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.

Chapter 12 Summary

Brief Summary

Jem is growing up and beginning to show the rather unpleasant aspects of maturity by demanding that Scout leave him alone. Dill has decided to remain in Meridian to spend time with his mother and her new husband. Atticus has been called into the legislature for a two week session. Scout must count on Calpurnia to keep her company. Calpurnia brings the children to church with her one Sunday where they are introduced to the black community for the first time. They discover Aunt Alexandra waiting on the porch when they return from church. She has decided assist Atticus with raising the children, particularly Scout.

Detailed Summary

Jem is now twelve years old and he has grown more moody and difficult. One day he tells Scout that she need to begin behaving more like a girl which sends her to Calpurnia in tears. Calpurnia tells Scout that Jem is growing up and will wish to be alone more than usual. Scout looks forward to Dill's return to Maycomb. Unfortunately, she receives a letter telling her that Dill will remain in Meridian because his mother has remarried. Atticus must also leave Scout alone to fulfill his duties as a member of the state legislature.

With Atticus away for two weeks, the children do not know how they are going to attend church on Sunday. Calpurnia decides to take them to her church known as First Purchase. Upon arriving at her church, Calpurnia is accosted by Lula who questions her bringing to white children to their church. Zeebo, another member of the church interrupts the growing tension by cordially welcoming the children to First Purchase. Reverend Sykes opens the service by welcoming Jem and Scout to the congregation. He proceeds to read some announcements and then takes the offering which he announces is designated for the Robinson family. While the collection is being taken, Zeebo leads the congregation in a hymn. Scout is confused by the lack of hymn books and does not understand how they will be able to sing along; however, she soon learns that the church uses a call and response technique called lining (141) whereby Zeebo recites a line and the congregation repeats after him. They've been using this technique since Calpurnia can remember because a majority of the congregation is illiterate. The children then discover that Calpurnia never attended school but was taught to read by Miss Maudie's aunt, Miss Buford using the bible Granddaddy Finch gave Calpurnia when she worked on Finch's Landing as a child. Calpurnia, in turn, taught Zeebo how to read. Jem is curious to know why Calpurnia speaks differently when she is around black people when she knows how to speak correctly. Calpurnia asks him Now what if I talked white folks talk at church, and with my neighbors? They'd think I was putting on airs to beat Moses (143). Scout wants to visit Calpurnia in the black section of town again. Upon returning home, the trio discovers Aunt Alexandra sitting on their porch.

Chapter 13 Summary

Brief Summary

Aunt Alexandra moves in with the Finches and brings her narrow and prejudicial social views into the household. She is welcomed by many of the ladies of Maycomb and begins hosting her missionary meetings on Sundays. Her obsession with socioeconomic differences confounds Scout, though she does observe similar mindsets in Maycomb. Aunt Alexandra embarks on her mission to teach Jem and Scout about their lineage with the expectation that it will improve their behavior; however it backfires on her and Atticus is forced to rectify the situation. He explains Aunt Alexandra's mission to the children but recognizes of how little importance it is to him and his children.

Detailed Summary

Aunt Alexandra and Atticus have decided that she will move in with them for a little while in order to provide Scout with a feminine influence. Maycomb welcomes her with cakes and coffee from the ladies who live nearby. She begins hosting Missionary Society meetings in the drawing room where they discuss those cultures they deem less civilized and in need of the Lord. Aunt Alexandra is obsessed with distinguishing between Fine Folks and people with whom they should not associate. For this reason, she also thrives on the existing caste system of Maycomb. It serves as her inspiration for the gossip she spreads incessantly about the inhabitants of Maycomb, referring to their bad habits as hereditary flaws. For example, Sam Merriman.s suicide is a result of a morbid streak in his family and Miss Stephanie Crawford's nosiness is an inherited trait. Scout muses on the validity of Aunt Alexandra's perspective on society and concludes that her theories are correct to a certain extent. She also provides a brief history of Maycomb's founding.

Aunt Alexandra takes it upon herself to educate Jem and Scout about their family. She hands Jem a copy of Meditations of Joshua St. Clair , a book written by their cousin who was committed for attempting to assassinate the president. Aunt Alexandra is upset with Atticus for revealing this information about their cousin and demands that he speak to the children about their background. She hopes that Scout and Jem will improve their behavior if they are aware of their origins. However, Atticus does not approve of Alexandra's approach and tells his children to forget everything he told them.

Chapters 12-13 Analysis

Several things happen to Scout at the beginning of this section which, again, confronts her with the complexities of the adult world. Firstly, Jem, who is now a pre teen, does not want to be bothered with her. He is spending a considerable amount of time alone and has terrible mood swings. Though she knows he is getting older physically, Scout cannot adjust to the emotional changes that are inherent to age. Calpurnia attempts to explain to Scout that I just can't help it if Mr. Jem's growin' up (132). Essentially she is telling Scout that Jem is undergoing a natural process and she has to accept all that accompanies it; the main consequence of which is the increased sexual difference between Jem and Scout. Jem is becoming increasingly sensitive to the gender difference and is beginning to demand that Scout fulfill the expectations of a young lady. Secondly, Dill's has decided not to spend the summer in Maycomb due to his mother's new marriage. This is particularly discouraging to Scout because Dill's arrival always marked the beginning of the trio's summer adventures. This year, Dill has chosen to root himself in the real world of family life through his mother and step-father.

However, the unfortunate circumstances prove themselves to be an amazing opportunity for Scout to learn more about Calpurnia. Her visit to Calpurnia's church is both her and the reader's first exposure to Maycom's black community. Despite it beginning negatively with a public challenge to the children's presence by Lula, the rest of their visit is pleasant and inspiring. Not only do Scout and Jem learn more about Calpurnia's background and connection to the Finch family, but they also begin learning about the complexities of race relations in Maycomb. Lee aptly demonstrates this through Jem's inquiry into Calpurnia's dual personality. She speaks nigger talk when she is around other black people, yet she speaks white folks' talk when she's with the Finches and other whites. Calpurnia explains, that most blacks are illiterate and those who can read were taught by their masters and mistresses. Although she does not delve any further into the topic, the reader can infer from her statement that there is a wide gulf between the two communities which one must navigate with great care. The appearance of the church and the difficulty Reverend Sykes has in collecting enough for the Robinson family speaks volumes about impoverished conditions in which the black community lives. Despite the socioeconomic challenges facing the community, they do pull together during times of need. This group presents a striking contrast to Aunt Alexandra's missionary group who use their meetings as opportunities to gossip and disparage others. Calpurnia's fellowship group uses their Sunday's to build and maintain their faith and mutual support. Lee cleverly places this scene just before the Tom Robinson case officially begins in order to prove the absurdity of Maycomb's collective racism. The reader should take particular note of Zeebo's rising to Calpurnia's, Jem's and Scout's defense when Lula attacks them. The reader should also take note of the Reverend Sykes' public acknowledgement of Scout and Jem as welcome guests. There several examples later in the text where Atticus is faced with the same resistance and threat from his peers. However, very few come to his defense.

Chapter13 marks the arrival of Aunt Alexandra and the unpleasant flux she brings into the household. As noted in the summary, Aunt Alexandra has a conservative vision of society which she attempts to impose on Scout and Jem; everyone has a place and should behave accordingly. Her adherence to the social hierarchy and self righteousness increase the tension between her and Scout who cannot understand her aunt's obsession with lineage as social currency: Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land, the finer it was (147). Aunt Alexandra's presence awakens in Scout previously observed rules that demarcate Maycomb's anachronistic essence. She realizes that Aunt Alexandra is more suited to Maycomb than she previously believed. Even those who have lived in Maycomb for generations assessed their neighbors' worth according to the bad habits of their families which they believed were passed down through the generations. Yet, Aunt Alexandra manages to redeem herself with her concern, all be it meddlesome, with the rearing of her niece and nephew. What she lacks in parenting skills, she gains in with her love for and oyalty to the children and the Finch family name.

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