In this guide, we discuss four different but equally important aspects of the novel, including:
- The plot with the detailed description of the events chapter by chapter.
- The description of the main and supportive characters with analysis of their motivation and role in the plot.
- Scrutiny of the novel’s key themes and symbols.
- The significant quotes sorted out by the topics and characters.
These four aspects give a comprehensive picture that will deepen your understanding of the novel.
Summary of All Chapters and Study Guide
To Kill a Mockingbird is a well-known novel written by Harper Lee in 1960. The novel was immediately successful right after being published, winning awards and becoming a modern American literature classic. The storyline of the novel is based on what the author observed about her family, neighbors, and people close to her. The plot is also inspired by an incident that occurred near the author’s hometown when she was 10 years of age. To Kill a Mockingbird mostly known for its wittiness and cordiality despite the fact that it addresses grave issues such as racial inequality and rape. The story took place during the Great Depression between 1933 and 1935 in an imaginary old town of Maycomb in Alabama. To Kill a Mockingbird consists of 31 chapters. This study guide will present a complete To Kill a Mockingbird summary, chapter-by-chapter.
To Kill a Mockingbird has a number of characters such as Scout Finch, Atticus Finch, Jem Finch, Arthur Radley, Bob Ewell, Charles Baker Harris, Maudie Atkinson, Calpurnia, Alexandra, Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson, Link Deas, Henry Lafayette, Dubose, Nathan Radley, Walter Cunningham, Heck Tate, Dolphus Raymond, and Underwood. Before giving a chapter-by-chapter plot summary of the novel, it is important to have a brief overview of the novel’s context and understand what inspired the author to write it. The author has on several occasions been quoted as saying that the novel was intended to paint a story of a tired, small, and old town that were shaped by events that occurred during her childhood. When the author was five years old, nine black men faced accusations of raping two white women. The incident drew a lot of publicity and unpleasant trials that saw five of the black men get long jail sentences. These sentences drew the attention of the public, forcing many renowned lawyers and influential people to take an interest in the matter. Many lawyers and American citizens at large felt that the long sentences were simply because the accused were black, hence they were motivated by racial discrimination and prejudice. Many people also felt that the two white women who claimed to have been raped were not telling the truth. In fact, the more the white women appealed, the more suspicious their accusations became. The outcomes of this case against the nine men served as the motivation for Harper Lee to speak out against the racial prejudice that was common at that time.
At that time, American civil rights movements took center stage. Lee moved to New York to focus on writing in the 1950s and began working on this novel, which was published at the peak of the American civil rights movements in 1957. How To Kill a Mockingbird become a success? It is attributed to the humorous and warm way that the book addresses serious issues such as rape and racial prejudice, especially during that time when there was a racially charged atmosphere in society.
A short summary of To Kill a Mockingbird: An overview of the novel’s plot reveals that at that time, the sleepy town of Maycomb has been hit hard by the great depression. Although the Finch family is also affected by this crisis, Atticus manages to give his family a good life compared to what the rest of the society was going through. Scout Finch and Jem Finch are siblings who live together with their widowed father Atticus. Scout and Jem become friends with a boy named Dill who lives in their neighborhood during summer. A mysterious house in the neighborhood known as the Radley Place belonging to Nathan Radley intrigues Dill. They later find out that Nathan’s brother Arthur who has lived there for quite a long time without going outside at all. When Dill comes back to the neighborhood the next summer, he together with Scout and Jem decides to act out Arthur Radley’s story because they find it strange that someone can live in a house without venturing outside. Atticus reprimands them and urges them to try and understand what someone is going through before making any judgments about their lives.
The central event of the book concerns the Atticus’s law practice. He decides to be a defender of a black man named Tom Robinson who is accused of rape. Considering the racist society they are living, this action causes a lot of problems for the family. Scout and Jem face mockery and ridicule from other children because of the decision of their father to take this case. During the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus is able to prove that the accuser named Mayella Ewell, together with her father Bob, were actually lying. It emerged that Tom Robinson had been propositioned by Mayella and this was apparent to her father. Tom was only accused because Mayella and her father wanted to hide her culpability and shame. Despite the overwhelming evidence, which showed that Tom was innocent, he still gets convicted. It is believed that this was done because all the judges were white hence racial prejudice prevailed.
Plot summary of the novel: chapter-by-chapter
Scout Finch narrates the story in this chapter. She tells of her family’s history with the aim to explain how her brother Jem broke his arm. Through Scout, the history of the Finch family becomes apparent. Her ancestors came to America after fleeing religious oppression in England. They set up a successful farm that has been sustaining them for a long time. Atticus, Scout’s father, and his siblings all make the best out their lives through the farm. Atticus becomes a lawyer, his brother Jack goes to medical school, and his sister Alexandra remains as the farm’s manager. Atticus’s legal career sees him give his children Scout and Jem a considerably comfortable life. Scout’s and Jem’s mother died when they were babies. They are raised with the help of their black housekeeper Calpurnia. Scout and Jem make friends with Dill who lives in their neighborhood during summer. They decide to lure Boo out of his house in Bradley Place because he hardly ventures outside. Through Scout, we learn that Boo got into a lot of trouble with the law when he was a boy. The reason he rarely ventured outside is because his father decided to imprison him in the house to punish him for the trouble he got into with the law.
As summer ends in September, Dill leaves Maycomb and returns home. Scout joins a school for the very first time. Even though she was eager to join the school, she ends up hating it because she feels that her teacher Miss Caroline does not deal with students well.Miss Caroline feels that Scout knows how to read because Atticus taught her. This does not go down well with her and she makes Scout feel uncomfortable for the education she received. When Scout raises this concern to Jem, he tells her that the teacher could simply be trying a new way of teaching. This further complicates the relationship between Scout and Miss Caroline. When a boy in Scout’s class named Walter Cunningham cannot afford to buy lunch, Miss Caroline lends him a quarter to buy lunch and expects it to be paid back the next day. Scout knows that William cannot afford to pay back the quarter because he comes from a very poor family. In fact, when Walter’s family needs legal help from Atticus, they use non-monetary means of payment such as turnip greens and hickory nuts to pay for the services. Scout knows these facts and even tries to explain them to Miss Caroline, which only infuriates her more.
Jem invites Walter to Lunch at the Finch’s house after Scout reprimands him for getting her in trouble. Atticus discusses farm conditions with Walter like two men would do. Walter is not used to the lifestyle he sees at the Finch’s and ends up putting Molasses in his food. Scout criticizes him for this but is reprimanded by their cook Calpurnia for doing so. While at school, a bug comes out of Burris Ewell, a boy from a very poor clan. This terrifies Miss Caroline. Burris is only known to attend school on the first day to avoid getting in trouble with the law. When he leaves class after the incident, the remarks he makes lead the teacher to cry. Atticus finds out that Scout no longer wants to go to school and wants to be taught from home by him.
As Scout continues with school, she realizes that the curriculum is too slow for her. This deeply frustrates her. On her way home, she passes by the Radley Place and finds chewing gum left as a gift in the knothole. Jem becomes terrified about the knothole incident but the gifts keep coming as they later find two pennies hidden in the same knothole. When school ends at the beginning of summer, Dill returns to Maycomb. Their games get reignited and they begin acting out the drama in Radley’s family. When the children are caught by Atticus, they lie about the origin of their games and question whether they should continue playing it or not.
Scout feels isolated from Jem and Dill’s relationship, which becomes stronger. This makes her spend more time with her neighbors such as Maudie Atkinson. Scout learns from Maudie Atkinson that Boo Radley has not yet died as many people assume. She feels that Boo is a victim of being raised by a harsh father who thought that many people would be going to hell. Maudie Atkinson further reveals that as a child, Boo was an approachable and well-mannered boy and that the stories being spread about him are completely untrue. This makes Jem and Dill plan to give Boo and ice cream invitation with them. They do this through a note that they try to stick through the window but are busted by Atticus who asks them to stop disturbing Boo.
Dill and Jim sneak into Radley Place and creep around peeping through the windows in the company of Scout. The drama unfolds when they see the shadow of a man and escape. Gunshots erupt behind them as they escape, forcing Jem to leave his pants that were caught in the fence in order to flee. After returning home, they find adults gossiping. According to Nathan Radley, the gunshots that were heard were because Nathan Radley was shooting at a Negro. Dill protects Jem when Atticus asks where his pants are. He says that Jem lost his pants in a game of strip poker.
After school begins, Jem realizes that his pants had been mended and placed over the fence. They keep finding gifts in the knothole and claim it after a few days when no one picks it. Scout continues being disillusioned by the school but is convinced by Jem that it may get better with time. Gifts continue to be placed at the knothole for the kids. After a while, the knothole gets filled with cement. When Jem asks about the cement, Radley responds that he did so because the tree was weathering out.
Maycomb finally experiences a winter after a very long time. Jem and Scout make a snowman that resembles Avery, a man they consider very unpleasant. The snow is collected from Maudie’s yard since they do not have enough on their own yard. Atticus asks them to disfigure it because it is rather obvious that the snowman resembles Avery. Maudie’s house catches fire and burns to the ground. During the whole drama, a blanket is mysteriously placed on Scout, forcing her to reveal the gifts they have been receiving from the knothole. This forces Atticus to warn them to avoid going to the Radley Place and keep to themselves, as it could be dangerous. Surprisingly, Maudie is happy that her old home was burnt down and she confesses that she hated it. She even reveals her plans to build a new one.
Things continue to get tough for Scout as she is mocked by her classmate called Cecil Jacobs who says that Scout’s father is a traitor because he defends niggers. Atticus feels that he needs to protect Tom Robinson so that justice and self-respect can prevail in society. Jack, Atticus’s brother, visits them during Christmas and warns Scout about her new habit of cursing. Things get worse as Francis refers to Atticus as a “nigger-lover.” This leads to a fight between Scout and Francis. Jack spanks Scout without knowing what happens and is later furious when he finds out why Scout beat Francis up after they return to Maycomb.
Scout and Jem feel that Atticus is an embarrassment to them because he is not like other fathers. They feel that other fathers do cool things like hunting and fishing yet their father Atticus is an old man who just sits and reads. The appearance of a mad dog leads Atticus to shoot it from quite a distance with the first shot, to the amazement of his children. Scout and Jem later learn that their father was one of the best shots in the county, something that Scout wants to brag about but Jem does not because Atticus had not told them about it.
Atticus asks Jem to behave like a gentleman when they pass by the house of Mrs. Dubose who yells at Scout and Jem. He says they should excuse her because she is an old and sick lady. One day Mrs. Dubose tells Jem and Scout that their father is worse that the niggers he works for, making Jem lose it and destroy all her flower gardens. Jem is given a month long punishment to be going to read to her at the house. Scout always takes him there and they endure each day until the old lady eventually dies before the punishment ends.
The book summary continues with Scout who begins to feel lonely when Jem hits his teenage years and asks her to behave like a girl and stop following him around. Scout anticipates that Dill will come during summer to spend time with her, but he does not show up because he has to spend time with his new father. Scout feels worse when his father has to travel everyday for work. When Calpurnia decided to take the children to a black church, she is criticized by one woman for taking white children to a black church but the rest of the congregation is generally friendly.
Aunt Alexandra feels that she should stay with Jem and Scout for a while to act as a mother figure. She is accepted by the town and soon becomes friends with the town’s ladies. They visit each other frequently and bring her cakes. She is proud of the Finch family, leading her to discuss other families with questionable characteristics. Scout and Jem do not share in this pride, prompting Aunt Alexandra to ask Atticus to teach them about their ancestry so that they can have pride in their family and where they come from. This does not go down well with the children, leading Scout to cry.
Scout and Jem continue to experience trouble when people continue to whisper about their father’s involvement in protecting black people. The matter of Calpurnia’s church emerges one day when Scout ask his father to explain what rape is. Alexandra gets mad and asks Atticus to chase Calpurnia away, a matter which Atticus refuses. Jem asks Scout not to bother Alexandra, leading to a fight that has them sent to bed by their father. They discover Dill hiding under Scout’s bed because he has run away from home since he feels ignored.
As Tom Robinson’s trial approaches, fears of a lynch emerge, forcing the sheriff to hold a meeting with other men at Atticus’s house over the matter. Scout learns from Jem about how their father and aunt have been arguing about the trial, with Alexandra accusing Atticus of disgracing their family. Atticus drives into town and parks near the jail house. Four cars come and park near him and some men emerge from the cars asking Atticus to leave the area. Scout intervenes by rushing to the scene and is followed by Jem and Dill. They are asked to go back home by Atticus but refuse. Atticus later takes all the children home.
When the trial begins, a lot of people make their way to the courtroom to follow the proceedings. As the crowd hits the town to eat lunch, Dill, Scout, and Jem wait for them to return to the courtroom so that they can sneak in behind them because they do not want Atticus to notice them there. They took the seats reserved for colored people and the case proceeds.
Essential to the plot summary is the fact that when Sheriff Tate is questioned as a witness to the rape, it emerges that no doctor was called in to ascertain that Mayella had been raped and the bruises were mostly on the right side of her face. Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, testifies that he heard his daughter yelling and saw Tom Robinson raping her when he rushed to check. Asked why he did not call a doctor, he claimed it was expensive and he did not see the need. The jury determined that he was left-handed and suspected that he might have caused the injuries on the right side of Mayella’s face.
When Mayella takes the stand, she confesses that she called Robinson to help her mend a dress and says that she was raped at that time. Further cross-examination from Atticus reveals that there is more than meets the eye because Robinson’s left hand was useless since he was hurt as a child. The questions infuriate Mayella who shouts that if Robinson would be convicted, the courtroom must be full of cowards.
Tom confesses that Mayella had been calling her several times when he passed by their house to help her with chores. That day, Mayella called him to fix the door, but Tom noticed that the door was okay and Mayella was all alone. As Tom was helping her, Mayella asked him to kiss her. Her father noticed it and called her a whore and threatening her. At this point, Tom fled. Tom’s employer stood up and shouted that he had never had any trouble with him for the eight years Tom worked for him. He is thrown out for interrupting the court.
Mr. Dill tells the children that he pretends to be drunk to avoid explaining his positions on white people because he prefers blacks to whites. Atticus reveals to the court that no tangible evidence had been provided to pin Tom to rape. In fact, no medical doctor was called in to ascertain the charges. Also, the fact that Mayella was bruised on her right side pins Bob and not Tom to the injuries.
Calpurnia comes to court and tells Atticus that the children have been away. Mr. Underwood spots them and Atticus tells them to go back home, but they plead to hear the verdict before going home. They are taken home by Calpurnia, eat their supper, and return to the courtroom. The jury delivers a guilty verdict against Tom.
The verdict affects Jem who cries over the injustice. The black community brings a lot of food to the Finch’s house the next day because of Atticus’s effort. Jem now begins to look at the people of Maycomb differently and considers them to be inhuman. Jem learns that Ewell had accosted Atticus, spat on him and threatened him.
Atticus is not worried about Ewell’s threats and tells his children that Ewell simply felt bad for being embarrassed. However, the children and their aunt Alexandra remain worried. Tom is in another prison as his appeal progresses. Atticus reveals to his children that if his appeal fails, he will be killed. Jem and Scout discuss and question this punishment.
Alexandra invites her missionary friends to the house and they began discussions about the tribulations of blacks. Atticus returns and calls Alexandra, Calpurnia, and Scout to the kitchen, informing them that Tom had been shot seventeen times while trying to escape. Alexandra does not understand how Atticus continues to disgrace himself in the quest for justice. They return to their meeting and pretend that nothing is wrong.
Jem asks Scout not to kill a bug on the porch and explains that the bug had not harmed Scout in any way. Scout feels that Jem has begun acting more like a girl than her. Tom’s death sparks different reactions from Maycomb. Underwood feels that his death was uncalled for because he was innocent while Ewell is happy about it.
Jem and Scout return to school, passing by the Radley place daily. They are no longer afraid, but Scout hopes to see Boo one day. Scout’s teacher talks about Hitler’s bad deeds to the Jews, forcing Scout to ask Jem how the teacher could make such remarks when she supported what had been done to Tom.
Ewell gets a job and blames Atticus after he loses it within a few days. Judge Taylor notices a shadow disappearing from his home after he heard some noises and went to investigate. Ewell starts to follow Helen Robinson to work every day from a distance and is warned by Deas.
Scout falls asleep before getting into the pageant, misses her entrance, and is accused of ruining it. This embarrasses her and they leave for home. They get attacked on their way home by an unknown assailant. They are shaken but safe, even though Jem is hurt. On getting home, Sheriff Tate is informed about the incident by Atticus and Dr. Reynolds is called in to tend to Jem. Tate later reveals that Bob Ewell had died.
Scout reveals the story as it unfolded. She is shown the costume by Tate with the knife marks and critically looks at the man in the corner for the first time then realizes it is Boo.
Scout and Boo go to the porch and listen to Tate and Atticus argue. Tate wants the death to be called an accident, but Atticus thinks that Jem killed Bob Ewell and does not want him to face the law. Tate points out that Jem did not kill Ewell because he fell on his knife. Heck wants to make the matter disappear, knowing very well that it was Boo who killed Ewell. He felt it was a way of avenging Tom’s death because he died for no reason.
Boo is taken upstairs by Scout to bid farewell to Jem who is recovering in his room. Scout later escorts Boo to his house and never sees him again. On getting home, she finds their father in Jem’s room. Atticus reads her a story from Jem’s book and Scout falls asleep.
Characters Description and Analysis
The present research is interested in making a critical analysis of all of the major characters in the world-famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird created by the distinguished American author Harper Lee (1960). One of the most essential reasons behind carrying out this research includes the significance of theme of the novel under examination, as well as the role played by the main characters by demonstrating the ethno-racial bias and prejudice prevailing in the US society till the last quarter of the twentieth century. How To Kill a Mockingbird addresses the themes of social injustice? Lee (1960) has skillfully attempted to unveil the class discrimination existing in the US society with its full swing, which also endorses the points raised by her predecessor novelist William Faulkner in his A Rose for Emily (1930). Hence, the present study aims to present a critical appreciation of the distinguished work, which helped in bringing change in the mindset and trends particularly observed by the majority of the white population of the USA during the last three centuries.
Lee (1960) in her work To Kill a Mockingbird, through characters, has attempted to portray the social, cultural and political scenario existing in the southern parts of the USA during the first half of the twentieth century. She appears to be censuring and condemning the injustices and prejudice observed by the majority of the dominant white racial group towards the members of downtrodden and hapless black minority of the country. Her depiction of different characters and their actions, reactions and behaviors at some specific situation not only reveals the nature and views of the white majority towards African Americans, but also demonstrates the command of Harper Lee on human psychology and her in-depth knowledge and exposure of the individuals belonging to diversified ethnic and racial and enjoying different socioeconomic status. The characters summary of the novel under examination has been made in the following study guide.
Main characters of the novel
Jean Louise Finch
Famous with the nickname “Scout,” Jean Finch is rightly regarded to be the protagonist, as well as the narrator of the novel under analysis. She appears to be a little girl of five years only at the beginning chapter of the novel, and grows eight as the novel ends. She is living with her widowed father Atticus Finch and elder brother in Maycomb town. She appears to be a brilliant young girl with extraordinary observational skills. Therefore, she has successfully observed the developments being made within her social and physical environment. Scout has been portrayed as a caring girl having sympathetic nature, and concern for her family, friends and relations as well as other members of her town. Her tender heart and benevolent disposition as well as having deep love for her father and brother reminds the readers of Maggie Tulliver --- the protagonist of the Mill on the Floss by nineteenth century British novelist George Eliot (1860). Identical with Maggie Tulliver, Scout also presented the image of tomboy, and participates in the sports and activities attributed to the young boys. She looks excited to get admitted to the local town school. Scout has been portrayed as a compassionate and affectionate young girl, and looks deeply worried on the eve of find her father in a dangerous situation, and forgets all her disliking for her paternal aunt Alexandra for the latter’s demonstrating great concern for the well-being and life of Atticus Finch during Finch’s pleading from the side of the African American accused Tom. She is also friendly, and develops friendship with Dill immediately after his arrival in the town. She has been gifted with a sharp memory, which turns out to be supportive in respect of remembering the chronicle of events leading to the arrest and killing of Tom, as well as the consequences of her father’s support to the African American accused as lawyer. Identical with her father and elder brother, she also carries no ethno-racial prejudice against the blacks; nor does she demonstrate any abhorrence or displeasure towards the members of lower social stratum altogether. On the contrary, she views observing of bias on the part of the jury as strictly against the principles of social justice, morality and human values. Therefore, she questions about the colored balcony in the court reserved for the black people during the trial. Scout also demonstrates great courage on the eve of being attacked by Ewell on her and Jem, where the children escape the assault due to Boo’s timely help. Hence, possessing the above-discussed wonderful qualities makes Scout as the protagonist character of the novel under investigation.
Jem is one of the main characters of the novel who is Atticus’s son and four-year elder brother to Scout. Like the other growing boys of his age, he looks brave, courageous and active boy, and hence is loved and revered by his sister for demonstrating bravery by touching the gate of Radley house and standing beside his father on the eve of Atticus’s attempt of preventing Tom’s lynching at the hands of the white mob. Another noticeable aspect of Jem’s personality includes his being amiable to almost all the individuals around him. He is not only loved by his father but also the sister and Aunt Alexandra. Moreover, he also loves his family and friend Dill and has developed a positive image of Boo. Jem is also a rational and tolerant boy at heart, where the racial bias prevailing in Maycomb town has not polluted his heart and mind altogether. Identical with Scout, Jem also idealizes his father and looks ambitious to adopt the same profession with the aim of fighting against injustices and inequalities. As an emotional young boy, the verdict of the jury against Tom Robinson was shocking for him. Consequently, he looks determined to stand against the unjust system, which convicts the innocent and helpless individuals of society out of hatred against them. Consequently, Jem advocates for the equal status for the poor and downtrodden members of society, which makes him one of the most admired and loveable characters of the novel.
The character’s description: Atticus Finch has been depicted as a middle-aged lawyer, which enjoys a respectable status in the town. Despite his being the member of well-to-do social stratum as well as white population, he does not have any hatred or prejudice against African Americans. It is Atticus, who has taught his children the lessons of equality, modesty, morality, justice and fortitude. Despite the fact that it is very difficult to raise voice against one’s racial group and social class, Atticus observes the same for the uplift of justice and equality. He appears to be a sharp and intelligent lawyer and collects evidence while defending the accused Tom Robinson in light of the sound proofs in his defense. He has taught his children, not only through words but also through his actions, how to revolt against injustice by putting one’s life at stake. Therefore, he convinced the leader of the angry mob to shatter the crowd gathered for a lynching of a black accused of raping a white girl. In addition, he also rises to the occasion to defend an innocent person just for the sake of the uplift of law and equality, where he does not have any greed of obtaining financial benefits or fame out of the sad incident. Atticus is well-aware of the fact that his act of supporting a black man against a white family may put him and his family in grave jeopardy. Nevertheless, he happily accepted the challenge of the opposition of the majority white population while proving Tom as an innocent person. Moreover, Atticus also observed tolerance on the eve of Bob Ewell’s spitting on his face out of sheer resentment for opposing him and his daughter in favor of Tom. Since Atticus presents an image of the rebel of the prevailing social norms, cultural traits, moral values, and traditions, he is rightly declared to be the symbol of courage, dauntlessness and justice during the era when African Americans were looked down upon as inferior creatures across the country. Hence, despite the demonstration of hatred towards Atticus Finch by the majority of his white racial group living in Maycomb town, he is revered as one of the most courageous characters depicted for the condemnation of ethnic-racial discrimination.
The character of Bob Ewell serves the most condemnable one in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). Hence, the author, with the help of this character, has attempted to condemn and discourage the infliction of injustice and discrimination towards the minority groups and communities co-existing with the mainstream population under the same social environment. It was Bob Ewell, false allegation of which gives a go to the future developments to be made in the novel. Even Ewell does not belong to the affluent stratum of society; somehow, he looks down upon the poor and particularly considers African Americans as inferior individuals. It is Bob Ewell, who is responsible for indictment and eventual conviction of Tom Robinson by putting allegations on Tom of raping his daughter. He appears to be a cunning, revengeful and vindictive man, who does not have mercy or care for the children even. That is not the only that indicates his racial bias by blaming Tom for raping Mayella. He also demonstrates his vindictiveness, when spitting on Finch as well as attacking his children during the night hours with the aim of killing the children in cold blood. Besides, he is a lazy man and habitual drunkard and has been fired from his job because of his sluggish nature and addiction. However, his act of uniting the white community under one banner, and convincing the jury to issue the verdict against the black accused proves him a successful statesman, who contains the capabilities of winning the favors of the masses, and mobilizing them in support of his stance, whether just or unjust. Hence, his shrewdness and cunningness assess the sentiments and emotional condition of the narrow-mindedness of the town people. They would not allow an African American even to think about tempting a white girl Hence, despite having low financial and social status, he is in a position of winning the jury’s side. Thus, Ewell’s character maintains profound significance in nature and scope, which provides the readers with the opportunity of making a distinction between right and wrong.
The character’s description of Boo Radley: he appears to be a mysterious character throughout the novel, and Jem, Scout, and Dill are terrified of him because of his appearance and enigmatic character. Boo Radley has been leading a life of and Dill is terrified of him because of his appearance and enigmatic character. Boo Radley has been leading a life of since the unknown time period, where Dill appears to be interested in exploring his personality and activities in order to come out of fear the children contain for him. Boo’s generosity is first detected by Jem and Scout, where they find the gifts in the folded knot of a tree. Therefore, the children start liking him because of his generosity, kindness, and care for the for them. Boo also saves the life of Jem and Scout by putting his own life at stake at the moment when they are attacked by the vindictive Bob Ewell during the night hours. It is also discovered that his personality is crushed by his rude and dominant father, and his father’s fear keeps him confined to his house leading a reclusive life by disconnecting himself from the outer world.
The list of supporting characters in To Kill a Mockingbird
Dill Harris is the playmate of Jem and Scout, who has left his house situated in Meridian, Mississippi, on his mother’s marrying another man after the death of Dill’s father. He is curious and confident short boy and has developed intimate relationships with both the young Finch siblings on his arrival in Maycomb town. Like Jem and Scout, he is also afraid of Boo Radley and looks curious to discover the mysterious personality and his activities. Dill’s presence in the novel provides the readers with the image of childhood love developed in the children at such an early stage of life, as Dill proposes Scout in the beginning chapters, and wins her acceptance subsequently. Dill’s character shows a sense of insecurity and lack of protection the children belonging to the broken houses may experience in life. Such a sense of insecurity goes a long way and even throughout their life. Renowned contemporary era US feminist novelist Dorothy Allison (2005) has also pointed out towards the same, where she remained terrified because of the presence of her drunkard and rapist stepfather. Although Dill has not been exploited by his stepfather; nevertheless, he finds himself as insecure while staying with his mother and stepfather.
The list of all characters in To Kill a Mockingbird entails Miss Maudie Atkinson is a good-natured middle-aged woman and lives in the neighborhood of the Finch family. She has spent her childhood with Aunt Alexandra; however, contrary to Alexandra, Maudie’s character looks flexible, jovial and friendly. She is witty and freedom-loving, and instead of looking at the apparent actions of others, she pays more heed to the motive behind the actions. As a result, she allows Scout to behave like a tomboy and appreciates Atticus’s mission of fighting for the cause of an innocent accused. Since she does not feel any hesitation in wearing male dresses while working in a garden, she does not have any objection on Scout’s involvement into the boyish activities. Maudie always demonstrates affection towards Jem and Scout, and her sense of humor always fascinates the children. Overall, Miss Maudie presents a liberal, jovial and sensible character, which takes the things around her in a light way, and tends to focus on views and motives rather than mere trivial acts and minor things.
Judge John Taylor
John Taylor is the judge, who is to hear and decide the rape case against Tom Robinson. Even being the member of the white racial community, the judge does not demonstrate any inclinations towards the white people. However, instead of displaying complete partiality and bias, he is interested in an exploration of truth. Hence, he appears to be supporting Finch’s stance regarding the innocence of Tom in the rape case. Somehow, he looks under pressure due to the influence of white majority, which would not allow him to issue a verdict against a white complainant and in favor of the black accused. Overall, he looks to be a balanced personality and supports the evidence produced by the defense counsel in favor of the innocence of Tom Robinson. Hence, Taylor can be stated as an impartial and brilliant judge, who would be imitated by the jurists as an ideal personality.
Alexandra Hancock (Finch)
Alexandra Hancock is the sister of Atticus Finch and lives with her husband, son, and grandson. Identical with Scout’s possessing some traits attributed to Maggie Tulliver, Alexandra Hancock also resembles with Maggie’s maternal aunts, the protagonist of Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860). However, she appears to be more concerned and dedicated to her brother Atticus Finch and his children. Married to James Hancock, Aunt Alexandra has arrived to live the Finch family, where she appears to be critical on the domestic chores performed by the black maid Calpurnia, and regards her as having no skill or experience essential for administering a house and family affairs. She also dislikes Scout’s behaving like a tomboy, and hence Scout remains irritated because of the aunt’s censures. Nevertheless, she provides an unflinching support to her brother in the face of hardships and encourages him by endorsing Finch’s stance at all social gatherings and parties. Although Scout does not like her criticism and intermeddling; somehow, she maintains very high opinion of her dauntless and dedicated aunt while narrating the chronicle of events happened during the trial, conviction, and killing of Tom Robinson.
Mayella Ewell serves as an important character in the novel. Although she looks having a minor role in the work under analysis; however, the entire story revolves around the case of her rape at the hands of Tom Robinson. Due to her family’s leading an isolated life from the outer world, she has little opportunities of developing relations with some male friend. Therefore, she sends her younger siblings out of the house and seduces Tom in the lonely house. However, her father reaches on the occasion, and not only slaps her on her right cheek but also beats her seriously. Moreover, instead of having knowledge regarding the seduction of her daughter, Ewell blames Tom of raping Mayella. Moreover, Mayella appears to be a confused personality, who does not have much experience and exposure of social life. As a result, she is unable to reply to the simple questions asked by the defense counsel Finch. Being young and somewhat attractive girl of 19 years, she also has desires to have interaction with boys of her age; though her domestic environment keeps her away from mixing with other individuals. Instead of leading a normal happy life with family and friends, she has to perform all domestic responsibilities because of the death of her mother in early life. Moreover, her unspeakable molestation at the hands of her own drunkard father adds to her miseries, where she depicts the image of a vulnerable woman instead of portraying the picture of a beautiful teenager girl. Her inviting a black man for developing sexual relationships with her shows her courage, though she is unable to confess the same in the court of law. Since Mayella has not obtained any formal education, she looks unable to understand the meaning of the questions raised by Finch in the court. Hence, domestic violence and incestuous molestation have caused her distress and turmoil.
Tom Robinson - the mockingbird - serves as one of the major characters in the novel. Being a member of a black community, and belonging to labor class of society, he becomes the victim of racial discrimination because of the prejudice demonstrated by the white jury while deciding the rape case against him. It is actually Tom, who has been symbolically depicted to be the mockingbird by Lee as per the title of the novel. Tom is seen physically disabled in the sense that his left arm is crippled and hence does not work. The defense counsel Atticus Finch takes the same stance in defense of Tom, where he maintains that since the rape victim Mayella has marks of torture on the right side of her face, which can be inflicted only by a left-handed person instead of Tom. Despite the fact that Tom’s life is saved by Finch by protecting him from lynching by an angry white mob, the defense counsel turns out to be unable to save him from the conviction. Tom is sentenced and then shot dead in prison while attempting to escape from the prison.
Calpurnia serves as the caretaker and cook of the Finch family, where she looks after the children as well as performs all domestic chores. As a member of the black community, she is in a position of making the children understand the challenges faced by the minority racial group of the US society. Not only this that Calpurnia is respected by the children and Finch, but also she is considered as the member of their family. The children also learn discipline because of her strictness and punctuality.
Themes and symbols
You won’t find an educated person in the United States who hasn’t heard about the Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the most far-famed novels of XX century, it has set a gold standard of American adolescent literature. Being a book that reveals the emotional experiences of a little girl named Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, it focuses on a discrepancy between the child’s expectations and a grown-ups’ reality.
The events of the book unfold in the fictional town Maycomb, Alabama in the times of the Great Depression. The town embodies the collective image of typical southern provinces of the 1930s and its life in all its social and economic severity.
So we have two dimensions of a narrative:
- the world of children's hopes and pure feelings, on the one hand,
- and the world of adults full of injustice and cruelty, on the other.
That makes the thematic range of the book wide and diverse. Let’s consider the central topics discussed by the author.
Main themes of the book
#1. Moral choices and dilemmas
The novel is basically a guide on how people behave in what the existentialists called the limit situation. Such situations examine what we are capable of and reveal our moral nature. For the people of Maycomb, this kind of the situation is Tom Robinson’s case. While some of them keep their minds sober and urge for the justice, others are blinded by the racial hatred and the thirst for violence.
Briefly recall the events. The local attorney Atticus Finch takes a case of a colored man who is accused of raping a white woman. Step by step, Finch proves that the accuser (the supposed victim) is lying. Yet, as the trial goes, he and his family are persecuted by the locals for the ‘nigger-loving’. What really dumbfounds Scout and Jem (Atticus’s kids)
is that the people, with whom they’ve been living in the same town for a long time, now are ready to hurt their father just for doing his job.
The very fact that Atticus takes this case, despite all the possible troubles it could cause to him, is a central moral action of the book. He explains it as something he had to do because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have the right to say anything to his children from now on. On the other pole of a morality, we see Ewells, the people who are ready to сondemn the innocent person to death just to conceal their own actions (the fact that Mayella tempted Tom and that her father has beaten her up for that).
Most of the locals despise the Ewells and don’t believe them for a minute. Despite that, they cannot tolerate the least possibility that the black man can be treated as any white member of the society. That is the moral background of the town’s life, and what Atticus calls ‘Maycomb's usual disease’. It opens another important agenda of the novel - prejudices.
Even from the brief retelling of the novel, it gets clear that the central issue the book discusses is racial prejudices. The culmination of the general ignorance and racial hatred in Maycomb becomes a condemnation of Tom Robinson. He is found guilty, despite that all the evidence proves the opposite.
However, it is not the only signal of the racist views domination in the town. The society is segregated. The African Americans have much fewer possibilities to get educated. They attend the community parish for the colored people only. They are socially vulnerable and by default have a lower status compare to the white people. The author challenges such state of affairs. Through the main characters, she brings the central message. According to it, thoughtless and unreasonable hatred, what racism is, causes the sufferings of the innocent people. Besides, it embitters those who live up to this prejudices.
Although the most apparent partiality concerns the question of the skin color, it is not the only kind of prejudice that is shared in Maycomb. The Great Depression has noticeably staggered the town. Most of the local farmers have found themselves on the verge of poverty. So another reason for the division among the town’s people is the financial situation. Class prejudices play their role in the life of the Robinsons, Ewells, Cunninghams. However, we also see how different people act in the same financial circs. When the Ewells get angry and sneaky, the Robinsons and the Cunninghams try to lead an honest and descend life. We know that Walter Cunningham, despite his family difficulties, is a good school student. Scout calls him ‘a good boy’ while talking to his father. Yet, the race is still the more powerful indicator of the social deprivation in the town.
Another motive for discrimination is gender. We see the Scout’s inner conflict regarding the way she acts and feels and the social standards for a girl’s behavior. While she is a clear tomboy, it turns out it’s not a proper way to be. According to her Aunt Alexandra, she needs to behave as a lady, so she doesn’t disgrace the name of her family. It sounds quite vaguely and strange to Scout. She is confused about why she cannot simply be whom she wants to be. We follow this conflict through the mainly comic situations but it apparently shatters Scout’s world a lot. However, she keeps resisting. To the Jem’s advice to pretend to be a lady and start sewing or something, she answers ‘Hell no.’ The rare hints the narrator gives us about her grown-up life reveal that she ultimately hasn’t changed herself for others.
#3. The ambiguity of a human nature
The idea that runs like a thread through the narrative is that you cannot understand the person until you stand in her/his shoes. Through this idea, Atticus tries to teach his children not to judge people rashly. All of the mentioned themes in the novel challenge the children’s attitude to the world and to the people around them. They are overwhelmed with all the experience they get. To mitigate those feeling for his kids, Atticus teaches them how to accept someone’s actions though the understanding of the reasons for them.
The episode with Mrs. Dubose is demonstrative in this context. Atticus makes Jem help and read for the arrogant and grumpy old lady. She never misses a chance to humiliate and insult the boy and his whole family, including the father. However, his father refuses to accept any excuses. The boy must spend with Mrs. Dubose as much time as she needs. After her death, Atticus reveals the circumstances that Jem wasn’t aware of. The old woman was a morphine addict, but at the last month of her life, she decides to go cold turkey off it. According to Atticus, to do so is an unthinkable struggle. So he wants Jem to see what the real courage is and to understand that sometimes people have a fair reason to be mean. Finch adds that Mrs. Dubose is the bravest person he has ever known.
There are a lot of examples that prove to Scout and Jem that they cannot judge someone until they take this person’s position. Besides Mrs. Dubose, the people who surprise the kids are Arthur Radley, Mr. Dolphus Raymond, Mr. Underwood, Aunt Alexandra, Mr. Cunningham, and, of course, their own father.
#4. Shaping of personality and family relationships
Throughout the novel, we follow the development of the numerous characters. It allows us to see some patterns of behavior, prevailing among the Maycomb’s people. Some of the town residents are naïve and forthright like Scout and Jem, some are vicious and cowardly like Mayella, and some are kind and simple-hearted like Tom Robinson. The author unobtrusively shows that a family plays a role of a basis for the shaping of every particular personality. On the examples of the Finch and Ewell families, we see how the people’s actions are predetermined by the relationships in their family.
Harper Lee offers us the soft instructions on how to gain trust with the children, how to refrain them from the rash judgments, how to teach them to survive in the full of injustice life. Atticus Finch – the father of a Scout and the main protagonist of the novel. Through the trustful chats and patient explanations, he teaches his children about what is right and wrong. Yet, he never points it out directly; he leaves the space for the children to make the conclusions by themselves. In other words, he trusts and respects his children. For the most of the people, it is hard to understand that children can have their own opinion. Arguing with Aunt Alexandra, who prefers the normative way of upbringing, Atticus states that it doesn’t matter for him how well his children fit the society standards. Instead, he wants them to grow up curious and independently-thinking.
In the contrast to the Finches, we can see how the atmosphere of the anger and fear in the Ewells family impacts Mayella. We know about them that they are the poorest and the most notorious family in the town. The class prejudices and social disrespect discouraged them from the leading a decent way of life. An image of Bob Ewell represents nearly the every vice one person can have. An abusive father and a squalid man, he tries to prove that his daughter couldn’t have wanted to tempt a colored man, Tom Robinson. Instead, he lies that Tom tried to rape Mayella. Accustomed to lying, she out of fear of her father is ready to bring Tom to the scaffold.
In general, most of Maycomb residents consider the public opinion and social norms as the values that they need to pass to their children regardless of the reasons for such norms. They are conservative and mainly close-minded. The Finch family and Atticus himself contrast with the rest of the town people because they (Finches) value the honesty, courage and each other's opinion above everything else.
Thus, one of the main themes of the book is family and its influence on the personal formation. Through the compare and contrast, the author proves that the more trust and closeness the family shows, the more secure and independent its members are.
#5. Coming of age and dispelling illusions
All the themes and symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird are unfolded from the child’s perspective. That makes the collision of the child and the adult worlds the central issue of the novel. The form of the first-person narrative exposes the feelings that the child is going through while growing up. Adult Jean Louisa is the narrator of the book. Basically, all she tells is a story of how her brother Jem has broken his arm. The story covers three years of her childhood and as it goes, Scout and Jem are getting mature and learn important life lessons that concern the mentioned topics and events. That is why the novel is often labeled as a bildungsroman. It consistently demonstrates how crucial the experiences of their life become for their personalities formation.
The world around and people’s actions confuse Scout and Jem. They don’t understand the reason for the racial and class hatred, reasons for the disdain people feel for each other. Jem doubts the Scout’s famous ‘there's just one kind of folks. Folks’. He wonders how come that people don’t get along with each other and always find a way to despise each other if they are basically alike. In the end, they seem to go along with the idea that human nature is ambiguous, but there is always a chance to rouse the good side of it.
Another important lesson the children learn is about their father’s personality and motivation. They respect Atticus and listen to him. At the same time, they don’t think much of his professional or physical skills. Jem and Scout think that their father is old and feeble. They are not much impressed with his lawyering results as well. However, they utterly change their mind due to some symbolic episodes, such as with the mad dog and, of course, with everything about Tom Robinson’s trial.
Finally, the events of the novel make the kids change their mind about Arthur Radley or, as they call him, Boo. At first, they don’t understand how he possibly can sit at the house all day long. Since they have never seen him, they start to mystify him, without showing much respect to his private space or feelings. At the end, it turns out that he have been watching them all the time and, finally, saved their lives. It impresses Scout deeply and she now understands her father’s words about standing in one’s shoes.
After all that they have been through, she resumes ‘Jem and I will get grown but there isn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.’
Brief symbols list of the novel
When we talk about the symbols and meanings in the book, the first thing striking the eye is the novel’s title. A mockingbird is the core symbol of the story. As Atticus puts it, to kill a mockingbird is a sin. It is a harmless creature that doesn’t do one thing ‘but sings its heart out for us’. To kill it means to kill somebody pure and innocent. Since Tom Robinson is innocent, his sentence and eventual death is also a ‘killing of a mockingbird’.
The mad dog
It is unusual for the town people to see a mad dog in February. Especially because this dog is Tim Johnson, ‘the pet of Maycomb’, everybody seems shocked to see him mad and utterly dangerous. The dog symbolizes the people of Maycomb, who get angry and uncontrollable due to their ignorance and prejudices. These changes seem terrifying and ominous.
Mrs. Dubose’s camellias
The flower is the symbol of the old lady’s inner beauty and courage. At first, Jem hardly understands it, so he tears up the camellias. He also has a hard time to change his mind about the woman and the flowers. Finally, he understands Mrs. Dubose's reasons to be mean and he accepts the flowers and their value.
It is a symbol of the Scout’s freethinking and independence. She wears it in spite of public prejudices regarding what a girl should be wearing. Calpurnia and especially Aunt Alexandra want Scout to wear a dress instead of an overall. They want her to fit the public opinion about a proper girl behavior. For Scout to wear a dress means to change herself, to refuse of her favorite activities and in a way to stop being herself. When she is finally forced to put on a dress she feels herself humiliated and suppressed.
The themes and symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird are diverse and cover a wide range of social and moral issues. At the same time, Harper Lee reduces the tension of the events by the soft and friendly language. She tries to show the light at the end of the tunnel even when the situation seems hopeless. As the story goes, the young characters learn about ethical dilemmas, harmfulness of prejudices, family importance, and moral ambiguity. Although they face the disillusionment, with the help of their father they ultimately manage to keep their faith in people.
Quotes with Page Numbers
Through the characters and the events of her novel, Harper Lee gives a many-sided prospect of the important social and moral issues. She questions racism, class prejudices, moral ambiguity, and justice. What makes the book special, is that the author considers these questions from the child’s perspective. It reminds the reader about the challenges of the child’s understanding of the world of adults.
We have prepared the guide on the important quotes that reveal the key themes discussed in the book. For your convenience, we’ve pointed out the quotes about racism, the central issue of the story. Since the characters of the book say a lot of things that challenges important subjects, we’ve decided also to give the collections of the protagonists’ quotes. In particular of Scout Finch and her father Atticus.
Enjoy the reading!
The edition cited: Lee, H. (1962). To Kill a Mockingbird. Popular Library Edition, New York.
Concerning the issue of racism, the following quotes reveal how deep Maycomb has drawn into the racist prejudices and ignorance:
Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand...
(Chapter 9, p. 93)
In this quote, Atticus shares his confusion with his brother, admitting that the case of Tom Robinson is about to raise the storm of meanness and anger among the town people. With this words, he shows that such situation is not new or unpredictable. The southern states haven’t change much in their moods regarding African Americans. However, Atticus stands firm resisting the traditionally racist views in his town.
Scout," said Atticus, "nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean anything—like snot-nose. It's hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.
(Chapter 11, p. 113)
According to Atticus, the word ‘nigger-lover’ is used just to abuse people who don’t share the racist views. It labels not the people to whom it is said, but rather those who say it. It marks the people who feel the supremacy towards the African Americans. To be a nigger-lover means to treat black as equal, while it goes against the public idea of what is right.
Lula stopped, but she said, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here—they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?
(Chapter 12, p. 121)
The character’s quote indicates the racial division that works against both sides: white people don’t belong to the black people’s places either. Being discriminated, the black community also developed a form of racist views that target white inhabitant of the town. Jem and Scout for the first time face the reverse racism in the church of a black parish where Calpurnia has brought them. Yet, it turns out to be fragmentary, while the most of the black people in the church welcome the kids.
She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.
(Chapter 20, p. 206)
These words Atticus proclaims in the court, trying to convince the jury to find Tom Robinson not guilty. He shows the motives of the Ewells lie, demonstrating that Mayella is ready to see Tom’s death rather than to admit that she was trying to tempt him. At the same time, Atticus questions the public code, according to which to feel a temptation to the black man is the disgrace that the person cannot live with.
Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson's skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.
(Chapter 20, p. 207)
This is the fragment of the Atticus’s closing speech in the court. He appeals to the jury, trying to bring them to senses. He emphasizes that there is not a drastic difference between the people of different skin color. Yes, there are black men with the vicious intentions, but they are not determined by their race. That’s just the questions of every particular person and his or her qualities. To stress the thought he says that there are basically no saint people, among the whites as well. So there is no reason to think that the white people are better that the blacks in any way.
There's something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn't be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins. They're ugly, but those are the facts of life.
(Chapter 23, p. 223)
These words Atticus says to his son, explaining why he thinks he doesn’t have many chances to win Tom’s case. He shows Jem, how things are, without trying to hide something from him. What is important for Atticus is to make Jem understand how ugly and tragic the prejudices can turn to be. People who share the racist views don’t leave them at home, no. They keep influencing on everything they do. The same is applicable to the people who work in a court.
As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does th at to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash .
(Chapter 23, p. 223)
This 'prejudice quote' expresses one of the key agendas of the book. No matter what social status you have, if you take advantage of the weakness and vulnerability of other people, it shows that in fact, you are worth nothing. Scout notices that it is not usual for Atticus to call somebody trash. Yet, he finds the everyday racism totally unacceptable and he allows himself to be downright saying this.
Atticus Finch’s quotes with clues
Although the narrator of the book is Scout, her father Atticus’s statements shape most of the moral standpoints of the narrative. To stress all the important things he says in the book one page is not enough, so we have picked out the most expressive.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
(Chapter 3, p. 34)
This is one of the most famous quotes from the book. These words are the basis of the tolerance lessons that the book teaches us. Atticus wants his daughter to learn how to understand people rather than judge them. It is a kind of recipe for living in peace with others and herself. He knows how sensitive she is to any kind of what she thinks is unfair. So he tries to show her that sometimes the reason for that is a lack of understanding. In other words, he wants her to not judge people rashly since it impacts not the people but her own feelings.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.
(Chapter 9, p. 92)
When Atticus’s brother tells him that he hasn’t answered the Scout question directly, he reacts expressively. Atticus is sure that children always feel when somebody tries to fool them. That is why he doesn't spare time to talk to his kids and answer their questions without prevarication. That is one of the central parenting lessons of a book - to take kids seriously.
Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
(Chapter 10, p. 94)
This phrase gives the book its title. Atticus tells his son that killing a mockingbird is utterly wrong. Later Ms. Maudie explains his words, saying that mockingbirds are harmless and innocent creatures. They do nothing bad but sing their hearts out for people to enjoy. Metaphorically mockingbirds refer to the case of Tom Robinson. For Atticus, the accusation of the young black man, who is about to be killed just for his unreserved kindness. Tom’s death is what Finch calls the killing of a mockingbird.
They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
(Chapter 11, p. 109)
Although Atticus don’t share the common views of the people of Maycomb and have to withstand the whole town, he never consider his own views as superior in any way. He tries to teach his kids to be tolerant in general. Not only to those who has different skin color, gender or belong to a different social group, but also to those who have a different opinion. Yet, it doesn’t mean he is going to change himself for others. He admits the right of people to argue with him. However, above all, he values the peace with his own consciousness.
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
(Chapter 11, p. 116)
That is one of the examples that demonstrate Atticus’s ethical guiding lines. The courage for him is not the power of hurting somebody, but the power to win over yourself. To move forward without expecting you to win, but moving anyway - that what determines people’s courage. Through the experience of Mrs. Dubose, he wanted his son to understand what it means to be brave. At the same time, her example illustrates the ‘standing in someone’s shoes’ importance. The boy had no respect to the old lady unless he learns the truth of her condition.
So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses.... That proves something — that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human.
(Chapter 16, p. 160)
Another important agenda of the book is that every wild mob consists of people. And even though they seem losing their humanity, every of them separately is a human, whose heart can be touched. This conclusion is somehow surprising for Atticus as well. He has hardly expected that the people who came to lynch Tom, can be stopped by touching and spontaneity of the child.
Scout Finch’s quotes
The narrator and the main character of the book, Scout Finch is a source of the most noticeable thoughts. Even the people who have never read the book have possibly heard some of her quotes.
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
(Chapter 2, p. 22)
Scout expresses her love to a reading with this phrase. She admits that she has started to value it only when she could lose the chance to read anytime she wants. In a similar way, we don’t notice us breathing. We cannot say we love breathing, but the very moment we stop becomes a moment when we understand its importance to us. In general, Scout demonstrates that we often understand the significance of something only when we are about to lose it. Without such kind of experience, we may never value the things properly.
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
(Chapter 11, p. 105)
Scout admires the ability of her father to accept and communicate with the most unpleasant people. He manages to behave with ease and dignity in the situation, in which other people (including Scout) would lose their temper. The girl admits that it takes a courage to save face and act reasonably when you are the only one in the place who acts this way.
Jem was twelve. He was difficult to live with, inconsistent, moody. His appetite was appalling, and he told me so many times to stop pestering him I consulted Atticus: “Reckon he’s got a tapeworm?
(Chapter 12, p. 117)
Scout is four years younger that her brother and cannot understand the difficulties of an awkward age. however, with the help of her father, she starts to tolerate Jem’s behavior.
The book is a coming-of-age story. We follow how the children have to take leave of their illusions and childish simplicity. Besides, the author demonstrates the natural side of this process and in a way сalls us to treat the transitional age with understanding.
Well, I hoped Jem would understand folks a little better when he was older; I wouldn't.
(Chapter 16, p. 160)
As the story goes, the children have to face the ugly side of a social life. It confuses them and at first, they refuse to accept it as a fact. Scout and Jem feel overwhelmed with the meanness that people of the town demonstrate regarding the fact that Atticus defends the black man.
Atticus in its turn tries to protect them from bitterness they might feel after all. He says that to understand people is easier when you get older. With difficulties, but Jem seems to agree with him. Scout in her turn shows the skepticism towards the possibility of understanding people.
I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
(Chapter 23, p. 230)
As the children have a hard time of getting a sense of people’s actions, they try to understand what differs people from each other. Jem suggests the theory of the four kinds of people. And that the Finches, Cunninghams, Ewells and black people belong to the different kinds. That is why they don’t get along with each other. Scout doubts that this is the case and says the cited words.
At the same time, these words once again express the core idea of the book. All people are equal. They are basically the same with all their vices and virtues. There is no way to define the kinds of people and let this classification predetermine our attitude towards them. There is no a common formula for determining the quality of people. The absence of this formula makes the existence of a free democratic society possible.
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
(Chapter 31, p. 282)
These words refer to the words of Atticus about ‘climbing into one’s skin’. The girl finally understands what her father meant saying this. While she is standing on the Radley’s porch, she utterly changes her mind about Boo Radley. Now she gets a sense of the way he lives: what it means to stay in the house all days long and watch the kids horsing around. She understands the peculiarities of his perspective. And above all, she shows respect to it, admitting that her father was right: you never understand the person until you imagine yourself in his/her situation.
As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.
(Chapter 31, p. 282)
The words that show that the events described in the book have turned to be transformative for the children. They indicate that Scout feels she learned a lot of life lessons and has considerably matured. It wasn't easy or solely pleasurable experience. Still, it has deepened her understanding of the people around her and has shaped her own views on what is wrong and what is right.