion of which is that Bob After Scout walks Boo Radley home, she is able to see life from his perspective and recognize that beneath the somewhat frightening exterior that is Boo Radley the specter, is a genuinely altruistic man. Scout begins to put her father's advice to practice sympathy and understanding and demonstrates that her experiences with hatred and prejudice will not destroy her resolve to believe in basic human good..

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