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 20 Summary

Brief Summary

Scout and Dill learn that Mr. Dolphus Raymond pretends to be a drunkard in order to provide white people in Maycomb with a credible reason for his preference for black people. He helps Dill recover by giving his a sip of the Coca Cola in his paper sack and then tells him that he will soon learn that the hell people give each other, and blacks in particular, are not worth his tears. The children return to the courtroom in time to hear Atticus' closing during which he pleads for the jury to objectively consider the evidence or lack there of when deciding Tom Robinson's fate.

Detailed Summary

Dill and Scout learn that Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who is notoriously know for being a drunkard, that actually drinks regular Coca -- Cola from his token paper sack. He consoles Dill by offering him a sip of the soda and then asks them not to reveal his secret to others. Scout is curious to know why he pretends to be drunk. Mr. Raymond tells the children that he pretends to be a drunk so that the other white people can easily explain his lifestyle rather than attempt to make them understand his preference for living with black people rather than whites: Some folks don't --like the way I live. Now I could say the hell with em, I don't care if they don't like it. I do say I don't care if they don't like it, right enough but I don't say the hell with em, see? (228).

Scout is disturbed by Mr. Dolphus Raymond's confession because she views him as a sinful man who has violated nature by mixing the races; however, she is fascinated by his intentional self fraudulent behavior. Dolphus tells them that he trusts them with his secret because they are children and can understand him better than adults. He also heard Dill crying and wants to tell him that in time, Dill will not Cry about the simple hell people give each other without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're human, too(229). Dolphus's last remark reminds Scout that they are missing the end of the trial.

Dill and Scout return to the courtroom in time to hear Atticus making his closing remarks. After he finishes reviewing the evidence, he makes a personal appeal to the jury to consider only the evidence when deliberating. He emphasizes the prosecution's lack of medical evidence proving a crime has taken place as well as the unreliability of Bob and Mayell Ewell's testimony; moreover, the physical evidence suggests that Bob Ewell is responsible for the injuries sustained by Mayella. Atticus then accuses Mayella of guilt for tempting a black man with full knowledge of the danger inherent to her actions; guilt for attempting to absolve herself of her guilt and shame by accusing an innocent black man of rape, also with the full knowledge of what would happen to that man if and when he was arrested. Atticus pleads for the jury's objectivity in deciding the case by asking that they discount the popular misconception/stereotype that all black men are criminals. He reiterates that true justice would be finding Tom Robinson innocent of the false charges and releasing him from prison. Calpurnia enters into the courtroom as soon as Atticus finishes his closing.

Chapter 21 Summary

Brief Summary

Scout, Jem and Dill return to the courthouse an hour later only to find that jury is still out and the courtroom is still full. Jem is overly optimistic about the verdict; however, Reverend Sykes reminds him that in cases where a black man's word is weighed against a white man's word, the jury never finds in favor of the black man. At approximately 11pm, the jury returns with a guilty verdict. The entire episode feels like a waking dream to Scout is called back from her disbelief by those sitting in the colored balcony. They all stand a sign of respect to Atticus.

Detailed Summary

Calpurnia delivers a message to Atticus telling him that his children have not been seen at home since noon. Mr. Underwood notifies them that Jem and Scout are in the colored balcony and have been there virtually all day. Atticus tells them to go home and have supper. The children ask if they can return to hear the verdict, butt Atticus believes the jury will likely have returned before they finish their supper; however, he concedes and gives them permission to return.

Calpurnia marches Jem, Scout, and Dill home, threatening to skin them alive. She is more upset that the children heard both the disturbing details of the case as well as the ignorance of many of the towns' folk. She is particularly upset with Jem for allowing Scout to hear such language as she imagines was used during the trial. The children return an hour later only to find the jury still in deliberations and the courtroom as full as they left it. Reverend Sykes saved their seats for them and tells them that the jury has only been out for thirty minutes. The jury continues to deliberate well into the night which finds Dill asleep and Jem optimistic about the verdict. Reverend Sykes reminds Jem that no jury has ever found in favor of a colored man in a case involving a white man: especially if the case involves an accusation of raping a white woman. The jury finally reenters the courtroom just after 11PM. Scout notes that a jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted just as the twelve men do not look at Tom Robinson as they enter the room to deliver the guilty verdict. The courtroom empties in what Scout feels like is a slow dream state. The people surrounding her bring her back from her distraction so that she can stand with them in the colored balcony to show their respect as Atticus leaves the courtroom.

Chapter 22 Summary

Brief Summary

The Finches return home to brood after the reading of the verdict. Jem is angry and disappointed by his fellow community members' inability to judge the case objectively and with sound principles. Despite the loss, the black community pull together to thank Atticus with food and other gifts that they leave on his back porch. While he is in town, Bob Ewell accosts him for his role in the trial.

Detailed Summary

That same night, the Finches are brooding over the verdict at home. Jem is so distraught at the decision that he cries while angrily expressing his disappointment with the system. The following morning, the Finches awake to a bevy of food that was delivered by Maycomb's black community as a sign of appreciation. Miss Maudie attempts to alleviate Jem's disappointment by reminding him that things are never as bad as they seem, especially when there are men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them (245). She also tells him that Atticus was appointed to the case instead of the regular public defender because Judge Taylor trusted him to give Tom the best defense possible. She adds that the jury's staying out so long constitutes a sign of progress in race relations. As the children leave Miss Maudie's house, the children see Miss Stephanie Crawford gossiping with Mr. Avery and Miss Rachel* outside. Miss Rachel tells Dill to go into the backyard and stay there because There's danger a'comin (247). Miss Stephanie Crawford then tells the children that Bob Ewell accosted Atticus on the post office steps and threatened him.

Chapters 20-22 Analysis

Mr. Dolphus Raymond slightly complicates the narrative in that there is no real reason for his appearance in the story. One could make the argument that he represents a slightly changing guard among whites; however, he is far too alone in his venture. Rather than stand proud and proclaim his preference for black people, he offers whites a simple explanation for what is considered irrational behavior. For a man who claims he doesn't care what people think, he goes to great lengths to influence their impression of him. The advice he offers to Dill may provide an explanation. Essentially he tells Dill not to cry over spilled milk. In other words, he believes that the poor manner in which people treat others and the poorer manner in which whites treat blacks are habits so ingrained in the social fabric that one simply must accept them as two of the world's most unfortunate flaws. This is a similar ideology that Atticus holds in regards to people. Humans are inherently flawed and one must seek the virtues within in order to make it in the world without too much suffering. Dolphus has found a way for him to cope with the hatred he witnesses, daily. He is also interesting with respect to Dill. Both characters create self realized myths about their lives that are sophisticated. This is not so surprising for Dolphus, but it is for a child as young as Dill.

Throughout the text, the reader is confronted by Dill's contradictory tales about his father. Dolphus recognizes Dill's need to pleasantly explain away the unpleasant aspects of life as is demonstrated by his emotional outburst inspired by the intense levels of human hatred building in the courtroom during Mr. Gilmer's cross. Dolphus' location outside the courthouse speaks to his location outside the mainstream of white society. Like Miss Maudie, he does not share its collective guilt for its inability to live life authentically with a sense of justice. Unlike Miss Maudie he possesses a cynical behavior and attitude that is a direct result of the hatred he has experienced firsthand. He tells Scout and Dill You haven't seen enough of the world yet You haven't even seen this town, but all you gotta do is step back inside the courthouse (229).

Opposed to Dolphus' cynicism is Atticus' bold hope for the underlying goodness of Maycomb County. The reader can interpret his closing argument as a foolish attempt to reason with people who are incapable of reason. Although Miss Maudie concludes that the length of jury deliberations is a sign of improved race relations, the unfortunate reality is that the jury knew the verdict prior to leaving the courtroom to decide. The entire County passed judgment on Tom Robinson before the trial began. Atticus' understanding of the conflict between good and evil within people is primarily responsible for his optimism. He understands, as Dolphus does, that there are basic truths about people that one must accept and cannot simply dismiss them because they are in conflict with one's moral sensibility. Atticus has faith that the goodness of man will prevail, despite the threat made by Bob Ewell. This faith represents the adult perspective toward which Scout, who begins the novel as an innocent child, has been moving as the novel progresses. Though she is disoriented and shocked by the verdict, she maintains her positive vision of the world. Jem, however, is devastated as he learns that his earlier assumptions concerning law and justice are incorrect. The previously seeming untouchable concepts have been corrupted by a verdict in favor of maintaining the status quo in Maycomb; yet this is a valuable lesson for Jem to learn as he moves out of adolescence and into pseudo-- adulthood.

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