Study Guide

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

The book: To Kill a Mockingbird. The place: Maycomb, Alabama, finalist for Most Boring Town in America. Few people move in, fewer move out, so it's just the same families doing the same things for generation after generation. Like the Finches: Scout, her brother Jem, and their father Atticus. Every summer Scout and Jem are joined by Dill Harris, who shares their obsession with the local haunted house, the Radley Place, and the boogeyman who lives there, Boo Radley.

Fall comes, Dill leaves, and Scout starts school. The Radley Place is in between Scout's house and school, so she has to go by it every day, usually at top speed. One day she notices something odd: a couple of pieces of gum stuck in a hole in the tree. She tells Jem about it, and soon they find other treasures hidden in the same place, including finely-carved soap figurines of Scout and Jem themselves. This lasts until the following fall, when they find that Mr. Nathan (Boo's brother) has filled in the knothole with cement.

That winter, disaster strikes: Miss Maudie's house catches on fire and burns to the ground. While a sleepy Scout stands on the street trying not to freeze, someone drapes a blanket over her shoulders without her noticing: turns out that someone was Boo Radley, and it freaks Scout out that he was right there and she didn't even notice.

At school, Scout gets flak from her classmates because her father, a lawyer, has taken on a new client, a black man named Tom Robinson. Over the summer, Jem and Scout learn important lessons about race (black people don't much like white people; their black cook has a whole life and world of her own), and they also learn that Tom Robinson's been accused of raping a white woman. Oh, and meanwhile Aunt Alexandra has shown up to teach the kids some family pride and, in Scout's case, ladylike behavior. Good luck.

Finally, it's the day of Tom Robinson's trial. The kids sneak over to see, and it's pretty apparent (to us, at least) that the white woman, Mayella Ewell, is lying. Great! Truth and Atticus's lawyering skills win the day, right? Not so much. Tom is convicted, and some of the white folks aren't too happy about Atticus basically accusing the girl and her dad of lying. Then, a few weeks later, Tom is dead, shot while trying to escape prison.

As if things aren't bad enough, Jem and Scout hear rumors that the girl's dad has been indirectly threatening their dad. One dark night, they're on their way back home from the school's Halloween pageant when they hear someone following them. Suddenly they're attacked, though Scout can't see much because of her costume. When things calm down, one man is on the ground, and another carries the injured and unconscious Jem back to the Finch house, while Scout follows.

When all the excitement dies down, it turns out that Mr. Ewell (the girl's dad) is dead, Jem's arm is broken, and Boo Radley is the one who carried Jem home. For some reason, Atticus assumes that the killer is the 10-year-old boy rather than the silent, hulking giant, and he starts planning Jem's legal defense. Luckily, a friend talks him out of it. The novel ends with Scout looking at her neighborhood with new eyes from the Radley front porch, wondering what Boo thinks about all this.

And then she goes home to have her daddy tuck her in and read her to sleep.

(Click the plot infographic to download.)

  • Chapter 1

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

    • The story begins with an injury: the narrator's brother Jem got his arm broken when he was thirteen.
    • Luckily, his bum arm doesn't interfere with Jem's mad football skills, so he doesn't care much.
    • Years afterward, brother and narrator argue over where the story really starts: the narrator blames it on the Ewell family, while Jem (the older sibling by four years) puts the beginning at the summer they first met Dill.
    • The flash-forward conversation continues: the narrator says that if you want to get technical about it, everything began with Andrew Jackson, whose actions led their forefather Simon Finch to settle where he did.
    • The flash-forward becomes a flashback: Simon Finch was a pious and miserly Englishman who left his home country to wander around America, before settling in Alabama with his accumulated wealth, his family, and his slaves.
    • Sounds like a laugh and a half.
    • Simon's homestead was called Finch's Landing (natch), and was a mostly self-sufficient estate run by Simon's male descendants, who sold cotton to buy what the farm couldn't produce itself.
    • The Civil War put an end to a lot of that (like the slave-owning), but the tradition of living off the land remained.
    • Until now. Atticus, the narrator's father, studied law in Montgomery, while his younger brother went all the way to Boston to become a doctor.
    • Woohoo, upward mobility!
    • The only Finch left at the Landing is their sister Alexandra and her quiet husband.
    • After becoming a lawyer, Atticus returned to Maycomb, the county seat of Maycomb County, twenty miles from Finch's landing.
    • Atticus feels at home in Maycomb, not least because he's related to nearly everyone in the town.
    • Out of the flashback, into the present-time of the story (which we already know the narrator's actually remembering. Confused? Hop over to "Point of View/Narrative Voice" if you want the 411 on that right now).
    • The narrator thinks about the Maycomb s/he (we don't know which yet) knew. It's not a happening place. Everyone moves slower than sweat, and there's not much worth hurrying for, let alone much sense of what might be happening outside the county lines.
    • The narrator lives on the town's main residential drag with her brother Jem, her father Atticus, and their cook Calpurnia, who is a force to be reckoned with.
    • You may notice there's no mom to be found: she died when the narrator was two, and the narrator doesn't really remember her, though Jem does.
    • The story really gets underway the summer when the narrator is five going on six and Jem is nine going on ten.
    • This is the summer Dill arrives in Maycomb.
    • Their first meeting happens like this: Jem and the narrator are playing in their backyard, hear a noise next door, and go to check it out. They find a small boy, six going on seven but looking younger, who introduces himself as Charles Baker Harris and announces that he can read.
    • Well, we're off to a good start.
    • Charles Baker Harris says that people call him Dill, so we will too.
    • Dill tells the narrator and Jem a bit about himself: he's from Meridian, Mississippi, but he's spending the summer with his aunt, the Finches' next-door neighbor Miss Rachel.
    • Unlike the rural Finches, he's had access to movie theatres, and so he regales them with the story of Dracula. (Maybe this one?)
    • The narrator asks Dill about his absent father. Apparently this is a sore subject, so Jem tells his sibling to shut up.
    • Jem, Dill, and the narrator spend the summer acting out stories from the books they've read, over and over and over.
    • Sound boring? Eventually, the kids think so too.
    • Dill comes to the rescue with a new idea: they can try to make Boo Radley come out.
    • The Radley Place is the haunted house of the neighborhood, complete with ghost Boo Radley, who got in trouble with the law as a teenager and has been holed up in the house unseen ever since.

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

    • The house has quite the reputation with the neighborhood kids, who avoid it at all costs.
    • Now we hear a story about Boo, courtesy of Jem, courtesy of Miss Stephanie Crawford, the neighborhood busybody: When Boo was 33 years old, he was cutting out newspaper articles for his scrapbook when he suddenly stabbed the scissors into his father's leg, then calmly went back to what he was doing.
    • After that Boo was locked up by the police briefly, and there was talk of sending him to an insane asylum. In the end, he ended up back in the Radley Place.
    • When Boo's father died, Boo's older brother Nathan moved in to take over. Nothing much changed at the Radley Place.
    • Rumor has it that Boo gets out at night and stalks around the neighborhood, but none of the kids has ever actually seen him.
    • Jem makes up horror stories about what Boo's like (think a cross between a vampire and a zombie), but Dill still wants to see him.
    • Or rather, he wants Jem to go knock on the Radleys' door.
    • Jem tries to get out of the dare without showing he's scared but then gives in when Dill says he doesn't have to knock, just touch the door.
    • Jem works up his nerve, dashes up to the house, slaps the door, and runs back at top speed without looking behind him.
    • After reaching safety on their own porch, the kids look at the Radley Place, but all they see is the hint of an inside shutter moving.
  • Chapter 2

    • Summer's over, and Dill heads back home to Meridian.
    • The narrator looks forward to joining the kids at school for the first time instead of spying on them through a telescope like a pint-size stalker.
    • Jem takes the narrator to school, and explains that it's different from home—and he doesn't want his first-grade sibling cramping his fifth-grade style.
    • The narrator's teacher is a young woman by the name of Miss Caroline Fisher, who's from North Alabama, otherwise known to the native Maycombians as Crazy Land.
    • Miss Caroline reads the class a story about cats and seems blithely unaware that she's already completely lost her audience, a bunch of farm kids who the narrator says are "immune to imaginative literature" (2.8).
    • Miss Caroline puts the alphabet up on the board. All of the class already knows it.
    • Amazing! Is it a class full of geniuses?
    • Nope. Most of them are starting first grade for the second time.
    • Miss Caroline asks the narrator to read, and is not pleased that she's already good at it.
    • See, the teacher assumes that Atticus has taught the narrator how to read. Apparently, these lessons must stop because Atticus isn't a licensed teacher and therefore is doing his child more harm than good.
    • Even though she's already a fluent reader, when the rest of the class is repeating first grade.
    • The narrator gets the impression that reading, which seems to come as naturally as breathing, is something like a sin when it's done out of class.
    • Trying to stay out of further trouble, the narrator zones out till recess, then complains to Jem.
    • Jem says that Miss Caroline is at the center of educational reform in the school, which he calls "the Dewey Decimal System" (2.25).
    • This new system results in boring class time, so the narrator starts writing (in cursive) a letter to Dill. Miss Caroline makes the narrator stop, saying that first graders print, and cursive isn't taught until third grade.
    • The narrator remembers that Calpurnia had passed rainy days by giving writing lessons.
    • Miss Caroline is halted in her inspection of her students' lunches by Walter Cunningham, who doesn't have one.
    • She tries to lend him a quarter for lunch, but he refuses to take it.
    • The narrator, whose name we now learn is Jean Louise, steps in, explaining to Miss Caroline that Walter is a Cunningham.
    • That explanation, crystal clear to Jean Louise, doesn't mean much to Miss Caroline, so she explains further: the Cunninghams won't take anything from anybody, preferring to get by on the little they have.
    • Flashback: Jean Louise knows about the Cunninghams because Walter's father hired Atticus for some legal work, and paid for the service by barter rather than in cash.
    • Back to the schoolroom present: Jean Louise wants to explain but can't, so she just says that Miss Caroline is making Walter ashamed by trying to lend him money he can't pay back.
    • Miss Caroline cracks at this, and calls Jean Louise up to the front of the class, where she pats her hand with the ruler and makes her stand in the corner.
    • The class breaks out laughing when they realize that the ruler taps were supposed to be corporal punishment.
    • The bell rings and everyone leaves for lunch. Miss Caroline collapses with her head in her hands at her desk.
  • Chapter 3

    • Jean Louise catches Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard and beats him up for being the reason she got in trouble, but Jem stops her.
    • She explains to Jem (who calls her Scout, so we will too) what happened.
    • Jem invites Walter to come home for lunch with Scout and him.
    • At the Finch house, Atticus talks to Walter about farming, while Jem and Scout listen half-comprehendingly.
    • Walter asks for molasses, which he proceeds to pour all over his food.
    • Scout is all, "What?," and he stops in embarrassment.
    • Calpurnia calls Scout into the kitchen, where she gives her a lecture on hospitality—Walter's a guest and so he can basically do whatever he wants.
    • The kids go back to school, and Scout grumps silently about Calpurnia's lecture.
    • She's called back to the here and now by a shriek from Miss Caroline, who's seen a "cootie" (3.37)—probably a louse, which may sound more familiar in the plural, lice—on one of the students.
    • Miss Caroline tries to send the student, named Burris Ewell, home to wash his hair (after looking up lice remedies in a reference book), and says he should take a bath (which he apparently really needs, since he looks worse than Pigpen from Peanuts) before coming back to class.
    • But Burris tells her that he's not coming back.
    • What? Apparently, Burris is one of the Ewells. Ewells come the first day to satisfy the truant officer and then skeddaddle.
    • Burris decides he's already done with school for the year even though the first day isn't over yet, and manages to make Miss Caroline cry before he leaves.
    • The other students try to cheer Miss Caroline up, and she reads them another boring story.
    • Highly dissatisfied with her first day of school, Scout goes home and makes plans to run away.
    • Atticus comes home from work, having apparently forgotten about Scout's lunchtime misbehavior, and Calpurnia gets back on Scout's good side with tasty crackling bread.
    • After dinner, Atticus invites Scout to come read with him, which brings up unpleasant memories.
    • Scout tries to convince Atticus that she doesn't really need to go to school, but he's not buying it.
    • She tells him about her first day of school, and Atticus tells her to try to think about things from the other person's perspective—in this case, Miss Caroline, who was only trying to do her best in a strange place, whose ways she doesn't yet understand.
    • Scout says that Burris Ewell stays home from school so she should be able to do so too, but apparently what holds true for Ewells doesn't apply to Finches.
    • Finally, Atticus proposes a compromise: they'll keep reading at home if she'll keep going to school—but she shouldn't tell Miss Caroline about it.
  • Chapter 4

    • Every day Scout runs by the Radley Place to get home after school.
    • One day she notices something, and works up the nerve to go back and look at it.
    • A tree at the edge of the Radley yard has some tinfoil stuck to a knothole, and inside the hole Scout finds two pieces of chewing gum.
    • She takes it home, and, after some testing to try to make sure it's not poisoned, she chews it.
    • Jem's not too pleased with this and makes her spit it out… and then gargle.
    • Finally, it's summer. Hooray! School's out!
    • On their way home, they find another piece of tinfoil in the same knothole, and behind it a jewelry box, decorated with more tinfoil, containing two Indian-head pennies.
    • Should they keep it? Chewing gum is one thing, but money is another entirely.
    • Soon Dill shows up, full of stories. They're already bored, so Dill kick things up a notch by saying he can smell death, and tells Scout that her end is nigh.
    • She tells him to shut it, and Jem mocks both of them for being (or pretending to be) superstitious.
    • They horse around a little, and Scout ends up flying down the sidewalk in a tire (don't ask), which ends up dumping her in …
    • The Radleys' front yard.
    • Thanks to this adventure, Jem invents a new game: acting out the life and times of Boo Radley.
    • The game starts out simple, but gets more and more complex as the summer goes on.
    • Atticus gives this game the side-eye, but he doesn't explicitly forbid them from doing it since he doesn't know for sure what they're doing.
    • But Scout isn't so sure. She's pretty convinced that when she got dumped out of the tire she heard someone laughing inside the Radley house.
  • Chapter 5

    • Scout convinces Jem to back off on the Radley game, and then Dill asks Scout to marry him. (Hey, it is the South.)
    • Despite this moment of passion, the boys spend most of their time together and neglect Scout.
    • So, Scout spends her time hanging out with Miss Maudie Atkinson, a usually stand-off-ish old lady.
    • Bonus: Miss Maudie makes the best cakes in the neighborhood, and best of all, shares them with the three kids.
    • Flashback: Scout's Uncle Jack has a history of flirting with Miss Maudie, though in a joking way.
    • Miss Maudie tells Scout more about the Radleys, including that old Mr. Radley (Boo's father) was a "foot-washing Baptist" (5.27), which is apparently much more hardcore than just regular Baptists.
    • In fact, some of Mr. Radley's fellow foot-washers have told Miss Maudie that she and her flowers are going to burn in hell, because any time spent not reading the Bible is time spent in sin, especially if it involves creating something pleasing to the senses. (No word on whether criticizing one's neighbors counts as a sin with them.)
    • Miss Maudie says that the Radleys are "so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one" (5.44).
    • Is Boo crazy? Well, if he wasn't when this whole thing started, he probably is now.
    • Scout finally breaks into Jem and Dill's Get Rid Of Slimy girls Club, and finds out what they've been planning to do: use a fishing pole to put a note to Boo through one of the upper windows of the Radley Place.
    • When they put the plan into action, Jem has some difficulty maneuvering the fishing pole, which is too short to reach the window.
    • And then Atticus shows up. And he doesn't look pleased.
    • Atticus tells the kids to stop bothering Boo, who has a perfect right to stay in his house if he wants to.
    • Atticus also tells them to stop playing their stupid game, and Jem says they weren't making fun of Boo, inadvertently revealing to Atticus that they were in fact playing at being the Radleys.
    • Jem eventually realizes he's been fooled by the oldest lawyer's trick in the book. Oops.
  • Chapter 6

    • Jem and Scout spend the day with Dill at his aunt's fish pond.
    • Scout wants to keep an eye out for Mr. Avery, a neighbor who had previously astonished them by peeing in an impressive arc off his front porch, but Dill just wants to go for a walk.
    • Scout, knowing that no one in Maycomb just goes for a walk, smells a rat.
    • Oh, you know, they're just going to go to the streetlight by the Radley Place.
    • And then they just want to peek in the window.
    • Scout doesn't like this at all, but stops complaining when they accuse her of being a girl about it.
    • The trio go under the wire fence at the back of the Radley Place and, after dealing with swishy collard greens, a squeaky gate, and clucking chickens, make it up to the house.
    • Jem and Scout raise Dill up so he can look through the window, but all he sees is curtains.
    • They're still skulking when Scout sees a shadow—a man's shadow, heading towards Jem.
    • The shadow goes up to Jem, raises his arm, drops it again, and then leaves.
    • The kids scram, and Scout trips as she hears a loud noise—someone's shooting at them.
    • The kids make it home (Jem loses his pants along the way) and see a bunch of neighbors in front of the Radley Place.
    • Miss Maudie tells them that Mr. Radley has been shooting at a "Negro" (6.60) in his yard.
    • Suddenly everyone notices that Jem doesn't have any pants on.
    • Dill tries to save the day by saying they were playing strip poker, but playing cards is a big no-no in Maycomb, so Jem says that they were actually playing with matches.
    • Whatevs, everyone says, and they head off to bed. Scout worries that every sound she hears might be Boo Radley coming to wreak his revenge. But Jem's off to get his pants. Scout tries to stop him, but Jem heads off anyway.
    • Scout sits outside on the porch, listening for the dreaded shotgun blast and waiting for Jem to return.
    • Finally Jem returns. With the pants.
  • Chapter 7

    • After his adventures at the Radley Place, Jem is in a bad mood for a week.
    • Scout starts second grade. It's just as bad as first grade.
    • Jem finally tells Scout what happened when he went back to the Radley House: his pants were folded up on top of the fence, and the tear in them had been sloppily mended.
    • CREEPY.
    • Passing by the knothole tree, they see a ball of twine resting inside it.
    • Scout wants to take it, but Jem thinks it might be someone's hiding spot.
    • When the twine is still there after a few days, Jem takes it, and from then on there are no more qualms about taking things found in the knothole.
    • A few months later, the knothole holds their best find yet: two figures carved out of soap that bear a striking resemblance to Scout and Jem.
    • Scout throws them on the ground, thinking about voodoo dolls, but Jem rescues them.
    • Who could have made them?
    • The knothole haul keeps getting better and better: a whole pack of chewing gum, a spelling bee medal, and a broken pocket watch (which Jem tries but fails to fix).
    • Scout and Jem decide to write a letter to their secret benefactor.
    • But the next day, they find that the knothole has been filled with cement.
    • Jem stakes out Mr. Nathan and asks why.
    • Mr. Nathan says that the tree's sick and the cement is an attempt to cure it.
    • Jem asks Atticus if that's true. Atticus says it looks healthy to him, but Mr. Radley should know his own trees.
  • Chapter 8

    • Maycomb gets a season it hadn't seen in a while: winter.
    • Mr. Avery tells the kids that bad children makes the seasons change, which—what?
    • Mrs. Radley dies, and Atticus goes to pay his condolences at the Radleys. When he comes back Jem and Scout pounce on him to ask if he saw Boo in the flesh (he didn't).
    • Scout is terrified when she wakes up one morning to see white stuff pouring from the sky.
    • Yep, it's snow.
    • School is cancelled, so Jem and Scout set out to make a snowman, though they don't really know how and there isn't much snow.
    • That night, it's freezing.
    • Atticus wakes Scout in the middle of the night because Miss Maudie's house—next door to the Finches'—is on fire.
    • Once the fire is finally put out (and Miss Maudie's house reduced to a smoking hole in the ground), the Finches return to their fortunately undamaged home.
    • And then Atticus notices something. Scout is wrapped in a blanket that she didn't have when she left the house.
    • Scout says that she stayed right where he told her to, in front of the Radley Place, but she and Jem saw Mr. Nathan fighting the fire. So if he wasn't the stealthy blanket-deliverer, it must have been some other occupant of that house.
    • Hmm, who could that be?
    • Jem tells Atticus all about the knothole and the cement and his mended pants.
    • Atticus finally says outright that it must have been Boo Radley who brought the blanket, and Scout, who's been late for the clue train, is hit by belated terror.

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • Chapter 9

    • Scout is ready to fight Cecil Jacobs on the schoolyard when he says that her father defends "niggers" (9.3).
    • (This is the word the book uses, so we'll use it here, despite its history of offensiveness. See the "Speech and Dialogue" section in "Tools of Characterization" for a fuller explanation of how this term functions in the book.)
    • When Scout asks Atticus about it, he tells her not to say "nigger."
    • Scout then asks him if all lawyers defend Negroes, and he says that of course they do.
    • So why does Cecil make it sound worse than bootlegging (booze, not music)? Atticus tries to explain to Scout the complexities of race relations in Maycomb.
    • See, just because lawyers have black clients doesn't mean they actually do a good job at defending them. But Atticus does.
    • For him, it boils down to self-respect: he couldn't hold his head up if he did less than his best.
    • Is he going to win the case? No, but they have to try anyway.
    • Atticus reassures Scout: "But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they're [the residents of Maycomb are] still our friends and this is still our home" (9.27).
    • The next day at school, Scout is about to fight Cecil Jacobs when she remembers what Atticus told her and walks away instead, even though she gets called a coward.
    • Soon it's Christmas, which means a visit from Uncle Jack (good), but also a visit from Aunt Alexandra (bad).
    • Even worse, it means having to spend time with Aunt Alexandra's grandson Francis, who is the yin to Scout’s yang.
    • Uncle Jack arrives with two long packages of mysterious contents.
    • Scout cusses while Uncle Jack's around, and later he tells her that she shouldn't do that if she wants to grow up to be a lady (which she doesn't).
    • The next day is Christmas morning, and they open the mysterious packages to find a pair of long-desired air rifles. (You'll shoot your eye out!)
    • Woohoo!
    • They head down to Finch's Landing, sans air rifles (to Scout's dismay, as she'd already had fantasies about shooting Francis).
    • Jem abandons his sister to schmooze with the adults, leaving Scout to deal with the dreaded Francis—whose main problem so far seems to be liking boring Christmas presents.
    • Apparently Aunt Alexandra has strong ideas as to what girls should be and wear (frilly dresses) that are very different from Scout's (overalls).
    • Oh, here's the problem: eventually, Francis quotes Aunt Alexandra, calling Atticus a "nigger-lover" who's "ruinin' the family" (9.98).
    • Scout whales on Francis, gets in trouble with Uncle Jack, and then heads back home to sulk. Eventually, Uncle Jack asks Scout to explain her side of the story. When she explains, Uncle Jack wants to go beat up the little punk himself, but instead he just bandages her still-bleeding hand.
    • Later Scout overhears Uncle Jack and Atticus talking. Atticus tells Uncle Jack some things about children: answer them truthfully, and bad language is less dangerous than hotheadedness.
    • Atticus says that Scout needs to learn to control her temper because things are only going to get harder.
    • How bad are things are going to get? Really bad.
    • He also says that he'd rather not have taken the case, but once it was offered to him he couldn't refuse it in good conscience.
    • Atticus hopes he can get his kids through the case without their "catching Maycomb's usual disease"—going "stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up" (9.187)—and that they will come to him if they have questions.
    • Atticus then tells Scout, still lurking around the corner eavesdropping, to go to bed. Years later, an older Scout realizes that her father meant her to overhear the conversation.
  • Chapter 10

    • Jem and Scout think their father super uncool, not to mention old. He can't even play football, like the other kids' fathers do.
    • Plus, kids at school are giving them grief about the Tom Robinson case, and Scout can't even fight now that she's promised her dad not to.
    • And Atticus refuses to teach Scout and Jem how to shoot their shiny new air rifles. Luckily, Uncle Jack steps up.
    • Atticus tells Jem that "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (10.7). Although apparently bluejays are okay.
    • Scout grumps about how their neighborhood is all old people, and Miss Maudie acknowledges that there aren't any 20- or 30-somethings around to be role models.
    • Miss Maudie tries to defend Atticus (he's a checkers grand master! he can play the Jew's Harp!), but Scout is not impressed.
    • Then Jem is all depressed when his father refuses to join in on the town's Methodists vs. Baptists football game. Seriously, worst dad ever. Right?
    • One day Jem and Scout go off to find local wildlife to kill when they see a dog acting kind of strange.
    • Calpurnia dashes for the phone to tell Atticus that there's a mad dog (i.e., rabid) on the loose.
    • Then she talks to Miss Eula May, the town telephone operator, to tell her to let everyone else on the street know that they should stay out of the way of the rabid animal.
    • The Radleys don't have a phone, so Calpurnia runs over to their place, bangs on their front door, and shouts, "Mad dog's comin'!" (10.72).
    • Everyone hunkers down inside to watch the dog.
    • The dog finally gets within range of Heck Tate's rifle, but he wants Atticus to make the shot. See, if he misses, the bullet will hit the Radley Place. And Mr. Tate knows he can't shoot that well.
    • Atticus reluctantly takes the weapon, walks to the middle of the street, aims, fires, and kills the dog.
    • Jem is flabbergasted. This is apparently like all of a sudden seeing your dad make a perfect three-point jump shot or make it through the Expert level of a Guitar Hero song you've been failing.
    • Miss Maudie tells Jem and Scout that Atticus "was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time" and his nickname was "Ol' One-Shot" (10.137).
    • So why have Scout and Jem never heard their dad talk about it?
    • Well, Atticus feels that his marksmanship is a God-given talent that gives him an unfair advantage over other living creatures, and that he shouldn't use it unless he has to.
    • Scout wants to brag to everyone at school about her father's shooting skill, but Jem tells her not to, because he thinks Atticus wouldn't want her to, since he's never mentioned it before.
    • Jem says that he wouldn't care if Atticus couldn't do anything, because, as he says, "Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!" (10.152).
    • Sounds like someone (Jem) has learned a valuable lesson.
  • Chapter 11

    • Now that Scout's a grown-up second-grader, tormenting Boo Radley seems like little kid stuff. She's setting her sights beyond the neighborhood to the metropolis of downtown Maycomb.
    • Getting downtown, however, requires getting past the house of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose.
    • The old woman hurls insults at them every time they pass her house, no matter how nice they are to her.
    • But Atticus makes polite conversation with Mrs. Dubose, so Scout think he's incredibly brave.
    • The day after Jem turns twelve, he's got a load of birthday cash to spend. They head down to town for him to lighten his pockets.
    • On the list of purchases: a toy steam engine for Jem and a baton for Scout.
    • As they pass Mrs. Dubose, she accuses them of playing hooky, even though it's Saturday.
    • Jem and Scout can put up with that, but when she attacks their father for defending Tom Robinson, Scout has to drag Jem away.
    • They make their purchases and head home, passing by Mrs. Dubose's house again.
    • She's not on the front porch, and Jem snaps. He grabs Scout's new baton, and uses it to destroy Mrs. Dubose's camellias, finally breaking the baton over his knee.
    • Atticus comes home, and he's not happy.
    • He tells his son that no matter what she said, those poor flowers never did anyone any harm, and Jem needs to go apologize—right now.
    • Meanwhile, Scout finally speaks her mind. No, her dad says, it's not fair. But things are only going to get worse as the Tom Robinson case gets closer.
    • When they're older, they'll understand why he's doing what he's doing.
    • But isn't Atticus wrong, because most of the townspeople think he is?
    • Nope, Atticus says. Personal conscience isn't a democracy.
    • Finally, Jem's back. He cleaned up the yard and apologized (even though he didn't mean it), and now Mrs. Dubose wants him to come over every day except Sunday to read to her.
    • Atticus says he has to do it. There's no point in apologizing unless it's sincere. As a sick old lady Mrs. Dubose can't be held responsible for her actions.
    • Atticus is a lot more forgiving then we are.
    • Anyway, Jem heads over to Mrs. Dubose's house for his first round of reading. Scout goes with him.
    • They find her in bed, and she gets in a few sharp words before Jem starts reading.
    • Her face is disgusting—wrinkled, spotty, toothless, and drooling—so Scout tries to find something else to look at.
    • After a while, the kids notice that Mrs. Dubose's frequent corrections of his mistakes had dropped off, and she doesn't even notice when he stops mid-sentence.
    • Huh. She appears to be in some sort of fit. The kids ask if she's all right, but she doesn't answer.
    • Then an alarm clock goes off, and Mrs. Dubose's servant Jessie shoos them out of the house, saying it's time for Mrs. Dubose's medicine.
    • Reading to Mrs. Dubose becomes part of their daily schedule.
    • One evening Scout asks Atticus what exactly a "nigger-lover" (11.100) is, since that's what Mrs. Dubose frequently calls him, and it's also what Francis said.
    • Is that why she jumped Francis? Yes.
    • Atticus asks why Scout's asking for a definition if she understood it well enough to make it the reason for a fight, and Scout says that it was the way Francis said it that got on her nerves.
    • Atticus tells her that the term doesn't mean anything, but it's something "ignorant, trashy people use […] when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves" (11.107), and that even higher-class people use it sometimes when they want to put someone down.
    • It's not actually an insult; it just shows you how "poor" (11.109) the person using it is.
    • One afternoon while Jem is plugging away at reading aloud to Mrs. Dubose, Atticus surprises them by coming in.
    • It turns out he's just left work—Mrs. Dubose has been setting the alarm clock later and later each day, so Jem and Scout have been staying longer and longer without realizing it.
    • Mrs. Dubose says that Jem has to come for a week longer, even though the original month is up, and Atticus says he has to do it.
    • Finally the last day of reading is over. Hooray! Now Jem can turn to more important things, like college football.
    • One evening, Mrs. Dubose dies. Atticus comes home with a box and an explanation: Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict and wanted to kick the habit before she died as a matter of personal pride.
    • Her fits were caused by withdrawal, and the reading helped keep her mind off the cravings till the alarm clock went off and she could have a dose (which also explains why the reading periods got longer and longer).
    • By the end of the reading afternoons, she was free of the drug habit.
    • The box Atticus brought home is for Jem. When he opens it he finds a camellia.
    • Jem is angry at this needling from beyond the grave, but Atticus tells him that he thinks it's a message that everything's all right.
    • If Jem hadn't gone on an anti-camellia rampage, Atticus might have made his son go read to Mrs. Dubose anyway, in order "to see what real courage is" (11.153)—not using a gun, but fighting for a cause you believe in even if you know you probably won't win.
  • Chapter 12

    • Jem's hit the middle school years, and everyone knows what that means: he's angsty, moody, prone to prolonged silences broken by angry outbursts, and he all of a sudden thinks Scout should act like a girl.
    • Scout asks Atticus and Calpurnia what's up with Jem and whether she can fix it by beating him up, but they say he's just growing up and she should leave him alone.
    • To make things worse, Dill isn't coming for the summer.
    • And then to make things the absolute worst, Atticus (who's a member of the state legislature) gets called into a special session and is away for two weeks.
    • With Atticus away, Calpurnia doesn't trust Jem and Scout to go to church by themselves (there was a past incident involving tying up one of their Sunday School classmates in the furnace room), and decides to take them with her to her church instead.
    • On Saturday night, Cal scrubs Scout down to her bare skin and makes sure that there's not a thread out of place on the kids' clothes.
    • Why? As she says, "I don't want anybody sayin' I don't look after my children" (12.31).
    • On Sunday, they head over to First Purchase African M.E. Church outside of town.
    • Everyone's happy to see them, except one: a tall woman named Lula who asks Calpurnia why she's brought white children to the African-American church.
    • For a minute, things look like they might get ugly, but then the crowd drives Lula off and welcomes the kids.
    • The church is plain and there aren't any hymn-books, but Cal won't let Scout ask questions.
    • The priest, Reverend Sykes, begins the service by welcoming the Finches, and then reads some announcements.
    • One of the announcements is that the day's collection will go to Helen, Tom Robinson's wife.
    • Zeebo leads the congregation in a hymn by reading out each line of the lyrics, which everyone else sings after him, surprising both Scout and Jem, who had never heard of such a thing before.
    • Reverend Sykes gives a sermon, which like that of the Finches' usual preacher, focuses on "the Impurity of Women" (12.79).
    • Contrary to the Finches' usual church experience, the Reverend names names as to who's been sinning lately, and tells them individually to cut it out.
    • After the collection, Jem and Scout are again surprised when Reverend Sykes counts the collection money in front of everyone and then announces they don't have enough—they need at least ten dollars to get Helen and her family through the week.
    • The Reverend goes so far as to lock the doors and hold the congregation hostage until they cough up enough cash.
    • Jem and Scout put in their dimes from Atticus.
    • Once the ten dollars is finally collected, the doors are opened and the service is over.
    • Afterwards, Scout asks Calpurnia why Helen can't find work. She says that Tom's family is being shunned because of his alleged crime.
    • So, what'd he do? Cal reluctantly tells her that Bob Ewell has accused him of raping Ewell's daughter.
    • First, Scout wonders why anyone would listen to the Ewells, and then asks Calpurnia what rape is.
    • Uh, ask Atticus, Cal says.
    • Now it's Jem's turn to ask questions. Why does the congregation sings their hymns the way they do, instead of saving up for hymn-books?
    • Well, hymn-books wouldn't do them much good—hardly any people in the church can read.
    • Cal only can because Miss Maudie's aunt, Miss Buford, taught her to read.
    • Some other facts about Cal, which Jem and Scout only now think to ask her:
    • She's older than Atticus though she doesn't know her age exactly, or even her birthday—she just celebrates it on Christmas to make it easy to remember.
    • She grew up near Finch's Landing, and moved to Maycomb with Atticus when he married.
    • She taught her oldest son Zeebo to read, too (but not using anything like "This is Spot. See Spot run.").
    • Nope, she brought out the big guns: the Bible and a book Miss Buford used to teach her—Blackstone's Commentaries, a gift from the Finch kids' grandfather.
    • Jem's blow away that she learned and taught English out of such a difficult book as the Commentaries. That must be why she doesn't talk like the other African-Americans he knows.
    • Scout is blown away to think that Calpurnia has a whole other life besides being their cook, much like a child realizing that teachers don't sleep at school.
    • One last question. Why does Cal talk differently at the African-American church than she does with white people? She says that it makes more sense to fit in.
    • Okay, this is actually the last question: can Scout visit Calpurnia at her home some time? Sure.
    • And then they arrive home to find Aunt Alexandra installed on their front porch.
  • Chapter 13

    • Scout asks Aunt Alexandra if she's come for a visit, and aunty says that she and Atticus have decided that it's best if she stays with them for a while, as Scout needs some "feminine influence" (13.10).
    • Scout does not agree with this, but keeps quiet about it.
    • In fact, Scout has trouble making any kind of conversation with her aunt.
    • That evening Atticus comes home and confirms Aunt Alexandra's reason for her coming to stay, though Scout thinks it's mostly her aunt's doing, part of her long campaign to do "What Is Best For The Family" (13.22).
    • Aunt Alexandra is popular in Maycomb and takes a leading role in the feminine social circles, even though she makes obvious her belief that Finches are superior to everyone else (even though, as Jem says, most people in town are related to the Finches anyhow).
    • Aunt Alexandra is a firm believer in Streaks—each family has one (a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, etc.), though Scout doesn't really understand her aunt's obsession with heredity.
    • It makes a kind of sense. The town is far enough away from the river that forms the area's main transportation route means that hardly anyone ever moves to Maycomb or away from it. Families have known each other for generations, establishing the reputation for having "streaks."
    • Scout mostly ignores her aunt, unless she gets called in to make an appearance at a luncheon or tea.
    • Alexandra also attempts to instill family pride, by, for example, showing them a book their cousin Joshua wrote.
    • Unfortunately, the kids already know his story from Atticus: he went crazy at college and tried to assassinate the president of the school.
    • After this Aunt Alexandra sends Atticus to talk to the kids about being proud of their superior heritage, but he just scares them because he doesn't usually talk to them in that way.
    • Scout ends up crying on his lap, and Atticus tells them both to forget it.
  • Chapter 14

    • That incident is enough to make Aunt Alexandra shut up about the Finch Family Pride, just in time for Scout to get some hints that the townspeople are obsessed with the Finch Family Shame.
    • After overhearing a passerby's cryptic comment, Scout asks Atticus what rape is.
    • Atticus defines it for her as "carnal knowledge of a female by force and without consent" (14.5)
    • Thanks for clearing that up, dad.
    • Scout doesn't really get what that means, and asks Atticus why Calpurnia wouldn't explain it to her, leading to the story of how Calpurnia took Scout and Jem to her church.
    • Aunt Alexandra is none too pleased to find this out, and inserts a resounding "no" into the conversation when Scout asks Atticus if she can visit Calpurnia.
    • Scout talks back to her aunt and then hides in the bathroom, later returning to overhear her aunt and father quarrelling about an unnamed "her."
    • Scout is worried that she's the "her," and feels "the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on" her (14.24).
    • In other words, she's afraid they're going to make her wear frilly dresses for the rest of her life. Figuratively and literally.
    • Eventually she figures out with relief that it's Calpurnia they're talking about: Alexandra wants to fire her, but Atticus won't hear of it.
    • Jem tries to intervene by telling Scout not to get on her aunt's nerves, but little sis doesn't want her bro telling her what to do.
    • This ends in a fistfight, naturally, until they make up when they overhear Aunt Alexandra launching yet another attack on their way of life.
    • On the way to bed, Scout steps on something. Snake? Nope. It's Dill. And he's hungry.
    • Dill tells a story (actually two, mutually contradictory stories) about how he escaped from his cruel father and journeyed to Maycomb.
    • Scout brings him some food, and Jem breaks the no-tattling rule of childhood to tell Atticus.
    • Hm, maybe Jem is growing up?
    • After Scout has been asleep for a while, she wakes up to find Dill joining her in bed.
    • Don't worry: nothing happens to heat up the G rating. They just talk about families. See, Dill felt like his mom and her new boyfriend weren't paying him any attention and didn't want him around.
    • Scout's problem is that her family pays her too much attention, but realizes that she would hate it if she didn't feel like they needed her.
    • Dill says that he and Scout should get themselves a baby, and tells her a story about where babies come from (no sex is involved in his account, fortunately), and they slowly doze off.
    • Just before they fall asleep, Scout asks Dill why Boo Radley has never run off. Maybe, Dill answers, because he doesn't have a place he can run to.
  • Chapter 15

    • It's arranged that Dill can stay in Maycomb for the summer.
    • After an uneventful week, one evening Mr. Heck Tate knocks on the front door of the Finch house. Some men want Atticus to step outside.
    • The bits of the conversation Scout can hear are about Tom Robinson: Tate doesn't want to keep him in the town jail the night before the trial starts.
    • There are some back-and-forth threats, and then Atticus says that he's going to make sure that the truth gets told.
    • Tension rises, until Jem shouts that the telephone's ringing. Atticus tells him to answer it, causing the men—whom Scout now recognizes as people she sees every day—to go off laughing.
    • Was that a gang? Nope, Atticus says. Those were their friends.
    • Yeah, some friends.
    • What about the Ku Klux Klan? They're gone and will never come back.
    • (Sadly, not true. They came back in the 1950s, when the Civil Rights Movement took off.)
    • Sunday comes, and Scout sees some men at church who don't usually attend, including Mr. Heck Tate and Mr. Underwood, the editor of The Maycomb Tribune.
    • Tom Robinson has arrived at the Maycomb jail.
    • The evening, something weird happens: Atticus comes into the living room with a light bulb and an extension cord. He says that he's going out for a while and won't be back till after the kids are in bed.
    • Strange event #2: Atticus takes the car, instead of walking like he usually does.
    • Obviously, the kids sneak out to follow him.
    • Finally they see him in front of the jail, reading by the light of the light bulb he went off with.
    • Four cars drive up.
    • Atticus puts down his newspaper, and Scout thinks that he seems to be expecting these visitors.
    • The kids hide in a nearby doorway and overhear a man telling Atticus to move away from the door and let them through.
    • Atticus tells them to go home and that Heck Tate's nearby.
    • Another man says that they decoyed Tate out into the woods. He's not coming back any time soon.
    • There's some threatening talk, and Scout can't take it: she runs out to Atticus.
    • For a moment Atticus looks afraid when he sees Scout, and Scout's upset, too: these aren't the same men as last night.
    • Atticus tells Jem to take Scout and Dill home, but Jem doesn't want to. Father and son face off.
    • One of the men grabs Jem, and Scout kicks him right where it counts, making him back off.
    • Finally, Scout sees a familiar face: Mr. Cunningham. And she starts talking.
    • She asks him about his entailment, tells him to say hi to Walter for her, and keeps prattling away until his lack of answers really starts to get to her.
    • Just then, Mr. Cunningham squats down and tells Scout that he's going to give Walter her message. He tells the other men that they're going to leave, and they do. Whew!
    • A voice comes from above: Tom Robinson is asking if the men have gone.
    • From across the square, another voice: Mr. Underwood has been playing sniper backup from The Maycomb Tribune office.
    • Atticus and Mr. Underwood talk for a while, and then Atticus and the kids take Atticus's stuff to his car to go home.
    • Scout thinks Jem is going to get royally chewed out for following Atticus into town, but her dad actually just rubs his head affectionately.
    • Adults. They are so weird.
  • Chapter 16

    • The night after their run-in at the town jail, Scout ends up sleeping in Jem's room after she starts crying in her own.
    • At breakfast the next morning, no one except Jem has much appetite.
    • Atticus says he's glad the kids came along, though Aunt Alexandra sniffs that Mr. Underwood would have made sure nothing too bad happened.
    • Atticus comments that Mr. Underwood is a strange man—he "despises Negroes" (16.5), yet he acted to protect Atticus and Tom Robinson.
    • Scout wants coffee, but Calpurnia will only give her one tablespoon of the evil brew in a cupful of milk.
    • Alexandra tells Atticus not to make comments like the one he just made about Mr. Underwood in front of "them" (16.8), i.e. Calpurnia, i.e. African-Americans.
    • Atticus says that it's nothing Cal doesn't already know, and that anything that can be said in table conversation is fit for Calpurnia's ears.
    • Alexandra thinks it encourages gossip among the town's African-American residents.
    • Well, says Atticus, if the white people didn't do so much that was gossip-worthy the African-Americans wouldn't have so much to talk about.
    • Scout wants to know why, if Mr. Cunningham is a friend of theirs, he wanted to hurt Atticus last night.
    • Atticus says that Mr. Cunningham is a good man, he just has a few "blind spots" (16.18).
    • Uh, okay.
    • Then Dill bounces in, saying that the gossip mill is having a field day about how three kids fought off a hundred men with their bare hands.
    • The kids head out to the porch to watch people passing on their way to the courthouse.
    • Some of the personalities the kids spot: Mr. Dolphus Raymond, already drunk; a bunch of Mennonites; Mr. Billups, whose first name is simply X; Mr. Jake Slade, who's growing his third mouthful of teeth; and the foot-washing Baptists, who pause to shout Bible verses about vanity to Miss Maudie in her revamped yard. (She responds in kind.)
    • Finally, Scout, Jem, and Dill join the crowds at the courthouse.
    • Among the strangers the kids spot Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who's drinking out of a paper sack; Jem says that in the bag is a Coca-Cola bottle full of whiskey.
    • Dill asks why Mr. Raymond's sitting on the far side of the square with the African-Americans, and Jem says that he likes them better than the whites, and that he has several children by an African-American woman.
    • Jem tells more about Mr. Raymond's history: he's from an old, respected family; he was engaged to a white woman, but she shot herself after the wedding rehearsal, perhaps because she found out about his African-American mistress; since then Mr. Raymond's been almost constantly tipsy, but is good to his "mixed" (16.61) children.
    • Scout asks what a mixed child is, and Jem tells her that they're biracial, and also that they're "real sad" (16.69), because they don't fully belong on either side of Maycomb's strict racial divide, even when they don't look any different from the other African-Americans.
    • Scout says that if you can't tell a person's racial heritage from looking at them, how does Jem know that the Finches are 100% white?
    • Jem says that Uncle Jack says that they can't know for certain what happened centuries ago, but that in Maycomb "once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black" (16.81).
    • If you're thinking this sounds completely nonsensical—you'd be right.
    • The lunch break ends and everyone lines up to go back into the courthouse, the African-Americans letting the white people be at the front of the line.
    • Once they get inside the courthouse, Scout gets separated in the rush of people from Jem and Dill.
    • Scout overhears some old men saying that Atticus was appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson, and she wonders why Atticus hadn't told them that—it would have been a convenient excuse in schoolyard brawls.
    • By the time the boys find Scout, there's no room left in the white section.
    • Reverend Sykes sees them standing in the lobby and offers to take them up to the balcony (where the African-Americans are segregated).
    • Up in the balcony, four people move so that Scout, Jem, Dill, and the Reverend can have front-row seats.
    • Scout surveys the scene below her: the jury, made up of farmers (since the townspeople usually got out of jury duty), the lawyers, and the witnesses.
    • In charge of the court is Judge Taylor, whose sleepy demeanor conceals an eagle eye, and who has a habit of eating (yes, eating, not smoking) cigars during cases.
    • The trial is already in progress, with Mr. Heck Tate on the witness stand.
  • Chapter 17

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

    • Mr. Tate says that on the night of November 21st Bob Ewell brought him to the Ewell house, where he found Mr. Ewell's daughter, who had been badly beaten.
    • When Mr. Tate asked her who did it, she said Tom Robinson, and when he asked her if Robinson had raped her, she said yes. Mr. Tate went and got Robinson, had the Ewell girl identify him, and then arrested him.
    • Next, it's Atticus's turn to question the witness. He asks (three times) if Mr. Tate called a doctor to tend to the Ewell girl's injuries, and (all three times) Tate says no. Then he asks Tate to describe those injuries, and he says she had bruises and a black eye. Atticus asks which eye was the black one, and Tate, after giving him a what-kind-of-stupid-question-is-this look, says it was her left. Atticus gets him to clarify that it was the left from his perspective, which means it was the girl's own right. Tate, after another question from Atticus, goes on to describe her injuries further: the right side of her face (where the black eye was) was heavily bruised, and there were finger marks all around her throat.
    • That ends Mr. Tate's testimony, and he leaves the witness stand.
    • Scout thinks it's all rather boring and dry, not at all the high drama, Law and Order lawyering she had expected.
    • Now it's Bob Ewell's turn for the witness stand. Scout gives us some facts about the Ewells: they're always on welfare and they live near an African-American settlement in a shack behind the dump.
    • Which they scavenge.
    • It's a pretty grim life. Beside the trash and the old cars in their front yard, there's one thing that stands out, or rather six: a set of chipped jars holding Mayella's well-tended bright red geraniums.
    • Scout remembers that the nearby African-American houses are clean and inviting, but the Ewell residence is filthy. The point? "All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbors was, that if scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water, his skin was white" (17.67).
    • Mr. Ewell gives his version: he came home to hear Mayella screaming inside the house, ran to the window and saw Tom Robinson raping her.
    • At his last words the crowd explodes, and Judge Taylor has to bang his gavel for a full five minutes before they calm down.
    • Mr. Ewell is pleased with the effect he has had on his audience, but Judge Taylor is not.
    • The judge says that there's been a request to clear the court, or at least to save the tender ears of the women and children by kicking them out, but that he'll let everyone stay—unless they misbehave, in which case, he'll have them up for contempt of court.
    • More testimony: he ran to get into the house, but the man ran out before he could catch him, so he ran for Mr. Tate.
    • Mr. Ewell is so eager to get off the witness stand that he collides with Atticus. Not so fast. Atticus is just ready to question him.
    • Hm, it looks like Mr. Ewell didn't expect to get cross-examined.
    • Did Ewell call a doctor? Nope. He's never called a doctor for any of his family, as it would cost five dollars.
    • Atticus continues by asking Ewell about his daughter's injuries, and he confirms that the sheriff's description was correct.
    • The next question is whether Ewell can read and write. Ewell answers yes, with a joke about signing his welfare checks that seems to go over well with the crowd.
    • Scout is getting nervous, since she doesn't see where Atticus is heading with these questions.
    • Atticus has Ewell write his name, and then states what that action demonstrated: Ewell is left-handed.
    • Scout notices that Jem is excited, and he whispers that they've got him now, but Scout doesn't get it it; Tom Robinson might be left-handed, too, and from where she's sitting he certainly looks strong enough to have beaten up Mayella.
  • Chapter 18

    • Mayella Ewell is called to the witness stand.
    • Unlike her father, who looked like he had prepared for his appearance in court by bathing for the first time in months if not years, Mayella looks like she actually has an ongoing acquaintance with soap and water.
    • Mr. Gilman asks Mayella to describe what happened that night in her own words, but she doesn't answer, so he switches to more specific questions.
    • Her answers are still minimal, so the judge asks her to just tell the court what happened, and she bursts into tears.
    • Judge Taylor tells her that she has no cause for shame or fear, so long as she tells the truth.
    • The judge asks Mayella what she's scared of, and she points to Atticus.
    • When the judge asks Mayella how old she is, she says nineteen and a half.
    • The judge tells Mayella that Mr. Finch isn't going to scare her, and that his job as judge is to stop him if he tries.
    • Mayella, soothed, finally gets going on her testimony.
    • What she says: she was on the porch when Tom Robinson came by, she asked him to chop up an old piece of furniture for kindling, and when she went inside to get a nickel to pay him he attacked her from behind.
    • Did she scream and fight back? Yes.
    • What happened next? She can't really remember, but eventually her father and Mr. Tate were there.
    • Mr. Gilmer asks again if Mayella tried to fight off her attacker, and if he took "full advantage" (18.38) of her, and she answers yes to both questions.
    • Now it's Atticus's turn.
    • Mayella takes offense to Atticus's calling her "ma'am" (she thinks he's making fun of her), and Scout wonders what her life is like that she thinks normal courtesy is rudeness.
    • Some facts about Mayella: she's the eldest of seven kids, her mom's been dead for a while, she can read and write but she only went to school for two or three years.
    • Does she have any friends? Again, she thinks Atticus is making fun, since the idea seems so absurd.
    • Atticus asks Mayella about her father (who's still in the room), whether he's ever beaten her, and she says, after a hesitation, that he's never touched her.
    • Yeah, we're not so sure we believe that.
    • Finally Atticus's questions turn to the day of the alleged crime. Mayella says that Tom passed the house every day, but this was the first time she had asked him to come into the yard (though she jumped when he asked that question), but she might have asked him to do odd jobs before, she can't remember.
    • We're getting the picture that this testimony isn't exactly going to hold up.
    • Atticus quotes Mayella's previous testimony and asks her whether the defendant hit her face; she says no, then yes, then that she can't remember, then cries.
    • When asked to identify the man who raped her, Mayella indicates Tom, but Atticus tells him to stand up so that Mayella can have a good look at him.
    • Tom stands up, revealing that his left arm is a foot shorter than his right and his left hand is shriveled.
    • Booyah!
    • Up in the balcony, Reverend Sykes tells Jem and Scout that Tom caught his hand in a cotton gin when he was a boy.
    • Atticus asks how this man could have raped her, and she says she doesn't know how it happened but it did.
    • Mr. Gilmer objects that Atticus is browbeating the witness.
    • Judge Taylor replies that if anyone's doing any browbeating it's Mayella, but he's the only one laughing at his joke.
    • Does Mayella want to reconsider any of her testimony? Nope. She even adds some new details to try to make it make more sense.
    • Atticus asks a series of questions that Mayella simply refuses to answer: why the other children didn't hear her screams, if she screamed when she saw her father in the window instead of at Tom, if her father was the one who beat her up.
    • After meeting all these questions with silence, Mayella makes her final statement: "That nigger yonder took advantage of me an' if you fine fancy gentlemen don't wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards" (18.167).
    • After that Mayella bursts into tears and refuses to answer any more questions, whether from Atticus, from Mr. Gilmer, or from Judge Taylor himself.
    • Scout thinks that somehow Atticus had wounded Mayella in a way Scout doesn't understand, and that it made Atticus sick to do it.
    • Mayella leaves the witness stand, directing a dagger-look of hatred at Atticus on the way.
    • Time for a break.
    • Scout wonders what nuances of the case she might be missing, since it all seems fairly straightforward to her, and remembers that Atticus told her that Judge Taylor is a good judge.
    • The judge and the lawyers return to restart the case.
    • Jem, Scout, and Dill are pleased to see that the Judge has brought a cigar with him, which he proceed to begin eating, spitting out the bits once he chews them up.
    • It's now almost 4 p.m., and Judge Taylor asks Atticus if they can finish the case up this afternoon.
    • Atticus says he thinks they can, and he has just one witness to call.
  • Chapter 19

    • Tom Robinson tries to use his good right hand to put his bad left one on the Bible, but it keeps falling off, and the judge tells him not to bother.
    • After the basic questions about his age and family, Atticus asks Tom about a previous conviction for disorderly conduct; Jem whispers that Atticus is showing the jury that Tom has nothing to hide.
    • Gee, we're glad Jem is here to interpret for us.
    • Tom's testimony continues: he passes the Ewell place on his way to work for Mr. Link Deas every day; he did go inside the Ewell yard to chop up a piece of furniture, but that was last spring, not in November like Mayella said, and that he went home without incident after turning down the nickel she offered him for the job.
    • Atticus asks if he ever crossed into Ewell property after that, and Tom says he did lots of times, provoking a murmur from the audience.
    • Atticus asks why, and Tom says Mayella kept having little jobs for him to do, and he never took payment because he knew how poor she was.
    • Tom says the children were always around when he was there, and Mayella would talk to him.
    • Scout thinks that Mayella must have been terribly lonely, even more lonely than Boo Radley, and that Tom was probably the only person who had ever treated her with real kindness.
    • Did Tom ever go on the Ewell property without being invited? He says no.
    • So, what happened that night in November?
    • Tom was going home as usual and passed the Ewell place, which seemed awfully quiet. Mayella asked him to come in to fix a door, even though nothing seemed wrong with it.
    • And then he suddenly realized that the reason it seemed so quiet was that the other children weren't around. Mayella said she'd been saving her nickels for a year to get enough money for all seven to buy ice cream.
    • Well, isn't that nice, he said. He tried to leave, when she asked him to get something down from the top of a wardrobe; he stood on a chair to get it, when she grabbed his legs from behind; he jumped in fright, knocking the chair over.
    • He swears that was the only furniture disturbed in the room when he left it.
    • And then he turned around and Mayella hugged him.
    • The courtroom erupts, but the judge intervenes and Tom continues: Mayella kissed him, saying that she'd never kissed an adult man before, and that what her father does to her doesn't count.
    • Tom says that he tried to get away without touching Mayella, when Mr. Ewell shouted through the window.
    • Atticus forces Tom to repeat Mr. Ewell's words, even though he doesn't want to: he said, "you goddamn whore, I'll kill ya" (19.68).
    • And then Tom ran away as fast as he could.
    • Scout doesn't understand Tom's dilemma until her father explains it to her later: pushing Mayella would have been as good as signing his death warrant, so he had to run, even though it made him look guilty.
    • While Mr. Gilmer is getting up to question the witness, Mr. Link Deas suddenly stands up and vouches for Tom's character to the whole courtroom, sparking Judge Taylor's wrath.
    • The judge tells everyone to forget the interruption and the court reporter to erase it from the record, and the case continues.
    • After revisiting Tom's previous criminal record, Mr. Gilmer asks him about his physical strength, establishing that after all he's strong enough to chop up furniture with his one good hand.
    • Why did Tom spend so much time doing Mayella's chores when he had his own to do at home? Tom says, after persistent questioning, that he felt sorry for her.
    • Mr. Gilmer shows shock and horror at this answer (how dare a black man feel sorry for a white woman?), and pauses to let the jury feel it too.
    • When Mr. Gilmer asks questions about that night, Tom refuses to accuse Mayella of lying, but persistently says that she is "mistaken in her mind" (19.135).
    • Why did he run? Isn't running away evidence of guilt?
    • Tom basically says that he ran because he knew most white people would assume he was guilty no matter what.
    • By this point Dill is crying uncontrollably, and Jem makes Scout take him out of the courtroom.
    • Dill tells Scout it just made him sick to hear how Mr. Gilmer was talking to Tom. There's a difference between the condescending way Mr. Gilmer talked to Tom and the politeness Atticus showed to Mayella.
    • Scout replies that the difference is between Atticus and Mr. Gilmer, not their witnesses, but Dill doesn't believe it.
    • A new voice breaks into their conversation: Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who agrees with Dill.
  • Chapter 20

    • Mr. Raymond offers Dill his paper bag. Scout think it's whisky, but nah, says Dill, it's just Coca-Cola.
    • This is Mr. Raymond's secret: he just pretends to drink all the time because it gives other people an excuse for his bad behavior.
    • He's telling them his secret because they're kids and they know better than their elders—Dill's crying shows that the world hasn't gotten hold of him and made him blind to its meanness.
    • Atticus sees it, too. He's an unusual case. All you have to do is look back inside the courthouse to see how unusual.
    • They head back to the balcony, to find Atticus already halfway through his closing remarks.
    • Atticus, after asking permission from the judge, takes off his coat, unbuttons his vest and collar, and loosens his tie—shocking his children, who have never, ever before seen him so undressed outside of his bedroom.
    • Atticus's tone sheds a few layers, too, becoming conversational rather than businesslike.
    • Basically, he points out that there's no evidence and that the prosecution is banking on the stereotype that all African-Americans are immoral liars who rape white women whenever they get the chance. He tells the jury that they're smart enough to see that for the lie it is, and to know that African-Americans are no worse than any other race.
    • At this point Scout notices another first: Atticus is sweating.
    • Atticus continues to the jury: he cites Thomas Jefferson's famous line that all men are created equal, and says that this doesn't mean that everyone is just as talented as everyone else, but that everyone is equal under the law.
    • He ends his speech with a plea to the jury: "In the name of God, do your duty" (20.52).
    • Atticus turns to go back to his seat, softly saying something else that Scout doesn't hear; she asks Jem, and he says that Atticus said "In the name of God, believe him" (20.54).
    • Uh-oh.
    • Calpurnia is making a beeline up the center aisle of the courtroom towards Atticus.
  • Chapter 21

    • The judge allows Cal to hand Atticus a note from Aunt Alexandra, which says that the kids are missing.
    • Uh, they're in the balcony and have been there all afternoon.
    • Atticus sends the kids home with Calpurnia, but after some strategic whining he agrees that they can come back once they've had their dinner.
    • Aunt Alexandra is ready to faint from horror when she hears where they've been, but they head back anyway.
    • Scout and Jem are surprised that hardly anyone has left—usually everyone heads out once the jury leaves to deliberate.
    • Jem says that they've won the case, but the Reverend says that he's never seen a jury support an African-American man over a white one.
    • The court audience waits patiently. For over three hours. Without a single piece of technology in sight.
    • If you're wondering how people killed time before smartphones, they apparently slept a lot more: Scout dozes off, and when she wakes up she's thinking about the morning when Atticus shot the mad dog.
    • Finally, it's time for the (unanimous) verdict: guilty.
    • Atticus whispers something to Tom Robinson, packs up his papers, and leaves.
    • As he walks down the aisle alone, the African-Americans in the balcony silently stand up to honor him.
  • Chapter 22

    • Jem is weeping tears of injustice.
    • At home, Alexandra softens up enough to tell Atticus she's sorry he lost the case—but she still doesn't think he should have let the kids listen in.
    • Atticus says that they have to deal with the fallout from it anyway, and that racism is just as much a Maycomb standby as missionary teas are.
    • In the morning, he tells his family that it's not over yet—there's still the appeal process.
    • Breakfast is a lavish affair, as it seems every African-American in the county has sent the Finches a gift of food.
    • The kids head out to see Miss Stephanie Crawford giving a blow-by-blow account of the trial to Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr. Avery.
    • Miss Maudie keeps Miss Stephanie from asking rude questions and offers the kids some cake. There are two little cakes and one big one, and Scout thinks that Miss Maudie has uncharacteristically forgotten Dill, but then finds out the big cake is for Jem.
    • Scout realizes this is Miss Maudie's way of saying everything is still cool between them.
    • Jem is pretty bummed out. He always thought that Maycomb folks were good people, but it doesn't seem like that to him any more, since no one stepped up to support Tom Robinson.
    • Actually, Miss Maudie says, some did. Judge Taylor usually appoints an inexperienced local lawyer as public defender, but made an exception in Tom Robinson's case to appoint Atticus instead.
    • And even though Atticus didn't win, he made the jury think about their decision for a long time.
    • That's a step in the right direction.
    • They leave Miss Maudie's house, and Dill says that he's going to be a clown when he grows up, because the only possible response to humanity is to laugh at it.
    • Jem says that Dill's got it wrong: clowns get laughed at by everyone else.
    • Nope, Dill says. He'll be a new sort of clown, one who looks at the audience and laughs at them.
    • Miss Rachel and Aunt Alexandra tell the kids to get off the street, there's trouble coming, and Miss Stephanie butts in to tell them why: that morning Mr. Ewell spit in Atticus's face and told him that he had it out for him.
  • Chapter 23

    • Atticus just jokes about the attack, even though his kids are really terrified that Mr. Ewell will follow through on his threat.
    • He says that nothing can happen to Tom until the appeal, which might have a better result than the original trial.
    • Tom is now at the Enfield Prison Farm seventy miles away, where his family can't visit him.
    • If Tom loses the appeal, he'll go to the electric chair unless the governor grants him a stay of execution.
    • Jem and Atticus now have a fairly long discussion about the law and fairness, which covers rape, circumstantial evidence, the (non)inclusion of women on juries, and taking sides. Check it out—there are super important issues.
    • And Atticus knows who kept the jury from convicting Tom right away: a cousin of Mr. Walter Cunningham, part of the group who wanted to lynch Tom when he was in the Maycomb jail the night before the trial but was turned back by Scout.
    • Scout decides to make friends with the younger Walter Cunningham, but Alexandra has some things to say about that (apparently the Cunninghams are the wrong class).
    • Jem gives Scout a Tootsie Roll to calm her down (or at least shut her up by giving her a mouthful to chew on), and Scout notices that Jem looks different.
    • He's growing up.
    • Growing up has given him so new chest hair (or so he claims) and some new advice: instead of telling her to avoid annoying Alexandra, he tells her not to let Alexandra annoy her.
    • Scout just doesn't want to hear Walter called "trash," because that makes him sound no better than the Ewells.
    • Jem says that he thinks he's got it figured out, and there are four kinds of people: the ordinary (the Finches and their neighbors), the ones who live in the woods (the Cunninghams), the ones who live by the dump (the Ewells), and the African Americans.
    • Everyone hates the ones a step below them.
    • The pair try to puzzle out why Aunt Alexandra is so hung up on the notion of Family.
    • They end up by slinging some clichés around: Scout finally concludes that people are just people and that's all there is to it, and Jem asks that, in that case, why can't we all just get along?
    • Maybe this is why Boo Radley never comes out—because he wants to stay away from the weirdness that is humankind.
  • Chapter 24

    • It's the end of August, and Aunt Alexandra is hosting a missionary tea at the Finch house.
    • Brain snack: a missionary tea is just a church fund-raising activity to support missionary or charitable projects.
    • Unusually, she's letting Calpurnia serve, rather than controlling every detail like she usually does.
    • Doubly unusually, Scout is indoors—Jem is occupied in teaching Dill to swim, and they're skinny-dipping so they won't let her come along.
    • Scout offers to help Calpurnia serve, and gets to carry in the silver coffee pitcher.
    • Aunt Alexandra, pleased Scout is (1) wearing a pink dress, and (2) managing to carry something without spilling it, asks her to join them.
    • Miss Stephanie Crawford asks Scout if she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, since she's already taken to attending trials.
    • Scout tries to be polite, but Miss Stephanie keeps needling her.
    • So finally, Scout replies that she doesn't want to be a lawyer, just a lady.
    • Ooh, burn.
    • Scout takes up conversation with Mrs. Grace Merriweather, who had reported to the group on the Mruna tribe, whom J. Grimes Everett is trying to convert to Christianity.
    • J. Grimes Everett's saintly behavior is apparently Mrs. Merriweather's favorite topic, and she goes on about him at great length.
    • Eventually Mrs. Merriweather is distracted by a conversation going on next to her.
    • She makes a comment about the need to "forgive and forget," and to help an unknown woman "lead a Christian life for those children from here on out" (24.36).
    • Scout asks if she's talking about Mayella Ewell, but Mrs. Merriweather says no, she's talking about Helen Robinson (though she doesn't actually know the woman's name).
    • Mrs. Merriweather talks about how distressing it is when the colored help is cranky about something, and how it's important to remind them that Jesus was never cranky about anything so they should strive to do the same.
    • Mrs. Farrow replies that there's nothing white people can do to change the inherent immoral nature of the black man.
    • Unless they're trying to convert them in Africa, apparently.
    • Mrs. Merriweather continues that she won't name names, but there are some "good but misguided" (24.47) people in Maycomb who think they're helping but are really just making trouble.
    • Miss Maudie breaks in to say, "His food doesn't stick going down, does it?" (24.48), and a daydreaming Scout can tell she's very angry, though she doesn't understand why.
    • Aunt Alexandra smooths things over with more cake, and turns the conversation in less dangerous directions, while also shooting Miss Maudie a thank-you look which Scout notices but again does not understand.
    • (Translation: Mrs. Merriweather was smack-talking Atticus, and Miss Maudie put her in her place.)
    • Scout wonders if she'll ever be able to function in this world of ladies whose rules make so little sense to her, especially compared to the male world.
    • Finally, Atticus comes home. He's not looking too good. In the kitchen, he tells Scout, Aunt Alexandra, and Miss Maudie that Tom Robinson is dead.
    • He tried to climb over the prison fence right in front of the guards and was shot, no fewer than seventeen times.

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

    • After Atticus leaves with Calpurnia to tell Helen, a stunned Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie sit in the kitchen with Scout.
    • Aunt Alexandra is mad at the town that puts the responsibility of doing the right thing on Atticus's because they're too scared to do it themselves.
    • Miss Maudie says that "the handful of people in this town with background" (24.81) share the principles he's working to uphold, and are grateful to Atticus for fighting on the side of the angels.
    • Aunt Alexandra composes herself and they go back in to face the tea party, acting as if nothing is wrong. Scout joins them in their effort to keep up a ladylike attitude.
  • Chapter 25

    • September has arrived, but autumn coolness hasn't, so Scout and Jem are still sleeping out on the back porch.
    • There Scout finds a roly-poly bug, and amuses herself by poking it so it rolls up, waiting for it to unroll and start walking, then poking it again.
    • She's about to squish it when Jem stops her, and she makes fun of him for being so sympathetic towards bugs.
    • Scout thinks that Jem is the one who's getting more like a girl, not her.
    • Dill has gone back to Meridian for the school year, and thinking about Dill sends Scout onto thinking about what Dill told her before he left town.
    • Cue memory flashback: On the day of the missionary tea, Jem and Dill had been walking back from the swimming hole trying to hitch a ride when they saw Atticus driving somewhere with Calpurnia.
    • Atticus wanted them to try to get another ride since he wasn't going to go home for a while, but the boys convinced him to let them come with him.
    • Tough ride: they went with Atticus to see Helen Robinson and watched her crumble at the news that her husband had died.
    • On their way back, they passed the Ewell place, they heard voices shouting at them, but Dill couldn't tell what they were saying.
    • And that's the end of Dill's story of that day.
    • Tom's death is the hot topic in Maycomb gossip for a few days, mostly as a way to reinforce pre-existing stereotypes as to the foolishness of black people.
    • The story seems well on its way to dying a quick death until Mr. Underwood comes out with an editorial on the topic in The Maycomb Tribune. Since it's the only paper in town, he can say whatever he wants and not lose subscribers or advertising.
    • Mr. Underwood's editorial is about how, basically, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird (in this case, a crippled man), and that the justice system didn't stand a chance: "Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed."
    • Miss Stephanie, ever the joyful bearer of bad news, tells Aunt Alexandra and Jem that when Mr. Ewell heard of Tom's death, he said one down, two to go.
  • Chapter 26

    • School starts (third grade for Scout and seventh for Jem, who's got a place on the football team) so once again they're passing the Radley Place every day.
    • Boo Radley seems positively tame after the events of the last year, which still haven't quite died down.
    • Jem and Scout are practicing their gentleman and lady skills in the schoolyard, where most of their classmates share their parents' prejudices.
    • Scout wonders why everyone re-elected Atticus to represent them in the state government if they all think he's wrong, and concludes that people are just plain weird. (We hear you.)
    • Every week, Scout's class has a Current Events assignment, and one day the current event is Hitler.
    • The teacher Miss Gates seizes the moment for a little lecture about the difference between democracy and dictatorship, and about the persecution of Jews.
    • Later, Scout asks Atticus why the people Hitler's persecuting don't just persecute him instead, since there's lots of them and only one Hitler, and Atticus answers that he doesn't know.
    • Scout asks Atticus if hating Hitler is okay.
    • Apparently not, even if it's Hitler.
    • Scout still can't quite formulate the question that's bugging her, so she goes to Jem, who's eaten his way through several bunches of bananas in an attempt to bulk up so he can get a better position on the football team.
    • Scout tries to explain what's bothering her: it's bad to persecute people, and Miss Gates seems really upset at the way Hitler's persecuting the Jews, but she remembers Miss Gates coming down the courthouse steps after the trial saying "it's time somebody taught them a lesson" (26.56).
    • Here's the question: "how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home[?]" (26.56).
    • But Jem doesn't ever want to talk about the courthouse again.
    • Scout goes back to Atticus and tries to climb in his lap, though she doesn't really fit there any more.
  • Chapter 27

    • By the middle of October, things in Maycomb have mostly settled down.
    • Mr. Ewell gets a job with the WPA, but gets fired for laziness—a feat Scout has never heard of before or since.
    • Brain snack: the Works Progress Administration was created to give unemployed people jobs during the Depression, so a person would have to be a really bad worker to get fired by them.
    • After that Mr. Ewell goes back to picking up his weekly welfare check while blaming Atticus for his unemployment in a really menacing way.
    • Atticus isn't worried, but Judge Taylor is on his guard.
    • Around the same time, Mr. Link Deas gives Helen a job, even though he doesn't have much for her to do.
    • Eventually Mr. Deas finds out that Helen has to go a mile in the wrong direction to avoid the Ewells, who harass her every time she walks by their place.
    • Over Helen's protestations, he walks her home one day.
    • On his way back he stops at the strangely silent Ewell place, and shouts that if he hears about them causing Helen any more trouble they'll be in jail so fast they won't have time to shut the door behind them.
    • The next day, Mr. Ewell follows Helen to work, and Mr. Deas chews him out again; after that the Ewells don't bother her any more.
    • Otherwise, life goes on as usual for Scout.
    • As the end of October approaches, Scout remembers what happened the previous Halloween: the local kids got up a prank on two deaf old ladies, taking all the furniture out of their house and hiding it in their cellar.
    • Talk about trick or treat.
    • The ladies insist on bloodhounds to track down their stolen property, and Mr. Tate obliges, though he has to travel ten miles to get them.
    • After three failed tries to get the bloodhounds to find a trail leading away from the house, Mr. Tate finally realized what had happened.
    • This year, the Maycomb ladies are determined to keep the kids out of trouble, so they've planned a carnival in the high school auditorium.
    • Ugh, adults, right? But Scout decides to go, anyway.
    • Scout soon finds herself pressed into service to play a ham in Mrs. Grace Merriweather's tribute to Maycomb agriculture.
    • Gee, this party sounds awesome.
    • Mrs. Crenshaw makes Scout a ham costume out of wire and cloth, which is convincing if constricting.
    • Neither Atticus nor Aunt Alexandra has the energy to attend the parade of meats, so Scout gives them a preview in the living room and gets Jem to take her over to the high school.
  • Chapter 28

    • It's a warm but windy moonless evening as Jem and Scout walk from their house to the high school, Jem carrying Scout's ham costume.
    • The kids joke about "haints," which no longer seem scary now that they're so grown up.
    • As they pass through a field, someone leaps out at them with a light. Eek!
    • Oh, it's only Cecil Jacobs.
    • They all head over the auditorium, and Scout wriggles into her slightly mashed ham costume.
    • But she falls asleep and misses her cue, earning a big scolding from Mrs. Merriweather.
    • Scout doesn't want to face anyone after her goof, so she keeps her ham costume on for anonymity.
    • Not that dressing as a giant ham is a great way to ensure anonymity.
    • They leave the school to go back the way they came, through the midnight-black field.
    • Scout realizes she's forgotten her shoes. When they turn back to get them the lights at the school go off, and Jem tells her she'll have to go back tomorrow.
    • Jem seems nervous about something, and tells Scout to shush for a while.
    • Scout tells him she's too old to play these games.
    • It's not a game. Jem tells her he hears something when they're walking, but it stops when they do.
    • Jem says it's probably just Cecil. How can Cecil can see them in the darkness? The fat streaks in her ham are made with reflective paint.
    • Scout shouts a teasing comment at Cecil Jacobs, but doesn't get any response.
    • It's weird for Cecil to delay the payoff of a prank for so long.
    • Can Scout take off her costume? She thinks so, but she's not wearing much under it. Jem has her dress, but she can't put it on in the dark.
    • And then Scout realizes that Jem knows their stalker isn't Cecil, but he's pretending he thinks it is so as not to scare her.
    • Then the stalker runs towards them, and it's not a kid. It's a man.
    • Jem screams at Scout to run, but she's off-kilter in her ham costume and she falls to the ground.
    • There's fighting, but Scout can't see. More fighting, and then a crunch and a scream from Jem.
    • Scout runs back towards Jem and crashes into a man's stomach.
    • The man squeezes her until she can barely breathe, but suddenly falls backwards; Scout thinks Jem must have gotten up.
    • The night is quiet again, except for the sound of a man wheezing.
    • Scout calls out Jem's name, but he doesn't answer.
    • Eventually Scout realizes that there's two men under the tree besides her and Jem.
    • She says Atticus's name hesitatingly, but still gets no answer.
    • The man walks towards the road, and Scout goes to where he had been, looking for Jem.
    • Instead she finds a man lying on the ground smelling of booze.
    • Scout finally makes her way over the road, and in the light of the street lamp Scout sees a man carrying Jem, whose arm is hanging at an unnatural angle.
    • The man heads to the Finch house, where Atticus lets him in.
    • There's a bunch of running around, and Atticus and Alexandra call a doctor and the sheriff, in that order.
    • Aunt Alexandra de-hams Scout and asks her what happened, but Scout says she doesn't know.
    • Dr. Reynolds arrives and tends to Jem's broken arm and concussion, and then to Scout, who's also gotten knocked around the head.
    • In Jem's room, Scout sees Atticus, Aunt Alexandra, and a man she doesn't know.
    • Mr. Tate arrives with news: he's found a pink dress, some pieces of ham-colored cloth—and the corpse of Bob Ewell, who's been stabbed to death.

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • Chapter 29

    • Scout climbs into Atticus's lap and tells the story: how she had forgotten her shoes, how they thought it was Cecil so they shouted at him (the sheriff interrupts here to ask if Atticus heard anything: he didn't, but he had the radio on); how she heard the footsteps behind them; how she was still wearing the ham costume.
    • Mr. Tate says the costume explains the strange marks he found on the body, and Atticus goes to get the now squashed ham.
    • They look at the costume, and it's more than squashed—there's a cut where Mr. Ewell had slashed at Scout with a knife.
    • Atticus never thought Ewell would go after the kids, but Tate says that there are some men who are just bad.
    • They go back to Scout's story, and when Tate asks who the other man was, Scout gestures towards the stranger in the corner.
    • Scout finally looks at the man properly and sees his paleness, his thinness, his colorless eyes, and realizes—she's looking at Boo Radley.
    • He smiles shyly at her, and tears come to Scout's eyes as she says, "Hey, Boo" (29.50).
  • Chapter 30

    • Atticus reminds Scout she should call him Mr. Arthur, and then he formally introduces them to each other.
    • Scout plays hostess to Boo, showing him the way and offering him a chair, though the whole thing feels not entirely real.
    • And then Atticus and Tate start talking about Jem's court case.
    • What?
    • Apparently, Atticus thinks that Jem killed Ewell, but Tate thinks that's ridiculous and has some story about Ewell falling on his own knife and impaling himself.
    • It's clear that Tate's trying to cover something up, but Atticus—who's just too honest for his own good—can't quite figure it out.
    • No one ever quite says it, but the point is that Boo killed Ewell, and Tate just doesn't want to drag Boo through that publicity, both the good (no one really liked Ewell) and the bad—like, you know, trial for murder, or at least manslaughter.
    • When Tate leaves, Atticus asks Scout if she understands.
    • Yeah, says Scout: it would be (title alert) like killing a mockingbird.
  • Chapter 31

    (Click the summary infographic to download.)

    • Scout leads Boo to Jem's bed, where Boo looks at Jem "as though he had never seen a boy before" (31.9).
    • She's got a knack for sensing Boo's mute communications. When she realizes he wants to leave, she leads him to the front porch.
    • Together, they walk arm-in-arm to the Radley Place. He goes inside, and Scout never sees him again.
    • She's bummed to realize that they'd never given him anything, when he'd given them so many things over the years.
    • When she turns to leave, she sees her neighborhood with fresh eyes from this spot where she's never stood before.
    • She shifts slightly to stand in front of the shuttered window next to the front door, and imagines how the events of the past few years would have appeared to Boo from this window—how Boo would have looked on her, and Jem, and Atticus.
    • Atticus always says you need to stand in a man's shoes before you can understand him. It looks like standing on the Radley porch is helping Scout understand Boo.
    • As she walks home through the rain, Scout thinks that she and Jem may have some more growing to do, but there's not much left for them to learn.
    • Except maybe algebra.
    • At home, Scout asks Atticus to read aloud one of Jem's books, The Gray Ghost.
    • Scout asks him to read it out loud because it's nice and scary, but Atticus says that she's had enough scaring tonight.
    • Nah, says Scout. Only books are really scary.
    • Atticus starts reading aloud, and Scout falls asleep.
    • Later Atticus puts Scout to bed, and a dozy Scout mutters that she heard every word of the story—about how they chased Stoner's Boy but they couldn't catch him because they'd never seen him, and when they found him he wasn't bad at all, but "real nice" (31.53)
    • Atticus tells her: "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them" (31.55).
    • Wait, Atticus: you mean, like Boo???
    • And then Atticus heads back to Jem's room, so "he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning" (31.56).