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To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee
The story of a country lawyer who makes the unpopular decision to defend a black man accused of rape.  The story is told from the point-of-view of his young daughter, Scout.  To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful narrative that continues to be people's all-time favorite novel over forty years after its first publication.

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Chapters 1-5:

  • We meet our narrator, Scout Finch, her older brother Jem, and their summer playmate, Dill.
  • We learn about the children’s fascination with a hermit neighbor who lives down the street with his father named Boo Radley.  Dill spends most of his time developing plots to get a peek at the mysterious Boo.
  • Scout begins school for the first time where she is reprimanded for already knowing how to read and told not to read any more.   She, in turn, schools her teacher on the ways of Maycomb’s many eccentricities.
  • Scout has lunch with Walter Cunningham whose family is known for not taking charity, even if it means repaying people in produce.  Scout learns a lesson from Calpurnia about not commenting on another person’s table manners—even if they do come from a poor family.
  • Scout learns about the Ewells who only attend the first day of school and of whom Atticus is not a fan.
  • Scout finds treats in a hole in a tree growing on the Radley property.  She and Jem are unable to find out who is the owner of the wonderful treasures.
  • Scout, Dill, and Jem start to play Boo Radley, a game of which Atticus firmly disapproves.

Chapters 6-11:

  • On Dill’s last night in town Jem and Dill hatch a plan to look into Boo Radley’s house.  While attempting this plot, Jem gets shot at by Boo’s father who thinks he’s a wild animal and he loses his pants in his escape.   Later, Jem goes back for the pants to cover his tracks and finds they’ve been sewed up.
  • The children continue to find treats in the Radley tree until Boo’s father fills the hold with cement.
  • Maycomb sees its first snow since 1885 and school is cancelled.  The Finches build a faux snowman with a dirt inside and a snow covering.
  • The night of the snow ends with Miss Maudie’s house catching on fire.  The rest of the neighborhood is spared, but while the children evacuate someone puts a blanket around Scout.  The most likely culprit?  The mysterious Boo Radley.
  • Scout has her first encounter with the negative feelings the town has about her father defending a local black man, Tom Robinson.  Her father asks her not to fight on his defense and she does her best to do what he asks.
  • Jem and Scout receive air rifles for Christmas, but Atticus says it’s up to Uncle Jack to teach them how to shoot.  On Christmas day they head off to Finch’s Landing for a family holiday
  • Scout decks her cousin Francis for calling Atticus a “nigger-lover” even though she doesn’t know what it means.
  • The Finch children question the abilities of their older father and then learn that he’s an expert marksman when he has to kill a rabid dog in the neighborhood.
  •  Jem gets in a fight with neighbor Mrs. Dubose and cuts down her Camellia trees in vengeance.  His punishment is to have to read to Mrs. Dubose for two hours every day.  Not soon after Jem finishes his punishment, Mrs. Dubose passes away and leaves Jem a Camellia flower.

Chapters 12-16:

  •  Atticus is called away to work in the state legislature and the kids attend church with Calpurnia.
  • Atticus’s sister, Aunt Alexandra, comes to stay with the family.   She would like to help Atticus’s children recognize their heritage and become more civilized.
  • Dill appears under Scout’s bed having run away from home.  Now that his mother has remarried, he doesn’t feel like there’s a place for him in his house.  After some wrangling, Dill is allowed to stay for the rest of the summer.
  •  Atticus spends an evening down at the jail to protect his client, Tom Robinson.  A mob approaches and Atticus will not leave the jail doorway.  The kids see the interaction and jump into the mix.  While standing in the middle of a potentially explosive situation, Scout notices Mr. Cunningham who Atticus had helped many times and whose son is in her class at school.  She begins speaking to him; he becomes embarrassed and the mob leaves.
  • The town descends upon the courthouse to witness the local trial of the century.  The kids want to watch, but the place is full, so they sit in the “colored” balcony. 

Chapters 17-19:

  • It is established that most of Mayella Ewell’s injuries occurred on the right side of her body.  She also had hand marks all around her neck.
  • By having Robert Ewell sign a piece of paper, Atticus establishes that Robert Ewell is left-handed.
  • Mr. Ewell says that he caught Tom Robinson taking advantage of his daughter.
  •  Mayella takes the stand and through cross-examination Atticus reveals what a sad life she had: she no friends, no education, and a very poor existence.  She is offended by Atticus’s manners because no one has ever talked to her that way before.
  • Mayella claims that she asked Tom Robinson in to chop up a chiffarobe and when he got into the yard he attacked and raped her.
  • When Tom Robinson stands up to be identified by Mayella, it is revealed that his left hand is not usable.
  • Tom Robinson takes the stand.  He says that he had done odd-jobs for Miss Mayella for the last year.  He claimed that Miss Mayella invited him in to help fix a door and it was there that she attempted to seduce him.  At that time her father arrived and Tom ran away  

Chapters 20-24

  • Dill and Scout meet Mr. Adolphus Rudolf who famous for having a black wife, mixed-race children, and carrying a brown paper bag around town.
  • Mr. Rudolf gives dill a sip of this brown bag beverage and the children discover it's only Coca Cola
  • Mr. Rudolf explains that it's easier to let the people think he drinks in order to explain why he rather be with black people than white people
  • Calpurnia shows up at the courthouse to tell Atticus that the children are missing.  It is revealed that the children are sitting in the balcony.
  • The jury adjourns and the children go home for dinner
  • The jury is out for several hours, but eventually they return with a guilty verdict and give Tom the death penalty.  Jem is crushed.
  • Bob Ewell sees Atticus at the post office the following day, spits in Atticus’s face, and vows revenge.  Atticus is not worried, but the kids are.
  • Atticus discusses the case with Jem and several things come up.  Mainly, Atticus was please that the jury deliberated so long and reveals that a Cunningham was the hold-out.
  • Scout attends one of Aunt Alexandra’s missionary circle meetings.  In the middle Atticus arrives and shares news with Aunt Alexandra and Calpurnia in the kitchen: Tom Robinson was shot trying to escape from prison.

Chapters 25-31

  • Atticus goes to tell Helen Robinson that Tom had been killed in prison
  • Someone tries to break into Judge Taylor’s house and Bob Ewell is the number one suspect
  • Bob Ewell harasses Tom’s widow until her employer threatens him
  • There is an organized Halloween festival at the school and Scout is in the school pageant dressed as a ham.  She messes up and comes on stage at the wrong time
  • On the way home the children are attacked in the dark.  Jem's arm is broken, but Scout is protected by her costume.  Hearing their screams, Atticus and someone else come to the rescue
  • After the sheriff investigates the scene of the crime, he finds Bob Ewell dead with a kitchen knife in him
  • Scout finds out that it was Boo Radley that saved her and Jem and she gets to meet him

Themes in To Kill a Mockingbird




TKM is filled with moral lessons both for the characters and the reader.  Atticus is the moral compass who shows other characters in the novel the correct way to behave.  Atticus's role as the moral leader is shown throughout the novel; a few examples of this include: 

  • Jem and Scout are allowed to be friends with anyone including poor Walter Cunningham whose family can't even afford to buy him shoes.  While in the Finch house, Walter is treated the same as any other guest much to the bewilderment of Scout.
  • Atticus's behavior toward Calpurnia also shows his commitment to treating all people equally.  He treats Cal as one of the family even though her race makes her a second-class citizen in the city of Maycomb.  When Aunt Alexandra argues against Cal remaining with the family, Atticus overrules her objection.
  • Again Atticus's moral rectitude is seen in his treatment of neighbors.  He is polite to Mrs. Dubose even though she insults him and his family.   He upholds her side of an argument and forces Jem to read to her when he cuts down her flower bushes. 
  • Atticus also refuses to let the children insult the neighbors in any way.  This includes telling Jem that he must change his snowman that looks too much like one of the neighbors and forbidding the kids to play "Boo Radley."
  • Atticus spends time working in the state legislature when others would rather not.
  • Atticus shows himself to be a nonviolent man who values fighting with his head over his fists; he asks Scout not to fight when people insult him at school.
  • Atticus prefers to be known for the way he lives then for his god-given talent such in marksmanship.
  • Atticus's morality becomes even more apparent when the trial of Tom Robinson approaches: he agrees to try the case and give Robinson the best defense possible even though it isn't a popular decision with the rest of the neighborhood.
  • Atticus puts himself in danger to keep an angry mob away from Tom Robinson.

Appearances can be Deceiving

Another theme that runs throughout the novel is the idea that appearances can be deceiving.  This is seen everywhere from the children's games to the biased trial and everywhere in between.

In smaller things:

  • Atticus is an older father and doesn't appear to have an "cool" talents, but when put to the test he shows himself to be an excellent marksman
  • The children build a snowman that appears to be all snow, but is really dirt underneath
  • Scout thinks that there's a snake under her bed, but it turns out to be Dill
  • Dill's age is belied by his tiny stature
  • At the end of the story Scout is mumbling about a story and she says, "an' Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things. . .Atticus, he was real nice. . ." Atticus's response sums up one of the main messages of the novel, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." (pg 281)

In larger things:

  • The assumption of the people of Maycomb is that a white person is always more correct and proper than a black person.  The Ewell's ridiculous appearance before the court proves that this is definitely not the case
  • Dolphus Raymond is considered by everyone to be a drunk.  He reveals to the children that this is not the truth, but he uses it as an excuse to live the way he wants
  • Boo Radley is assumed to be strange or worse by the people of Maycomb.  Scout's narrative shows that Arthur Radley is actually a sweet and shy man who stays at home because of preference not defect

Questioning of Long-held Beliefs

While not as well developed, Harper Lee also uses the novel to challenge some long-held beliefs of many people.  A couple of examples:

  • Aunt Alexandra hold a belief that many others hold--the longer a family has been established, the better the people.  Scout points out to the reader that this would make the Ewells fine folks.  It is clear that this is not the case, so the author casts suspicion on idea that is held by many people
  • Miss Gates the school teacher is a perfect example of another idea that many people hold close to their hearts being proven wrong--teachers are somehow better than regular people.  It pains me as a teacher to admit this, but the truth is we're just like everyone else.  Miss Gates shows that she is biased against African Americans when she speaks disparagely about Tom Robinson, but tells the children that Hitler is bad because he is biased about one group of people.  Scout easily sees the hipocracy of her comments.

Comprehension Questions


Chapters 1-5:

1.   When does Dill come to visit?In the summer

2.   What happened to Scout's mother?She died

3.   Who takes care of the Finch children?Calpurnia

4.   What is Atticus's profession?Attorney

5.   What crazy thing did Boo Radley do to his father?Stabbed him with a pair of scissors

6.   Why wouldn't Walter Cunningham take a nickel from his teacher?Because he couldn't pay it back

7.   What did Scout already know how to do before starting school?Read

8.   What is the first thing Scout finds in the tree hole?Gum

9.   What is the second thing found in the tree hole?Indian head nickels

10. What did Jem touch on a dare?  Boo Radley's house


Chapters 6-11:

1.   Where does Jem lose his shorts? In Boo RAdley's house

2.   Why was school cancelled?Because of snow

3.   What is strange about the Finch children's snowman? The center is mud

4.   What happens to the hole where the children found treasures? Mr. Radley fills it in

5.   Is Miss Maudie upset about what happened to her house?No

6.   Why does the dog have to be shot?

7.   What skill of Atticus's do the children find out about?

8.   What is the only thing that Atticus says is a sin?

9.   Where do the Finch children spend Christmas?

10. Who punishes Scout for punching Francis?


Chapters 12-16

1.   Why did Dill write and say he wasn't coming for the summer?

2.   Why did the Finch children go with Calpurnia to church?

3.   What was the collection at Calpurnia's church for?

4.   Who moves into the Finch household?

5.   Of what crime is Tom Robinson accused?

6.   What does Jem find under Scout's bed?

7.   Why did Dill run away from home?

8.   Where does Atticus spend one night?

9.   Who does Scout see in the crowd of men?

10. Where do the Finch children sit for the trial?


Chapters 17-19

1.   What was important about Mayella's injuries?

2.   Why did Mayella say she invited Tom onto their property?

3.   What did Atticus do that offended Mayella?

4.   Where do the Ewells live?

5.   Does Mayella have any friends?

6.   Tom Robinson has what type of injury?

7.   Why does Atticus bring up Tom's previous conviction for disorderly conduct?

8.   How did Mayella get rid of all the children when Tom came over?

9.   What did Tom say about Mayella that offended the people of the jury?

10. Why did Scout have to leave the courthouse with Dill?


Chapters 20-24

1.   What does Mr. Raymond keep in his brown bag?

2.   Who comes to the courthouse looking for the children?

3.   Was the jury out for a long time?

4.   What was the verdict?

5.   Who was the most shocked at the verdict?

6.   What does Mr. Ewell do to Atticus at the post office?

7.   Where did Jem and Dill go on Dill's last day?

8.   Who can't serve on juries in Alabama (at the time of the novel)?

9.   Who did Atticus think was a hold-out on the jury?

10. Why was Tom Robinson shot?


Chapters 25-31

1.   Who is suspected of breaking into Judge Taylor's house?

2.   Who gets and loses a job in the course of three days?

3.   Who begins harassing Tom Robinson's widow?

4.   Why was a festival organized for Halloween night?

5.   What was Scout's role in the Halloween pageant?

6.   Why didn't Scout come on stage at the right time?

7.   Who took Scout to the festival?

8.   Who scared Scout and Jem on the way to the festival?

9.   Who scared Scout and Jem on the way home from the festival?

10. Who stabbed Bob Ewell?

There are lots of words that could start with A, but I dont' have the book with me, so I am just typing to see what this does to my chart.
Rubber baby buggy bumpers


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