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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird


by Harper Lee

Atticus Finch Timeline and Summary

  • Atticus grows up in Finches’ Landing, but leaves to go to law school.
  • After being admitted to the bar, Atticus sets up shop in Maycomb, twenty miles from where he grew up, where he’s related to nearly everyone.
  • With his first lawyerly earnings he puts his younger brother through medical school.
  • After joining the state legislature, Atticus marries a woman fifteen years younger than him, and has two kids with her before she dies.
  • After Calpurnia chews Scout out for being rude to Walter Cunningham, Scout tells Atticus to get rid of her, but Atticus tells her to do what Calpurnia tells her.
  • When Scout comes home depressed because her teacher says she can’t read with Atticus anymore, Atticus tells her they can still do so long as she doesn’t tell the teacher.
  • When Atticus sees the kids playing the Radley game, he doesn’t tell them to stop, but he makes his disapproval clear.
  • Atticus catches Jem and Dill trying to give a note to Boo Radley, and uses lawyer tricks to get Jem to admit what they were doing.
  • On the night of Maycomb’s first snowfall in years, Atticus wakes up his kids because Miss Maudie’s house is on fire.
  • Before the flames get too bad, Atticus saves Miss Maudie’s most prized possession, a rocking chair.
  • When it’s clear the house is lost, Atticus stands back and lets the firefighters do their job, and tells his kids that they don’t need to worry about their own house yet but they should stay out of the way by the Radley Place.
  • When the fire is out and they return to their house, Atticus at first thinks the kids disobeyed him because of Scout’s new blanket, but soon figures out that it must have been Boo.
  • Scout asks Atticus about the Tom Robinson case, and Atticus explains his position to her.
  • At Christmas, Atticus takes Scout home from Aunt Alexandra’s in disgrace after she fights with her cousin Francis.
  • Atticus talks to Uncle Jack about the Robinson case, knowing that Scout is listening from around the corner.
  • Atticus refuses to teach his kids how to use their new air rifles, but only tells them not to shoot at mockingbirds.
  • The kids are ashamed when Atticus refuses to join in on the football game that a town church is having for a fundraiser.
  • Calpurnia calls Atticus to tell him about the mad dog in their street, and he brings Sheriff Tate over to kill the dog.
  • It’s a difficult shot, so Tate insists that Atticus take it, even though he protests.
  • Atticus kills the dog with one bullet.
  • When Jem takes out his anger at mean Mrs. Dubose by destroying her camellias, Atticus not only makes him go back and apologize, he also makes him do as Mrs. Dubose wishes and read to her every afternoon.
  • After Mrs. Dubose dies, Atticus tells the kids that she was a morphine addict trying to get clean before she died, and talks about her courage.
  • Atticus returns from the state capital to explain to the kids why Aunt Alexandra has come to live with them.
  • Aunt Alexandra tries to get Atticus to talk to the kids about their family pride, but all he can do is make Scout cry so he gives up on it, and makes Aunt Alexandra drop it too.
  • Scout asks Atticus what rape is, and he tells her.
  • Atticus makes Scout obey her Aunt Alexandra, even though her views on what Scout should and shouldn’t do are different from his.
  • Atticus defends Calpurnia when Aunt Alexandra wants to get rid of her.
  • When the kids find Dill under Scout’s bed, Atticus talks to his family and arranges for him to stay.
  • One night a group of men come to talk to Atticus about their fears concerning the Tom Robinson case.
  • The next night, Atticus camps out in front of the jail where Tom is being held.
  • When the kids turn up, Atticus is afraid for their safety, but ultimately he is relieved that they kept the situation from turning ugly.
  • Atticus goes to court to defend Tom Robinson.
  • Atticus gets Tate to give him the facts that he needs, manages not to laugh at the absurd (though dangerous) Bob Ewell, reluctantly attacks Mayella in order to try to save his client, and lets Tom tell his story in his own words.
  • In his closing remarks, he not only talks about the case itself, but about the wider racial prejudice that is the main reason the case wasn’t dismissed for lack of evidence before it ever came to trial.
  • After the guilty verdict, Atticus leaves the courtroom alone, and the African-Americans in the balcony stand up to honor him.
  • After the trial, Atticus is bitter, but he hopes to win the case on appeal.
  • Bob Ewell is also bitter, threatening Atticus in public and spitting in his face.
  • Atticus tells the kids that the only person on the jury willing to acquit Tom was a relative of the Mr. Cunningham Scout had faced down in the lynch mob.
  • One day Atticus comes home in the middle of one of Aunt Alexandra’s tea parties with bad news: Tom has been shot and killed while trying to escape from prison.
  • Atticus takes Calpurnia and goes to break the news to Helen Robinson, Tom’s wife.
  • Atticus is too tired (or so he says) to attend Scout’s Halloween pageant.
  • When Jem is carried in unconscious, Atticus first tends to him, then calls Heck Tate.
  • Atticus at first wants Jem to undergo legal proceedings for stabbing Ewell because he doesn’t want it to seem like he’s covering anything up, but Heck Tate convinces him that whatever happened, taking the case to court would mean publicity for Boo, which would be a sin.
  • Atticus worries that Scout won’t understand, but she does.
  • After Scout walks Boo home, Atticus reads to her at her request until she falls asleep.
  • Atticus stays with the sleeping Jem all night, until he wakes up in the morning.