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 14 Summary

Brief Summary

Scout and Jem are continuously harassed and ridiculed by the town for their father's commitment to defend Tom Robinson. Tensions rise between Atticus and Aunt Alexandra when they discover that the children accompanied Calpurnia to her church. Jem entreats Scout to improve her behavior for Atticus' sake. That night, Scout and Jem find Dill hiding under her bed. He ran away from Meridian because he feels neglected by his parents. Jem breaks the remaining code of childhood and tells Atticus about Dill. He permits Dill to remain the night, but informs his Aunt Rachel of his whereabouts. Scout and Dill spend the rest of the night discussing his reasons for running away and retreating to their imaginary world.

Detailed Summary

Aunt Alexandra has refrained from discussing the Finch family history with the children; however, the town continues what she has stopped. Scout and Jem become objects of ridicule when they go into town. Scout overhears someone mention rape as she walks by them and asks Atticus for a definition. He then learns that of the children's visit to Calpurnia's church which upsets Aunt Alexandra who prohibits Scout from returning with Calpurnia to First Purchase. An argument ensues between Atticus and sister during which Alexandra demands Calpurnia's dismissal. Atticus vehemently refuses, telling his sister that Calpurnia is a member of the family. Jem quietly leaves the room and tells Scout to follow him to his bedroom. There he asks her to no longer upset Aunt Alexandra because Atticus has more important issues with which he must contend now that the trial is beginning. Scout attacks Jem for telling her how to behave, but Atticus ends the fight and sends them to bed.

Scout discovers what she believes to be a snake under the bed; however, when she calls Jem to her room, they learn that it is actually Dill. He's runaway from home because he feels neglected by his mother and step father. He tells them about his adventure of taking the train from Meridian and walking the rest of the distance from Maycomb Junction. Against Scout's wishes, Jem tells Atticus about Dill's situation. He believes that Dill should let his mother where he is. Atticus permits Dill to stay the night and feeds him leftovers before telling Miss Rachel about the incident. After Dill eats, the three children return to bed. Dill sneaks into Scouts bed so that he can talk to her about what happened with his mother. Scout does not understand Dill's reason for being upset. He gives up trying to explain it to her and suggests let's get us a baby(162). The two argue over where babies come from until Dill finally tells her that babies are made by men and women. Before they fall asleep, Scout expresses her curiosity about Boo Radley never running away. Dill's presumes that Boo doesn't have anywhere to run.

Chapter 15 Summary

Brief Summary

A week after Dill's arrival, Sheriff Heck Tate brings a group of men to the Finch family residence to warn Atticus about the possibility of a lynch mob forming. The following day, Atticus leaves for the county jail shortly after dinner where he sits vigil. A lynch mob arrives as assumed and attempts to enter the building. Scout, Jem, and Dill run to Atticus' rescue. Scout recognizes Mr. Walter Cunningham and speaks to him about her association with his son Walter. She manages to gain his sympathy and he convinces the group to leave the jail.

Detailed Summary

One evening, a week after Dill ran away, Sheriff Heck Tate leads a group of men to the Finch residence to discuss matters of the trial. The sheriff is moving Tom Robinson to the county jail the next day, but he cannot guarantee his safety. He is concerned that the Sarum bunch will raise a lynch mob and kill Tom before the trial begins. When Atticus enters the house again, the children demand to know who the men are and what they want. Atticus tells them the men are their friends, not the Ku Klux Klan. When Scout returns from walking Dill home, she overhears Aunt Alexandra and Atticus arguing. Jem confirms that they've been arguing while she was with Dill. Jem confesses that he is afraid someone will hurt Atticus.

The following day, Atticus learns that Tom has been moved without incident; however, he is preoccupied for much of the day. That evening, he takes his car into town, a rare occurrence; thus, the children are suspicious and follow him. They find him sitting in front of the county jail, reading a newspaper. Just as they are about to return home, a caravan of cars pulls up to the building. A few moments pass before a group of men exit the vehicles and gather in front of the jail. They demand that Atticus moves away from the door. He refuses and stands fast. After hearing that the Sheriff Heck Tate has been called off to a snipe hunt, Scout suddenly runs to her father's rescue only to discover that this is a different group of men from the one that came to their house the night before. Jem and Dill soon reveal their presence to Atticus who furiously demands Jem to return home with his sister. Jem stands his ground and refuses causing one of the men to yank him by his collar. Scout kicks the man in his groin and increases the already high tension. Suddenly, Scout recognizes Mr. Walter Cunningham, her classmate's father. She begins to speak to him about his previous legal troubles, with which Atticus helped, as well as about his son. She tells him about inviting the young Walter Cunningham home for dinner as well as about the pleasant and respectful demeanor of his son.

She asks him to tell the young Walter hey for her. After a few minutes of awkward silence among the men, Mr. Walter Cunningham kneels down to Scout's eye level and agrees to tell his son hey for her. The men then leave the jail the same way they came. From above comes the voice of Mr. Underwood, the editor and proprietor of the Maycomb Tribune: Had you covered all the time, Atticus. Atticus and Mr. Underwood speak for a few minutes before Atticus finally escorts the children home. Rather than discipline Jem for disobeying him, he gives him an affectionate rub on the head.

Chapters 14-15 Analysis

Again in Chapter 14, Scout is inundated with the peculiarities of the adult world as she and Jem become objects of ridicule for the town. Though she has heard the term rape previously, it isn't until a town member say They c'n run loose and rape up the countryside for all em who run this country care (153) that she remembers to ask Atticus for a definition of rape. In making this statement, the man is not only exposing Scout to the stereotypes surrounding black men, but also the stereotypes of surrounding the white men who believe in equal justice for all. The impact of the statement is compounded when Aunt Alexandra learns about Scout's and Jem's visit to Calpurnia's church. Although she is expressing her concern for the children's safety, she simultaneously is expressing her distrust of the black community. She does not take into account Calpurnia's years of service to the Finch family or the fact that she practically raised the children when their mother died. Therefore, Dill's arrival is a welcome distraction from the realities of she has been forced to learn too young. For example, the night of his arrival, Dill and Scout discuss getting child together. Although he knows how babies are made and shares this knowledge with Scout, he trumps it with a myth regarding a man who protects an island full of babies from which all babies come. Prior to this moment, though, Jem once again imposes his developing adult perspective on Scout. Upon discovering Dill beneath her bed, Jem tells his friend that he must notify his mother of his whereabouts, and with that he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood (159) by involving Atticus. Scout considers this a traitorous act and fails to see it as an act of responsibility that in another mark of Jem's maturation. Dill's return is also a reminder for Scout to appreciate her family and their overbearing ways as absolute signs that they love her more than she believes.

After those few brief moments of peace, the hatred and injustice dominating the adult world infringe upon Scout's world of innocence and navet. This is demonstrated by both the group of men who visit the house as well as the group of men who threaten Atticus at the county jail. In this section, Lee plays with the obscurity of the adult world by making it difficult for the children to determine who their father's friends are in the Tom Robinson affair. The men who appear on the porch one evening appear menacing; however, they are there to warn Atticus of the coming trouble from the more overzealous community members. The following evening, another group of men accost Atticus in front of the county jail with the clear intention of doing harm. Interestingly enough, Atticus is socially friendly with a few, if not than all the men in the group. At this point, Scout's innocence becomes a valuable weapon for her father. Upon getting a closer look at the men in the mob, she recognizes Mr. Walter Cunningham and makes inquiries into his family. Not understanding the severity of the situation, she is simply following Atticus' advice of it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they are interested in, not about what you were interested in (174). This scene is another marker of Jem's transition into the adult world. Not only does he lead the group into town with the intention of making sure his father is safe, he also defies his father when told to return home during the confrontation.

While it is certainly one of the most endearing scenes of the novel, the reader must question the authenticity of Scout's performance. Is her innocence credible? Is she really so nave as to completely misunderstand the circumstances of the lynch mob standing outside the county jail at night with her father awaiting their arrival? Scout's performance may not be as convincing as one would prefer, but it enhances the overall tone of the novel which is the essential goodness that lies at the core of every human being. Scout is like her father in that she clearly believes in and depends on that essential goodness of human beings.

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