To Kill A Mockingbird
By: Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird opens with Dill coming to visit his Aunt for the summer. Dill becomes a good friend with the Finches, Jean-Louise, who is nicknamed Scout and her brother, Jeremy Finch, who is nicknamed Jem. They live with their father, Atticus, who is a lawyer who had been given a case to handle and did not have any choice but to receive it and work his best for his client. The case was about an African man, named Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a white woman. The children begin to play together and are oblivious to the stress of their surroundings. Eventually they start spending their time trying to get Boo Radley out of his house. None of the children have ever seen or even talked to the mysterious Boo Radley, but they know he lives shut up in the house next to the Finches. Jem, Scout and Dill spend hours-devising schemes and projects to persuade Boo out of his house. At the end of summer the three children haven’t successfully even had a glance at Boo. Dill leaves his Aunt’s and returns home before school starts. Scout starts school and immediately gets in trouble because she already can read and write. During that year Scout and Jem begin finding gifts in a knot in one of the Radley’s trees. They continue finding gifts on their way home until one day the knot is sealed with concrete. Dill returns the next summer and the children resume trying to get Boo out of his house. One night the children sneak into the Radley’s backyard. They almost make it to the Radley’s window but they are scared off after someone shoots at them. Jem losses his pants fleeing when he returns later that night he finds his pants mended and waiting for him. Once again, summer end and Dill returns home. Late that fall Miss Maudie’s house burns down during the night. As a precaution the Finches stand outside watching the fire. Mysteriously Scout wakes up the next morning wrapped in a blanket that are not hers. A little time before Christmas, Scout and Jem begin to get tormented that there father, Atticus, is a nigger lover. Atticus pleads for the children to not fight about it. Scout manages to restrain herself until her cousin Francis says it. Scout beats her cousin up and then leaves. Not far after, a neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, constantly harasses the children. The children continue to take the abuse until one-day Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus a nigger lover. Jem cuts the tops off of her flower bushes. Atticus forces him to read to Mrs. Dubose everyday for a month. At the end of his punishment Mrs. Dubose dies and Jem finds out she was breaking a Morphine addiction. Soon after the children begin to realize that the magnitude of their father’s case and it’s implications. As the Tom Robinson case begins, becoming more significant, Aunt Alexandra comes to stay with Atticus and his children to give Scout a feminine influence and help out during the difficult time of the trial. One night Atticus leaves the house rather suddenly. Considering this abnormal, the children follow him to where he is sitting outside of Maycomb’s jail in front of Tom’s cell window. A mob appears most likely to bring their own kind of justice to Tom. Unwittingly, Scout emerges and talks to a schoolmate’s father, Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham disperses the mob because of this and Scout doesn’t fully grasp the events. During the trial the children sit in the “Negro” section of the courthouse. Atticus proves that Mayella Ewell was lying and that her father most likely was the culprit. This is all irrelevant because the jury is all white. A guilty verdict is reached in mere hours. Mayella’s father, Bob, seeks revenge on Atticus for exposing the truth and proving him a liar. In Maycomb’s Halloween pageant, Scout wears a huge bulky costume for a play. While walking home they sense they are being followed, thinking it’s a prankster they continue until they are brutally attacked. Scout is saved by her costume but Jem’s arm is broken. Afterwards, Sheriff Tate and Atticus find Bob Ewell drunk and dead at the scene of the struggle. Neither man is sure whom to blame, although both realize Boo killed Bob in defense of the children. Eventually Bob Ewell’s death is ruled an accidental suicide. Scout later meets Boo who ultimately saved her and her brother’s life. Scout becomes a friend with Boo even though she’ll never see him again.
The main character in this novel is a young girl named Jean-Louise Finch. Jean-Louise is nicknamed Scout. She has a brother, Jeremy Finch, who is nicknamed Jem. They live with their father, Atticus, who is a lawyer. In the beginning Scout is very childish. She and her brother are afraid of their neighbor, Boo Radley, because they think he is a monster and try to tease and play tricks on him. They play and take things for granted just like any normal kids would. Scout doesn’t know much about the prejudice of Southern America either. She basically knows nothing about prejudice. She thinks every person is the same as her. As the story goes on this young boyish girl learns a lot of hard life lessons from her father, her town, and from Boo Radley. She has to deal with prejudices, her fears, white superiority, lies, and a physical assault on herself and her brother in an attempt for revenge that leads to death. She also finds out that most people are nice. She just has to put herself in those people’s situations. “As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.” In the end she grows into a very wise and knowledgeable young woman.
To Kill A Mockingbird can be read as the story of a child’s growth and maturation. Almost every incident in the novel contributes something to Scout’s perception of the world. Through her experiences she grows more tolerant of others, learning how to ” climb into another person’s skin and walk around in it.” On her first day of school she finds that there are both social and poor classes in society, some are respectable and others not. She also learns that her father is an extra-ordinary man, fighting for a Negro’s rights in court. At the trial of Tom Robinson Scout learns about equality and inequality, about justice and injustice and finally about racial prejudice. Ultimately she represents the innocence within society.
As well as being the story of childhood, it is also the story of the struggle for equality of the American Negro. When Scout and Jem see how Tom Robinson is treated just because he is black, they begin to understand the meaning of prejudice. No one comes to help Tom Robinson except their father, who defends him when Tom is accused of raping a white woman. Scout watches the trial and believes that he will be found innocent. Instead, Tom Robinson is found guilty. Her disappointment in the verdict makes Scout question the idea of justice.
Many times during the course of the novel the idea of the mockingbird comes to mind. We first hear of the bird when the children are given their first air rifles for Christmas. Their father warns them to never shoot the songbird; saying to do so would be a sin. During the trial of Tom Robinson, it occurs to the reader that the Negro shares many characteristics with the mockingbird. He is a gentleman, who has never harmed anyone and only tried to help people. His murder is as much a sin as the killing of any innocent creature. By the end of the novel we see that the hermit Boo Radley is also like the mockingbird. He is shy and gentle, living quietly and harming no one. Near the end of the novel, Boo saves the children from being killed. Scout realizes that bringing Boo into the limelight would only be like killing the songbird. Many ideas are presented in this novel by the author but sympathy is one of the main ones.
In the beginning I wasn’t that impressed with the novel. I thought my friend was nuts to recommend a novel this boring to me because I am not a big reader. I stuck with it to subdue her nagging and I was glad I did. In the beginning it is quite slow setting up who everyone is and where they live. They take almost two years talking about the children playing and going to school. As the story progresses it gets more and more complicated and extremely interesting. There are many levels to this story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The children in this novel are developed way beyond their years and although they still hold their innocence and childish show, they have an understanding that surpasses some adults. Atticus is the calm of the group; keeping everything in perspective and not letting the most tense of situations get out of hand. There are many themes, all of which are very complicated and very interesting. I am impressed on the author ability to smoothly incorporate all the themes of the novel and make it flow with excitement and ease.