The American Civil War was fought between the Northern and Southern states of America between 1861-1865. The basic reasons for the war were as follows:
The Southern states did not want the Government to be centered at Washington. They wanted an individual Government for each of their states.
The Northern states were industrialized whereas the Southern States were still agrarian. So there was a vast difference in the outlook of the two classes of people. The ‘industrialized’ crowd of the North was against the Slavery of the Blacks whereas the ‘cotton-picking’ Southerners needed the Blacks to work on the fields.
The War resulted in a lot of bloodshed and economic loss. The South was completely defeated. This brought in a time of untold poverty and misery. Racial prejudice was highly rampant. Economic disparities were seen even among the Whites which mean that some families were quite well-to-do while others like the Cunninghams and Ewells were very poor.
The Mockingbird is the State Bird of many American States including Texas amongst others. The chief characteristics of a Mockingbird are as follows:
1. It has the capacity to mimic the sounds of a variety of other birds.
2. It is fiercely protective of its territory and might even die in the attempt of keeping it safe.
3. It comes across as a very innocent creature.
The character Arthur “Boo” Radley is synonymous with the bird. Though he is projected as a dangerous, insane person; he is actually innocent and often misunderstood by others. At the end of the story, Scout and Jem decide to protect Boo as they know he is innocent.
CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY: (Chapters 1 – 11)
1. Atticus Finch – A lawyer. A very just man, unprejudiced and fair.
2. Scout – 6-yr old tomboyish girl. Real name is Jean Louise Finch.
3. Jem – A 10-yr old boy. Scout’s brother. Real name is Jeremy Finch.
4. Calpurnia – The black housekeeper of the Finch family. Quite well kept by Atticus as compared to her other counterparts.
5. Arthur “Boo” Radley – A neighbour to the Finch family. A mysterious character rumoured to have stabbed his father and killed his mother with a pair of scissors.
6. Nathan Radley: Boo Radley’s brother.
7. Dill – A friend of the Finch kids. Lived in Meridian and came to spend the summers in Maycomb with his aunt Ms. Rachel.
8. Ms. Caroline Fisher – Scout’s teacher.
1. John Hale Finch: Atticus’ brother. A doctor by profession.
2. Alexandra: Atticus’ sister. Married to Jimmy Hancock, a very quiet man.
3. Henry: Alexandra’s son.
4. Francis: Alexandra’s grandson who always spent Christmas with her at the Landing.
5. Miss Maudie: A neighbour. She loved gardening and was an open minded and liberal woman.
6. Miss Stephanie: Another neighbour and a big gossip. She spread rumours that she had seen Boo peeping into her room once.
7. Mrs. Dubose: An old lady and a neighbour of Atticus. A morphine addict who dies clean of the habit.
8. Tom Robinson: The Negro accused of raping a white girl.
9. Mayella Ewell: Mr. Ewell’s daughter who accuses Tom of raping her.
SUMMARIES OF CHAPTERS:
EARLY SUMMER 1933
Scout is the narrator of the novel. She begins by narrating an incident where her brother Jem who is 4 years older to her has broken his arm in a fight with one of the Ewell’s.
Scout then recounts a history of how her family settled in the South. Their ancestor, Simon Finch was one among those who followed General Jackson up the Alabama.
Simon Finch was an apothecary or a doctor who settled in the South. The family plot was called ‘Landing’ which was twenty miles away from Maycomb.
The Finch Family is then introduced. Atticus is a lawyer. He has two children, Scout and Jem. John Hale Finch is Atticus’ brother who is a doctor. Alexandra is their sister who has married a quiet man and lives on the Landing.
Calpurnia is a Black woman who is the maid of the Finch family. She knows to read and write and is an important member of the Finch family. She has been with them since the birth of Jem and has looked after the children as Mrs. Finch died of a heart attack when Scout was just 2 years old.
Maycomb is described as quiet, old and tired town. There is nothing much to do and not enough money to enjoy oneself.
Scout begins narrating incidents of the time when she was 6 years old and Jem was 10. Their play area was from Mrs. Dubose’s house which was 2 doors away to the Radley House that was 3 doors away. There were rumours about both these places and the children were scared of both.
That summer they met Dill whose real name was Charles Baker Harris. He was a 7 year old boy who lived at Meridian. He would be spending his summer vacations with his aunt Ms. Rachel.
The three children spend that summer improving the Tree house and enacting plays that they had read earlier. When they were finished with everything, Dill suggested that they should get Boo Radley out.
Description of the Radley House – The house touched the school ground on one side. The Radley Family had Mr. and Mrs. Radley who never socialized with anyone and their two sons, Nathan and Arthur.
There were rumours about the Radley family because
They never went to Church which was the main recreation for people of Maycomb.
They kept to themselves. In small towns like Maycomb, people socialize with everyone else.
Their doors are always shut on Sundays. In Maycomb this would only happen in “illness and cold weather”.
There were the following rumours about Arthur Radley:
Arthur had fallen into bad company. He was warned by the parish priest many times but he and his friends took no heed. In fact, they locked up Mr. Conner, an officer. They were arrested, produced before a court and sentenced to serve term in an industrial school. Mr. Radley didn’t want that and Arthur was allowed to go home on his word. He was not seen by anyone for the next 15 years.
According to what the kids had heard from Ms. Stephanie, Arthur had stabbed his father with a pair of scissors while cutting some items from the papers.
It was also rumoured that Arthur was locked in the Courthouse basement for some time as his father didn’t want him put in an asylum and it was dangerous to imprison him with the Blacks.
Many felt that he was chained to his bed and that was the reason he was never seen outdoors.
Mr. Radley dies and the elder son returns and begins living at the Radley House.
The children work out their own description of Boo Radley – a 6 and a half feet tall man with blood-stained hands who fed on cats and squirrels. He had a scar across his face, had yellow rotten teeth and popping eyes. He also drooled most of the time.
Dill is very fascinated with what he hears about Boo. He is adventurous and so dares Jem to touch the Radley House. Jem is afraid but goes ahead as he doesn’t want to lose a dare.
The chapter ends on a sinister note as the kids think they saw a shutter in the Radley House move when Jem dared to touch it.
The vacations are over and Dill leaves for Meridian.
Scout starts school. Jem warns her that she should leave him alone when at school.
Scout’s first day at school is quite a disaster. Her teacher Ms. Caroline Fisher isn’t happy about the fact that Scout could read. She thought that Atticus had taught her to read and tells Scout that she should ask her father to stop teaching her but the truth is that Scout was never taught to read. She would sit on Atticus’ lap every night as he read stories to them or when he was preparing his cases and reading came as naturally as breathing to her.
Ms. Fisher was keen on introducing the Dewey Decimal System of teaching where she just waved flashcards with words written on them. Scout was quite bored and so begins writing a letter to Dill. Ms. Fisher catches her writing and is all the more upset as she is not supposed to know how to write until the 3rd Grade.
Scout blames Calpurnia as she would teach her the alphabets and make her copy down portions of the Bible to keep her occupied on rainy days.
Scout gets into further trouble before the lunch break. A boy called Walter Cunningham had not brought any lunch. Ms. Fisher thinks he has forgotten it and offers him a quarter which he refuses. Scout, much to the embarrassment of Walter, explains to Ms. Fisher that the Cunninghams never borrowed anything that they could not return. Scout was spanked by the teacher for this disclosure.
Scout had only spoken out of experience for Mr. Cunningham had repaid Atticus in kind with stovewood, nuts and turnips.
We get an idea of the economic state of Maycomb in this chapter when Atticus explains to Scout that the town was basically made up of farmers like the Cunninghams who were poor. So other professionals like lawyers and doctors too were poor as they were usually repaid for their services in kind.
Scout beats up Walter because of the spanking she got at school.
Jem separates them and invites Walter for dinner. Atticus welcomed Walter and spoke to him about crops. He treats Walter like a gentleman.
During dinner, Walter pours too much syrup on his food and Scout embarrasses him by reminding him about it. Calpurnia calls her in the kitchen and scolds her. She teaches Scout a very important lesson about respecting the differences in others. Everyone will not act in a way that we like but we need to respect them, especially if they are our guests.
Scout is upset with Cal and asks Atticus to remove her but he refuses saying that they would never be able to manage without her.
The next day at school, Ms. Fisher is scared to see lice on Burris Ewell’s head. She asks him to wash his hair with lye and kerosene. Burris lashes back at Ms. Fisher and is so rude to her that she ends up crying. The kids of the class console her and explain that the Ewell’s were a notorious lot. The children of that family would only attend school on the first day and then were supposed to be marked absent for the rest of the year.
When Scout returns home from school that day, Cal kisses her and tells her that she had really missed her. This scene reveals the softer side of Cal to us.
Scout remains very sad the entire evening. She tells Atticus that she would not be going to school because the teacher has asked her o stop reading and writing.
Atticus teaches Scout a very important lesson. He tells her that we must “understand a person by climbing into the skin and walking around in it.” In other words, he was teaching her how to show empathy for others. For instance, Ms. Fisher was new in time and it would take her time to know everyone well.
We learn a little more about the Ewell family. They were considered to be a disgrace to Maycomb. The Law was often bent for them. For instance, their children were allowed to remain absent from school and Mr. Ewell was allowed to hunt out of season. This incident shows that even among the Whites, there were economic disparities.
The chapter ends with Atticus making an agreement with Scout that if she went to school, he would continue reading to her at night.
LATE SPRING & EARLY SUMMER, 1934
Scout was still bored of school. She was left half an hour before Jem from school and would run across the Radley House. One day on her return from school she noticed a tinfoil shining through a knothole of an old oak tree at the edge of the Radley House.
She discovered two pieces of Wrigley’s Double Mint that day in the knothole. She couldn’t resist the temptation to eat it.
Jem scolds her and says that anything taken from the Radley place is poisonous.
On another day they found two old fashioned Indian coins inside a small ring box.
Summer break begins and Dill returns to Maycomb.
Dill tells Scout and Jem that he had met his father this time and that he was the President of the L & N Railroad.
Dill says that he can sniff someone who is going to die. Scout asks him whether he is referring to ‘hot steams’- a spot that’s hot because someone dead who couldn’t go to heaven moves around that spot waiting to suck someone’s breath. Jem says that you had to repeat this to be safe – “Angel bright, life-in-death; get off the, don’t suck my breath.”
Scout refutes Jem by saying that Cal thinks that’s all “nigger talk”. Jem is very offended and wants to take revenge.
The kids decide to play by rolling each other in car tyres. Jem takes revenge by pushing Scout right up to the Radley steps. Scout, really terrified, runs back without the tyre while Jem, dared to show his courage once more, goes and gets it.
Over a drink of lemonade, Jem announces that they would play a new game called “Boo Radley” where they would assume the roles of members of the Radley family and act out scenes.
Scout was given the role of Mrs. Radley and had to do nothing but sweep the porch. Dill assumed the role of old Mr. Radley and had to walk up the sidewalk and cough now and then. Jem became Boo Radley and went around shrieking and howling.
They would enact scenes that they had heard from the gossip doing the rounds of Maycomb. The favourite scene was of Boo stabbing Mr. Radley in the leg and Jem even used the kitchen scissors while doing that.
Atticus catches them enacting and scolds them for it. The chapter ends with the two reasons why Scout doesn’t want to continue the game –
She thought she had heard someone laughing when she was rolled in the tyre near the Radley steps.
Atticus would be upset if he saw them playing the game again.
Dill had proposed marriage to Scout the earlier summer but now she sees changes in him He neglects her and spends more time with Jem.
For this reason Scout was forced to spend time with Ms. Maudie Atkinson. She was a widow, “a chameleon lady” who loved her garden and spent most of her time with her plants. She loved baking cakes for the children.
Atticus’ brother, Jack and Ms. Maudie had known each other since childhood. Her father Mr. Buford was into medicine as well. Jack would visit Maycomb every Christmas and scream out at Ms. Maudie to marry him. Scout thought that this was quite a strange way of proposing a woman.
Scout asked Ms. Maudie about Boo. Ms. Maudie says that Boo is alive but prefers to live indoors probably because his father was a strict Baptist. (A Christian sect that taught that every pleasure is a sin.)
Ms Maudie also tells Scout about people like Ms. Stephanie who spread rumours about Boo Radley peeping into her bedroom at night. On the contrary, Ms. Maudie remembers Boo as a nice respectful child.
Jem and Dill decide to write a note to Boo with the following contents-
1. They request him to come out sometimes.
2. They want to know what he does inside.
3. They promise to buy him ice cream.
After the note is written, Jem decides to get it inside the Radley House by sticking it inside an open window shutter using a bamboo pole. Dill was asked to stand guard and ring Mrs. Finch’s silver bell if anyone came around. Scout had to watch the back of the house.
Atticus caught them in the act and scolds them. He explains that it is Boo’s choice to be in or out and that the civil way to meet someone was through the front door, not a side window.
On being caught, Jem immediately says that ‘we weren’t making fun of him.’ Atticus uses that to prove that Jem has confessed his crime with that statement.
Jem is taken aback and is not very sure whether he wants to be a lawyer anymore.
LATE SUMMER, 1934
It is Dill’s last day in Maycomb. The kids decide to take a stroll in the night. That reminds Scout of a similar stroll they had had some time back when they had caught a neighbour, Mr. Avery urinating in public.
The boys decide that would try and peep into the Radley House. When Scout asks them why they chose that night, they give the following reasons:
1. Atticus would be so busy reading at that time that he wouldn’t notice their absence.
2. Even if they were killed by Boo, they would only be missing school and not their vacation.
3. It was easier to look into a dark house at night than in the day.
The kids enter from under the fence and reach the side of the house. Jem and Scout carry Dill so that he can reach the window but he is unable to do that as the shutters are closed.
They then go to the back of the house. Jem climbs the creaking steps. Suddenly a shadow of a man with a hat on emerges very close to Jem but returns the same way without harming them.
The kids start running out of fear. Scout trips over some plants and a shotgun is fired.
Scout and Dill have reached half way to the house but Jem’s trousers get entangled in the fence and he leaves them there and returns in his shorts.
The entire neighbourhood has heard the shot and are gathered at the Radley gate. The children join them. Mr. Nathan Radley explains that he heard a prowler, thought it was a nigger and fired.
Ms. Stephanie sees Jem without his trousers and suspects it was him. Dill saves the day by saying that Jem had lost the trousers to him in a game of strip poker. Dill was clever enough to say that they played it with matches and not the usual cards.
Jem returns home but he knows that he has to get the trousers back. So despite Scout’s pleas he sets off into the night to retrieve his trousers. He returns unharmed but appears very frightened and quiet after that.
Scout starts with Grade 2. She still enjoy school as she was not yet allowed to read or write. The only good thing was that her timings were the same as Jem and so she could go back home with him.
Jem confesses to Scout that certain strange things had happened the night he had gone to fetch his trousers:
1. He had left his trousers in a tangle on the fence but when he returned, they were neatly folded and placed across the fence.
2. The trousers were also stitched in places where it had torn. The sewing was not as neat as a woman but could be the work of a man.
The kids are afraid to think that there is someone who knows what their plans are. It was as if someone knew that Jem would be back for his trousers.
On their return from school one day they find some twine in the knot hole. Thinking that some child like Walter Cunningham might be using the hole as a hiding place for his stuff from the older boys, they decide not to touch it. But three days later when no one claimed the twine, they keep it and from that day consider everything kept there as their possession.
One afternoon they find a bar of soap with two small images carved in it. One was the figure of a boy whose hair resembled Jem and the other was of a girl who wore bangs like Scout.
The other things that they found were:
1. Chewing gum
2. A tarnished medal that was awarded at spelling competitions many years ago.
3. An old pocket watch on a chain with an aluminum knife which could fetch them 10 dollars according to Atticus.
The children decide to write a Thank You note to the sender and leave it at the hole but to their dismay they see Nathan Radley filling the hole with cement. On being asked, he explains to the children that the tree was dying and the cement would help it be revived.
The children discuss it with Atticus who doesn’t find the tree withered nor the reason logical but tells the kids that Mr. Radley could do as he liked with his trees.
Old Mrs. Radley dies that winter of natural causes but the children, based on the rumours they have heard feel that Boo has finally killed her.
When Atticus returns from the Radley House, Scout asks him if he got a chance to see Boo there. Atticus is upset and no further questions are asked.
There is snowfall in Maycomb one morning – a phenomena that hadn’t occurred since 1885. Scout thinks it is the end of the world.
Mr. Avery blames the kids saying that such strange things happen when kids do wrong things, probably referring to the time when they had caught him urinating in the open.
Jem attempts to make a snowman of dirt and snow. He uses some snow from Ms. Maudie’s yard. The snowman when complete resembles Mr. Avery and Atticus asks Jem to change its appearance a bit.
There is a fire at Ms. Maudie’s house that night probably spread due to the fire she kept burning for her potted plants. Jem and Scout are made to stand near the Radley House. Scout returns home later with a blanket around her shoulders. Jem thinks that while they were standing there shivering in the cold, Boo might have crept up behind them and put the blanket over Scout.
That night, Jem in his fright spills the beans and rattles off all their past adventures to Atticus, about the knothole, trousers etc.
Ms. Maudie appears quite calm and composed even after this scary incident. She would stay with Ms. Stephanie for some time.
A boy called Cecil Jacobs teases Scout by saying that Atticus was a “nigger lover”. Scouts gets into a fist fight with him.
Atticus explains that he is defending a coloured man called Tom Robinson. He belongs to Cal’s church and Cal knows him well. They are clean living folks. Due to racial prejudice no one wanted to defend Tom who was accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell.
Judge John Taylor had postponed the trial until the summer session and Atticus was busy preparing his defense.
Scout wants to know why he has taken up this case. Atticus cites the following reasons:
1. Every lawyer gets at least one case that affects his whole life. Tom Robinson’s case was that special case for him that would affect his entire life.
2. He feels that not defending an innocent man because of the colour of his skin would be a sin and his conscience would not allow that to happen. If he didn’t take up the case he would never be able to live with dignity or correct his children ever again.
3. Atticus knows that the odds against him are high and he may not win the case but he feels that he should at least give it a try. Referring to the Civil War he says that just because the South had lost the war a hundred years back did not mean that they should just give up on everything in life.
Scout feels that her father sounded like his cousin, Ike Finch – a war survivor who strongly felt that the South lost the war because of the Missouri Compromise.
Atticus urges Scout not to lose her cool no matter what people said. When Cecil provokes her again, Scout does not retaliate.
CHRISTMAS – As was the custom every year, Jack Finch, Atticus’ brother, spent a week at Maycomb and then all would go to the Landing to Aunt Alexandra’s place.
Scout remembers how good Uncle Jack is as a doctor because he could remove painful splinters with relative ease.
This particular Christmas, Atticus gifts the children air rifles.
Scout gets into a lot of trouble that Christmas:
She had begun cursing and enjoyed it quite a lot too. She felt that if Atticus would hear her using profanities and if he thought she had learnt it at school, then probably he would stop sending her to school. Uncle Jack hears her and checks her.
Aunt Alexandra doesn’t like the fact that Scout dresses and behaves like a boy and keeps checking her.
Francis, Aunt Alexandra’s grandson is someone Scout never liked anyways and now he provokes Scout by slandering Dill saying that he doesn’t have a family and is just passed around amongst his relatives. He also calls Atticus a “nigger lover” and a disgrace to the family.
This was more than Scout could handle and she gets into a fight with Francis. Scout was beaten by Uncle Jack for it and was brought back home.
Scout explains to Uncle Jack why she had behaved like that and requests him not to tell anything to Atticus.
Later in the night, Scout overhears Uncle Jack and Atticus discussing about the case. She learns that the case is a difficult one as Atticus just had one black man’s word against the Ewells.
From the conversation we also learn that Atticus is a good father who has never raised his hands on his kids.
Atticus also expresses his hope that his kids should trust him and not listen to the rumours doing the rounds of the town.
Atticus knew that Scout was listening and tells her to go to bed.
The chapter ends with the important line that Scout realizes that Atticus wanted her to overhear everything he said.
The chapter begins with the fact that Atticus was nearly fifty years old and would never play soccer with Jem or go hunting. He was also nearly blind in the left eye and wore spectacles. The children felt ashamed of him at times.
Atticus doesn’t teach the kids to use the air rifles, Uncle Jack does. But Atticus makes one thing very clear to them, he says, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit them, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
This was the first time Scout had ever heard Atticus use the word “sin” for something and so she asks Ms. Maudie about it. (Bluejays are noisy birds of the crow family.)
Ms. Maudie explains that Atticus is right. She said, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Ms. Maudie mentions some things that Atticus is good at. He is the best checker-player in the town and could play a Jew’s harp.
Scout still feels ashamed of Atticus as she feels that these are not great achievements. Jem too is disappointed as Atticus has refused to play at the game of touch football planned between the Baptists and Methodists.
One Saturday afternoon the kids notice Mr. Harry Johnson’s dog called Tim Johnson walking unsteadily towards them. Cal realizes that the dog has gone mad and telephones for Atticus to come soon.
Atticus arrives with the Sheriff, Mr. Heck Tate. Atticus sees the dog near the Radley gate, removes his glasses, drops them down and shoots. He gets it right in the first go.
The kids are shocked. Ms. Maudie tells them that they shouldn’t be as Atticus was known as ‘one shot Finch’ because of his aim.
Scout thinks she should discuss this incident with all their friends at school but Jem stops her saying that if Atticus wanted them to know, he would have told them.
The chapter ends with the kids feeling just the opposite for their father as they did when it began. Jem says it no longer matters to him if his father wasn’t good at anything at all because he now knew that his father was a gentleman.
We are introduced to Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, a very old lady who lived two doors away from Atticus’ house. There were rumours that she kept a CSA pistol hidden in her shawls. She lived with a coloured girl called Jessie.
The kids hated to cross her house as she would yell at them and say many rude things about them.
Atticus always behaved well with Mrs. Dubose and wished her well. Scout thought that her father was really brave to do that.
After his twelfth birthday, Jem decides to go to town to but a steam engine for himself and a baton for Scout.
On that particular day when they passed her house, Mrs. Dubose blamed Jem wrongly of ruining Ms. Maudie’s scuppernongs, humiliated Scout for wearing overalls and then accused Atticus being as bad as the “niggers” he defended.
That really got to Jem and he couldn’t control his emotions. On his way back from town, he snatched Scout’s baton, rushed into Mrs. Dubose’s garden and cut the tops of every camellia flower there, broke the baton in two and pulled Scout’s hair when she began crying.
That night when Atticus returned, he sent Jem to have a talk with Mrs. Dubose. Jem returned and said that he had cleared the mess and apologized. Mrs. Dubose wanted him to read to her for two hours every day for a month.
Atticus once more explains to Scout why the case was important to him. He wouldn’t be able to worship God if he didn’t defend Tom. It was okay if the entire town was against him for he said, “before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Jem and Scout began visiting Mrs. Dubose every day. They would read till an alarm clock sounded their release. She was old and sick and got fits by the time for the reading ended. The kids noticed that the time of reading gradually increased each day. After some time, the clock was no longer set and Mrs. Dubose would leave them when she felt like. Her fits had stopped too.
Their reading session had lasted a month and a week and a month after that Mrs. Dubose died.
Atticus explained to the kids that Mrs. Dubose had been a morphine addict. She had started it off as a pain-killer but got hooked on to it. She could have died like that but she didn’t want to. She had called Atticus to make her will and had expressed her desire to die clean.
The reading sessions were her way to check the gradual increase in the time that she was clean. The fits she got were the withdrawal symptoms she suffered.
Mrs. Dubose had left a gift for Jem. It was a white, perfect camellia, a Snow-on-the-Mountain, wrapped in a box. It was her way of telling Jem that everything was okay between them.
The chapter ends with Atticus’ comment that Mrs. Dubose was the bravest woman he had known because she won a lost battle and died addicted to nothing and enslaved to no one.
Jem is 12 and is an adolescent now. Many changes are seen in him – he was moody, his appetite had suddenly grown and he wants Scout to start acting like a girl.
Scout can’t understand these changes and begins spending more time with Cal.
Dill sent Scout a letter saying that he would have to stay in Meridian for the summer as he now had a new father and they planned to build a fishing boat. He assured her that he still loves her and would marry her soon.
Atticus had to leave the kids for two weeks as the state legislature had called for an emergency session.
The children were exposed to the trial through the media. For eg, there was a cartoon in the newspaper showing Atticus barefooted and in short pants chained to a desk, writing on a slate while some girls were yelling at him.
Calpurnia was worried about taking the children to church. She remembered the time when on a similar occasion earlier the kids were sent to church without their father and they were up to mischief. They locked up one of their friends in the furnace room and forgot about it.
Cal decided that the safest thing to do would be to take them to her church. The church was called First Purchase African M.E Church. It was called so because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves.
Reverend Skyes was the priest and he warmly welcomed the children but a Negro woman called Lula was a bit rude to Cal for getting white kids there.
Scout found many similarities and differences in this church and her own:
1. Praying for the sick and the suffering.
2. Warning against evils like drinking and gambling.
3. The impurity of women.
1. The Reverend’s sermon mentioned individuals by name explaining what they were doing wrong.
2. No one had hymn books. Cal’s eldest son, Zeebo, the garbage collector would sing a line aloud and the rest of the people would repeat.
Then came collection time. The Reverend decided that the collection of four Sundays, which should be ten dollars, would be given to Helen, Tom Robinson’s wife, and their three kids. Collections were dropped in a coffee can. Reverend Skyes emptied the contents of the can and saw that the contributions were less, so he shut the doors of the church and nobody was allowed to leave unless they dropped a dime more and the required amount was met.
The chapter gives us a lot of information about Cal:
1. We learn that Cal is quite old, a bit older than Atticus.
2. She is among the four coloured people of her church who are literate.
3. She had always worked on the Landing for the Finch and Buford family (Maudie Atkinson’s aunt)
4. She was a well read woman and had taught her son Zeebo to read using the Bible and Blackstone’s ‘Commentaries’.
5. Cal had to lead a double life. When with the Finch family, she spoke like them but when with her own people she had to talk and act like them.
The chapter ends with the scene that the kids are returning home from church with Cal and they see Aunt Alexandra on the porch.
Alexander’s first lines were –
“Put my bag in the front bedroom, Calpurnia.”
“Jean Louise, stop scratching your head.”
These statements show that Aunt Alexander was a strict and prejudiced person. By carrying the bags for Cal, Jem shows that he has grown up.Alexandra had apparently spoken to Atticus about the importance of having a woman’s influence on the kids and so she had decided to come and stay.
Atticus returns back home.
Alexandra began to enjoy Maycomb. Maudie, Stephanie and Rachel called her over. She herself conducted Missionary Society Meetings at home. She became Secretary of a Literary Club. Alexandra never allowed Cal to make refreshments for these gatherings which again shows her prejudice.
She insisted that every family had a “streak” or a peculiar behaviour trend, i.e an inclination to do something out of heredity. For instance, ‘the Penfield girls are all flighty’ or that all in the Finch family have small hands and feet.
Scout then narrates a brief history about Maycomb and how it came to be so far away from the river. It was an old town that had hardly undergone change. There were not many new settlers and people married among them. The caste system basically comprised of the older citizens and the present generation.
Scout didn’t recognize one of her cousins and Jem only knew the bad side of another cousin called Joshua who had written a book. Aunt Alexandra is baffled that Atticus hasn’t taught the kids that they should be proud of their family.
The chapter ends with Atticus trying to impress these things to the children but he fails.
The case was being talked about everywhere and Jem and Scout would be teased on the streets.
Scout asks Atticus what the word ‘rape’ means and he defines it saying, “It is the carnal knowledge of a female by force or without consent.”
Scout tells Atticus about their visit to Cal’s church. Atticus enjoys it while Alexandra is shocked. She wants Cal to be fired but Atticus is firm and they end up arguing.
Jem calls Scout aside and tells her not to irritate Aunt as Atticus is worried enough with the case. Scout doesn’t like Jem telling her what she should do and they end up having a fist fight. Atticus separates them and puts them to bed.
In the dark, Scout feels something warm and smooth on the floor and thinks it is a snake.
Jem sweeps under the bed only to find Dill hidden beneath.
Dill had run away from home. His new father had chained him in a basement. A passing farmer threw him peas through the ventilator. He managed to escape one day with his wrists still in manacles. He was hired by a moving animal show to wash the camel. He traveled with them and when he found himself in Alabama, he crossed the river and walked the rest of the way.
He had taken 13 dollars from his mother’s purse, caught the 9 o’clock from Meridian and got off at Maycomb Junction. He walked for 10-14 miles and covered the rest of the way clinging to a cotton wagon. He had been under Scout’s bed for 2 hours.
Jem shows that he is growing up by informing Atticus about Dill being there.
Dill’s aunt Rachel is informed and he is allowed to sleep over with the kids.
The chapter describes important events that show the dangers Atticus had to face for his decision of defending a Negro.
The Sheriff Heck Tate was at the door and a crowd of people were in the front yard.They want a change of venue for the trial. Tom is going to be moved to the county jail the next day and they expect trouble.
Jem is scared for Atticus. He thinks that this was a gang like the Ku Klux Klan but Atticus assures him by saying, “The Ku Klux’s gone. It’ll never come back.”
We’re introduced to Mr. Underwood, the owner, editor and printer of ‘The Maycomb tribune.’
Tom Robinson is moved to Maycomb jail. Later that day, Atticus came into the living room carrying a long electrical extension cord with a light bulb attached on the end and left by car.
At around 10 o’clock that night, Jem, Scout and Dill went in search of Atticus – at his office and at Mr. Underwood’s but he was not there. They find outside the jail, sitting under the light and reading.
The kids are about to leave when they see four dusty cars stop in front of the jail. A mob comes out and demands for Tom.
Scout runs in between the crowd and though Atticus orders Jem to take her home, he refuses. A man tries to push Jem and Scout ends up kicking and fighting the man.
Scout catches sight of Mr. Walter Cunningham and tries to act friendly with him by talking about his son and then his entailments. This gets so embarrassing for him that he asks everyone to move out.
The mob had probably come to get Tom at any cost and would have harmed Atticus as well. We come to know that Mr. Underwood was sitting at the opposite window with the gun ready to defend Atticus.
At breakfast, Alexandra tries to tell Atticus to keep Cal in her place and to avoid speaking in front of her.
Scout and Jem anxiously tell their father that Mr. Cunningham could have killed him the previous night.
Atticus explains what a mob is to the kids saying, “A mob’s always made up of people, no matter what. Mr. Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man…It took an eight year old child to bring them to their senses…That proves something – that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human.”
They see many people passing by in wagons and Mr. Raymond Dolphus on his house. He is a white man who wants to live life on his own terms. He was in love with a Black woman and when his to-be bride learns of it, she shoots herself on the day of the wedding. Dolphus continues living with the Black woman and has many “mixed” children.
The courtroom is packed. The children find seats with Reverend Skyes in the balcony. The jury seems to be made up of farmers.
Judge Taylor was a casual looking but firm man. He was so informal that he would even clean his finger nails with his pocketknife during a trial. It was his habit to chew up his cigar which would appear bit by bit as a black mess mixed with digestive juices.
The trial begins.
Mr. Heck Tate testifies that he was called by Bob Ewell on the 21st of November as he alleged that his daughter was raped by a nigger. Mr. Tate claims to have found her on the floor all beaten up and she blamed Tom for it.
Atticus cross questions the witness and asks him why he hadn’t called for a doctor.
Bob Ewell is then called to the witness stand. He claims to have seen Tom from the window. Atticus emphasizes the point again that he wasn’t bothered enough to call a doctor. He also got it clear from Bob that Mayella’s bruises were on the right side of her face. Atticus then asks him to write his name and it becomes evident to all that Bob is left handed.
Mayella is called to the stand next. She is around 19 years old. She claims to have called Tom to help her chop a chiffarobe.
• Atticus’ questions to her build up the following picture:
1. The Ewell family basically survived on Relief money which was mostly spent by Bob on alcohol.
2. Mrs. Ewell was no more and there were seven children in the family.
3. She had no friends. The Whites would never accept her because she was low and the Blacks would never accept her as her skin was white.
The interrogation proves that Mayella was beaten by her father. Tom couldn’t have done it as he was a cripple. His left arm was completely useless.
Tom Robinson is called to testify.
He is 25 years old, married with 3 kids. He was convicted once for disorderly conduct when he fought a man who tried to hurt him. He had to be jailed for 30 days as he didn’t have the money to pay the fine.
Tom says that he had to pass the Ewell house every day on his way to Mr. Link Deas’ fields. He claims that since the spring of the year before, he had been invited many times by Mayella to help her with odd jobs.
On that fateful day, she had sent the children to town to get ice creams. She called Tom inside as she said that the hinges of the door had to be done up. When he found no problem with the door, she asked him to climb the chair to get something down and then suddenly grabbed him around the leg. She hugged and kissed him and that’s when Mr.
Ewell appears at the window.
While the court is still at session, Link Deas, Tom’s employer, suddenly rose and proclaimed that Tom had never troubled him in all the 8 years that he had worked for him.
Mr. Gilmer cross questions Tom and asks him why he was so readily available to help Mayella all the time. When Tom mentions that he felt “pity” for her, the whites in the court room turn hostile towards him.
Dill suddenly feels sick at the way tom was being questioned and scout and he go out for some time where they meet Mr. Dolphus Raymond.
Mr. Raymond offers Dill some Coca cola. He generally appears to be drunk so that people give up on him and say that he is in the clutches of whiskey and will anyways not mend his ways.
Scout and Dill return to court.
• Atticus presents his final statements –
1. There was no medical evidence to prove the rape.
2. The entire case rested on the word of two White men – the sheriff and Bob Ewell.
3. Mayella’s offence was that she had broken the code of honour by kissing, not some “old uncle” but a Black man. Her offence was that she tempted a Negro.
4. Now all she can do is put away the evidence of her offence, Tom, as far as possible forever.
5. A Court is the only place where all men are equal and so justice must be done.
Just then Cal walks in court.
• Cal gets a note from Aunt Alexandra and hands it to Atticus, saying that the kids have been missing for many hours.
• Atticus is worried but Mr. Underwood tells him that the kids have been watching the entire trial.
• Atticus asks the kids to go home for supper and then return. Cal scolds them all the way home.
• They return later to hear the verdict which is “Guilty”.
• As a gesture of respect for Atticus, all the Blacks rise.
Jem is very upset with the verdict at court.
Atticus talks of an appeal the next day.
Tom Robinson’s family and the other Blacks send a lot of food for Atticus as a token of their gratitude. Atticus is overwhelmed as he knows how difficult the times were owing to the Depression.
There is gossip in the streets about how Atticus allowed his kids to be in court and listen to all that adult stuff.
Miss Stephanie and Mr. Avery want to know the same and question Jem and Scout about it and also about how Atticus felt after losing.
Miss Maudie saves them the embarrassment and later explains to Jem that Atticus is one of those few people who have to do unpleasant jobs. She also bakes cakes for them to show them that everything is alright between them.
Miss Maudie then tells Jem some important points about the case that probably the readers too had never thought about. For instance, she says that there were people who wanted to genuinely help Tom Robinson. Judge Taylor had chosen Atticus to defend Tom though under normal circumstances the case would go to a new lawyer called Maxwell Green.
Miss Maudie also said that all involved in helping Tom (Heck Tate, Judge Taylor, Atticus and others) knew well that Atticus would never win the case but yet they went ahead because they knew that Atticus was the only one who could keep the jury at least thinking for so long.
Miss Stephanie suddenly returns and excitedly informs the kids that Bob Ewell spat in Atticus’ face and threatened him.
Atticus’ reaction to the incident shows us how different he was as a person. His only reaction to the incident was, “I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco” and wipes his cheek.
Tom Robinson is in Enfield Prison Farm. His family was not allowed to visit him. If the appeal doesn’t succeed then he would get the electric chair but Atticus is confident that they have a good chance.
Jem and Miss Maudie have another important conversation on the selection of a jury. According to the law, no women in Alabama were allowed to serve on a jury. Jem thinks that that isn’t fair as women like Miss Maudie would be ideal on a jury.
Atticus had placed a Cunningham relative on the jury because he had discerened that the Cunningham’s had a lot of respect for him.
Aunt Alexandra again comes across as a prejudiced person when she stops the children from inviting Walter Cunningham home saying they were “trash”.
Jem and Scout talk about discrimination and that’s when Jem realizes that Boo had probably chosen to remain cut off from the world because he “wanted” to.
Dill was to leave for home the next day.
Aunt Alexandra has a session of her Missionary circle at home and all the women from the neighborhood are there. Scout attends the party and tries to act like a girl by wearing a dress and serving tea.
Miss Stephanie mocks Scout by asking her why she is not in her breeches today.
Scout finds the women to be very hypocritical. They were discussing the poor conditions of the women of an African tribe called the Mrunas. The Mrunas were believed to have no sense of a family. They would put their women in huts during labour. The children were used to drinks and so on.
Atticus returns while the party is on to fetch Cal. He tells Cal and Alexandra that Tom had been shot. He tried to escape by jumping the fence during the exercise period. The guards called to stop but he didn’t listen. They fired a few shots in the air and then 17 in his body.
Aunt Alexandra is visibly upset and shaken by the news but in no time she regains her composure and Miss Maudie and she return to entertaining the guests.
Atticus is on his way with Cal to Tom Robinson’s house.
Jem and Dill are on the way for a swim and meet Atticus and Cal on the way. Atticus takes them along.
When Helen hears the news, she just falls down. The reaction in town was different. People spoke about it for two days and then forgot it. They said, “Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and rush. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw.”
Mr. Underwood printed in his paper an article explaining how it was a sin to kill a cripple even if he was escaping. He compared it to the “senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.”
Miss Stephanie spread the news that Bob Ewell had threatened to harm Atticus’ family. He had said, “One down and about two more to go.”
School begins. Jem is in the 7th grade and Scout is in the 3rd grade.
Scout is no longer afraid of the Radley House.
Once a week in school, it was customary for the children to pick up a Current Event incident from the paper and discuss it in class.
Cecil Jacobs discusses an article on Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. The teacher Miss Gates uses that incident to teach them what a Democracy is. She explains that America is a Democracy and Germany is a Dictatorship.
Miss Gates, “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.”
Scout finds that comment very ironic and disturbing because she had overheard Miss Gates telling Miss Stephanie that she was very happy that Tom Robinson was convicted as that would teach the Blacks a lesson. She said that if they were not taught a lesson then the Blacks would even think they could marry the Whites.
Keeping those words of Miss Gates in mind, Scout asks Jem, “How can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home”.
Jem was very upset with Scout and scolds her and warns her never to mention anything about the case again.
Nothing much happens except for three things-
1. Bob Ewell got and lost a job in a matter of days. It was something unique at that time as people were losing their jobs during the Depression. He was fired for his laziness.
2. Judge Taylor heard some intruder at his house one Sunday night. The screen was cut and everyone suspected Bob Ewell.
3. Link Deas got a job for Helen. She avoided the short cut as she had to pass the Ewell house and they always troubled her. Bob would even follow her at times and abuse her. Link Deas walked with her one day and threatened Bob of dire consequences.
These incidents may not appear very important but they build up to the climax of the novel. They show us that he was becoming dangerous to people as he bore a grudge against all. Atticus explained that maybe Bob had expected to become a hero after the trial but that didn’t happen. People hardly even believed him. So probably he wanted to take revenge.
All is back to normal except for two things-
People removed NRA stickers that said, ‘We do our part’ as the National Recovery Act had ended.
Owing to prior pranks played by the kids on Halloween, the adults of the town decided to have a pageant. The year before, the kids had stolen everything from the Barber sisters who were deaf and locked everything in the cellar. The Police were called and the whole town was searched. When the dog squad was called, they went sniffing at the cellar itself. The adults had a good laugh about it and Miss Merriweather organized a pageant on the county’s agricultural products entitled, ‘Maycomb County- From the mud to the stars.’
Scout is to be dressed as Ham. Atticus and Aunt Alexandra couldn’t make it to the pageant so Jem was to leave her.
The kids enjoy the show. Scout and Cecil play a number of games.
Scout, in her costume was waiting backstage for the cue “Pork” as that was when she was supposed to enter the stage but she sleeps off backstage and enters the stage late.
She is scolded by Miss Merriweather and feels so ashamed that she returns home in her costume. On their way back, Jem hears footsteps. At first they think it would be Cecil trying to scare them but then Jem is attacked. Scout can’t see too well through the costume and she is attacked as well.
After the scuffle, she sees a man carrying Jem back home and follows him.
Dr. Reynolds is called for and he informs that Jem’s arm is fractured. Scout sees the man who rescued Jem standing at the corner but she doesn’t recognize him and thinks that he was probably some farmer.
Heck Tate comes with the news that Bob Ewell was stabbed to death.
Heck Tate makes Scout repeats everything that she remembered about the attack.
Scout suddenly recognizes that the rescuer was none other than Boo.
There is an argument between Heck Tate and Atticus.
Atticus feels that Jem had stabbed Bob and so he must report the matter. He wouldn’t be able to look his children in the eye if he tried to hide what his son did but Heck Tate tries to explain that Jem could never have killed Bob since his arm was badly broken. It was highly likely that Bob fell on his own knife and died.
Even when Heck Tate realizes that probably Boo had a hand in the murder, he doesn’t want an inquest into the matter. He tells Atticus, “There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it’s dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time.”
Before he left, Heck Tate defended Boo by saying, “I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did…taking the man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight – to me, that’s sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch.”
Atticus asks Scout if she would understand that Bob fell on his knife and died. She said that she agreed with Heck Tate and asked Atticus, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
Atticus thanks Boo for saving his children.
Boo enters the room to meet Jem who is unconscious. His gentleness towards the kids suggests that he was aware of their feelings towards him and he liked them.
Scout walks with Boo till his door and she never saw him again after that.
Standing on the porch of the Radley House, Scout envisions all the past events in her mind that no doubt Boo had seen every day and she suddenly understood the truth of Atticus’ words that if we put ourselves in the place of others, we would understand them better.
Scout returns home and finds Atticus reading ‘The Gray Ghost’. Scout asks him to read for her. It is the story of a Stoner’s boy who was blamed for every bad thing that happened in town until the time people realize that he is actually a nice person.
The book ends with Atticus’ comment on the book, “Most people are, scout, when you finally see them.”
Originally posted 2017-07-09 17:53:10.