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 28 Summary

Brief Summary

The night of the Halloween pageant, Scout and Jem walk to the school grounds through the dark expanse of the Radley property. Cecil Jacobs scares them on the way over to the school. Scout falls asleep back stage and misses her entrance, but runs out to the stage as soon as she awakens. Every one laughs hysterically, including Judge Taylor who must take a pill in order to prevent his heart from having an attack. On the way home from the pageant, Jem and Scout are attacked by an unknown assailant. Jem is knocked unconscious and then a strange man carries Jem back home with Scout trailing behind. Sheriff Heck Tate discovers that the assailant is Bob Ewell who was killed by a knife wound to the rib cage. The strange man who rescued Jem is Boo Radley.

Detailed Summary

Cecil Jacobs jumps out and frightens Jem and Scout as they walk through the dark to the school for the Halloween pageant. Upon arriving at the school, Jem leaves Scout and Cecil who wander around the crowded building, visiting the haunted house in a seventh-grade classroom and buying homemade candy. The children go backstage when they are told the pageant is about to begin. Scout falls asleep as the first half of the pageant commences and consequently misses her entrance. She runs onstage just before the end of the show causing the auditorium to break into laughter and applause. Judge Taylor laughs so raucously that he needs one of his pills to prevent a heart attack. Despite the applause and obvious success of the play, Mrs. Merriweather accuses Scout of ruining her carefully planned show. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed Scout waits in full costume for Jem behind the stage. The two decide to walk the short distance home when the crowd clears.

On the walk back home, Jem hears noises behind him and Scout. The two believe Cecil Jacobs is attempting to frighten them again, but when they call out to him, they only hear their echoes. They hear the mystery footsteps get closer as they approach the old oak tree from the Radley place. Jem screams for Scout to run, but the costume causes her to lose her balance and tumble down a slope. Something crushes the chicken wire of her costume and violently tears at it. As Jem attempts to grab his sister, he is wrenched away, leaving only the a loud crunch noise and Jem's screams where he was standing. In her attempt to rescue him she is grabbed and squeezed by a mysterious soft body. Her assailant was suddenly yanked back and hurled to the ground with a thud. She hers a man's weezing and coughing and calls out for her brother who does not answer her. Scout feels on the ground for Jem, but finds only a fully dressed man with stubble and smelling of whiskey. She heads in the direction of the road and sees, in the light of the streetlamp, a man carrying Jem toward her house. Jem's arm is dangling haphazardly from his body.

Upon entering the house, Aunt Alexandra is calling Dr. Reynolds. Atticus calls Sheriff Heck Tate and tells him his children have been attacked. Scout is worried that Jem is dead, but Aunt Alexandra let's her know that Jem is only unconscious. Dr. Reynolds arrives and immediately attends to Jem. He informs the family that despite the severe break his arm sustained and the concussion, Jem will be fine. Scout goes in to speak to Jem, but Atticus gently tells her he cannot hear her. The man who carried him home is standing in the corner of Jem's bedroom, but Scout does not recognize him. Heck Tate appears and apprises Atticus of the evidence he found, including Bob Ewell lying under a tree, dead from a knife wound to his ribs.

Chapter 29 Summary

Brief Summary

Heck reviews the evidence with Atticus and shows them the remainder of Scout's costume. There is a large gash where Bob Ewell's knife slashed through the wire. Scout recounts the night's events and finally gets a good look at the man her brought her brother home. She realizes that is it Boo Radley.

Detailed Summary

Atticus is in disbelief about Bob Ewell and his personal thought of the possibility that Jem could be responsible. Heck wants to remain in Jem's to look over his injuries while Scout explains what happened. While she's recounting the events of the night, Heck Tate shows her costume with a mark on it where a knife slashed through but was stopped by the wire. Scout turns to the man in the corner and really looks at him for the first time as she gets to the part about Jem being carried home by a stranger. The man in the corner tall, pale, dressed in khaki pants and a denim shirt, with very delicate features and grey, colorless eyes. Scout immediately realizes that she is looking at Boo Radley.

Chapter 30 Summary

Brief Summary

Scout and Boo sit on the porch for a few moments while Atticus and Heck argue about who is responsible for the death of Bob Ewell. Heck wishes to let the dead bury the dead but Atticus wants his son to bear the responsibility if he is guilt of the murder. Heck firmly tells Atticus that he is filing the report as an accident. He wishes to protect Boo Radley, not Jem.

Detailed Summary

Scout takes Boo, a.k.a. Mr. Arthur down to the porch where they sit in shadow listening to Atticus and Heck Tate argue about Bob Ewell's death. Heck insists on reporting the death as an accident, but Atticus, thinking that Jem killed Bob Ewell, doesn't want his son protected from the law. Heck then adds that Bob Ewell wasn't murdered at all because he fell on his knife during the tumble he took with Scout. However, he Boo is the one responsible for stabbing Bob. Heck is willing to report the death as an accident in order to prevent Boo from receiving negative attention. He'd rather Let the dead bury the dead (317). Tom Robbins died an unjust death and the man responsible will not have his murder recognized as such. This is the best justice Heck knows how to serve under the circumstances.

Chapter 31

Brief Summary

Scout brings Boo back to Jem's room to say good bye. She leads him by the hand back to the porch where he asks her to take him home. After dropping him off, she takes time to look at the world from his perspective and realizes that she gave him more than she first presumed. She tells Atticus how nice she thinks Boo is. Atticus tells her that most people are nice when one gets close to them.

Detailed Summary

Scout takes Boo upstairs to say goodnight to Jem. They spend several minutes in Jem's room with Scout holding his hand while he affectionately says good bye to his little friend. He squeezes Scout's hand when he is ready to go home. He timidly and quietly asks Scout to escort him home when they reach he front porch. Hesitant at first, Scout links her arm through his and walks him across the street where he enters his house without a word. She never sees him again and feels sadness for taking more from Boo than what she has given in return. However, for that brief moment, she imagines the world from his perspective and realizes that she, Dill, and Jem had given him all that he would have asked for. She returns home to Atticus sitting vigil in Jem's room. They read The Gray Ghost until she falls asleep. When Atticus takes her to bed, she tells him that Boo Radley was real nice (323) to which Atticus replies, Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them(323).

Chapters 28-31 Analysis

Lee fills the night of the pageant with elements of foreshadowing, from the sense of foreboding that grips Aunt Alexandra just before Jem and Scout leave the house, to the ominous, pitch-dark night to Cecil Jacobs's attempt to scare them. The pageant itself is an amusing depiction of small-town pride, as the lady in charge spends thirty minutes describing the exploits of Colonel Maycomb, the town's founder, to the audience. Additionally, the reader can visualize the comical parade of meats and vegetables crossing the stage, with Scout, just awake, hurrying after them as the audience roars with laughter. In this way, as with the early snowfall, the fire, and the mad dog, the night of the pageant incorporates both the Gothic motif of the novel and the motif of small-town life that counterbalances it.A mood of mounting suspense marks Jem and Scout's walk home. They hear the noise of their pursuer and assume it to be Cecil Jacobs, only to realize relatively quickly that they are in mortal danger. The attack is all the more terrifying because Jem and Scout are vulnerable: they are very near their home, in an area that they assume to be safe, and Scout, in her awkward costume, has no idea what is happening. Though Lee has spent a great deal of time foreshadowing Ewell's impending attack on the Finches, she manages to make the scene of the attack surprising. All of the clues in the novel to this point have suggested that Ewell would attack Atticus, not the children. But, as we realize in this scene, the cowardly Ewell would never have the courage to attack the best shot in Maycomb County; his insidious, malicious attack on the children reveals how loathsome a man he is. In this way, Lee's diversionary technique of leading the reader to suspect that Atticus would be Ewell's victim makes this scene simultaneously startling for the reader and revealing of character.

Boo Radley's entrance takes place in the thick of the scuffle, and Scout does not realize that her reclusive neighbor has saved them until she has reached home; even then, she assumes him to be some countryman. This failure of recognition symbolizes the inability of Scout and the other children, throughout the novel, to see Boo as a human being, treating him instead as merely a source of childhood ghost stories. As his name suggests, Boo is a sort of ghost, but this condition has less to do with his appearance out of nowhere on Halloween than with Scout's hollow understanding of him. When Scout finally realizes who has saved her, however, Boo the childhood phantom becomes Boo the human being: His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor's image blurred with my sudden tears. Hey, Boo,' I said. With this sentence, Scout takes the first of two large steps in this section toward completing the development of her character and assuming the grown-up moral perspective that Atticus has shown her throughout the book.

Heck Tate's decision to spare Boo the horror of publicity by saying that Bob Ewell fell on his knife invokes the title of the book and its central theme one last time, as Scout says that exposing Boo to the public eye would be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird. She has appropriated not only Atticus's words but also his outlook, as she suddenly sees the world through Boo's eyes. In this moment of understanding and sympathy, Scout takes her second great step toward a grown-up moral perspective. The reader gets the sense that all of Scout's previous experiences have led her to this enriching moment and that Scout will be able to grow up without having her experience of evil destroy her faith in goodness. Not only has Boo become a real person to her, but in saving the children's lives he has also provided concrete proof that goodness exists in powerful and unexpected forms, just as evil does.

Despite Scout's obvious maturation in Chapter 31, the novel closes with her falling asleep as Atticus reads to her. This enduring image of her as Atticus's baby child is fittingwhile she has grown up quite a bit over the course of the novel, she is still, after all, only eight years old. Just as her ham costume, a symbol of the silly and carefree nature of childhood, prevents Bob Ewell's knife from injuring her, so does the timely intervention of Boo, another part of Scout's childhood, thwart the total intrusion into her life of the often hate-filled adult world that Ewell represents. Interestingly, the book makes no return to the adult Scout for closing narration, and Lee offers the reader no details of Scout's future except that she never sees Boo again. Rather, she leaves Scout and the reader with a powerful feeling of cautious optimisman acknowledgment that the existence of evil is balanced by faith in the essential goodness of humankind.

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