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To Kill a Mocking Bird is about a girl, Scout, and her brother, Jem, who are growing up in a small town called Maycomb in America. The events in the novel take place from May 1933 to October 1935. The story is told from Scout’s point of view.
One of the main events in the story is the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who is falsely accused of raping a young white woman. Scout’s father, Atticus, is the lawyer who defends Tom in court. However, despite the evidence given in court of his innocence, the court decides that Tom is guilty.
In the book the author explores social issues, such as racism, through Scout’s experiences with her family and neighbours. One of the most interesting characters is a secretive man called Boo, who remains a mystery character for most of the book.

1. The author

Harper Lee was born in 1926 and grew up in Alabama – the same American state in which To Kill a Mockingbird is set. While she was a university student in the late 1940s she began to write short stories about racial injustice. She wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the late 1950s at a time when the Civil Rights Movement in America was campaigning for an end to racial segregation in Alabama and other southern states.
Harper Lee has received many awards and honours for the book, including the Presidential Award for Freedom. This is the only novel she has published.

2. Background

This section provides background information about three aspects of life in America in the 1930s, when the novel takes place: the Great Depression, racial segregation and how the courts worked in those days.

2.1 The Great Depression
The Great Depression was a time in the 1930s when the American economy was so bad that many businesses closed down and people lost their jobs. The events described in To Kill a Mockingbird took place between 1933 and 1935. This was a time when the effects of the Great Depression were being felt by people who lived in small towns like Maycomb and the farming areas around them. For example:

  • Farming families had less money because prices for their crops were very low (the prices had fallen by about 60%). Many children in these families either did not go to school or had to go without any food for lunch. In the novel, Walter Cunningham was from such a family.
  • Even people who had jobs lived simply and had very little money for luxury items. In the novel, Scout’s family did not have very much money, although Atticus worked as lawyer.

2.2 Racial segregation in America
Racism is the belief that the physical characteristics of a person or group determine their abilities and that one group is naturally superior to another. Racism against Africans has been present in American society since the time that Africans were first brought to North America as slaves. Although slavery ended in 1865, the way in which black Americans were treated was slow to improve – especially in the southern states.
The state of Alabama is one of the southern states that supported racial segregation. The southern states passed laws that black people could not eat in the same restaurants, drink from the same water fountains, watch films in the same cinemas, play in the same parks or go to the same schools as white people. They even had to travel in the back of buses, behind white people. There are many examples of racist behaviour in this novel.

2.3 The way American courts worked
One of the main events in the novel is the trial of Tom Robinson. This section explains the way courts were run in Alabama.

  • In American courts a judge is in charge of a trial. However, it is not the judge who finds the accused person innocent or guilty. This decision is made by a jury of 12 people.
  • In Alabama in the 1930s the juries consisted of 12 white men. Today, juries are made up of men and women from all groups in the population.
  • The prosecutor (a lawyer) tries to convince the members of the jury that the person on trial is guilty. The defence lawyer tries to convince them that the person is innocent.
  • In addition to asking questions of the person on trial, both lawyers can call witnesses in support of the case they are making. Both can then also cross-examine (ask questions of) each other’s witnesses.
  • Once all the evidence has been heard, the judge instructs the jury to consider its verdict (decision) very carefully.
  • The members of the jury leave the courtroom and discuss the evidence together until they decide on a verdict on which they all agree.

3. Title

A mockingbird is a grey and white bird that can copy sounds that it hears. Some copy the songs of other birds, and some even copy the calls of other animals or people’s car alarms! It is natural for mocking birds to imitate the sounds they hear.
The people in the novel, who live in Maycomb, believe that mockingbirds never do any harm, they only provide pleasure for people through their songs. To kill a mockingbird therefore means to destroy what is good and innocent.
Two characters in the novel – Boo and Tom – are symbolised by the mockingbird. They are both innocent people who have been injured or destroyed by cruel people.

4. How the story is told

This section outlines the different elements in the novel that the writer uses to tell the story.

4.1 Setting
The setting of a novel refers to where and when the story takes place.

  • Place: The main story of To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in an imaginary town called Maycomb, in the real state of Alabama, USA.
  • Time: During the Great Depression, from the summer of 1933 to October 1935.

The map on the next page shows where the main places in Maycomb may have been located. It will help you to imagine the town, where the main characters lived and worked and where events in the novel took place.

4.2 Characters

  • The central character in a story is called the protagonist. In To Kill a Mockingbird the protagonist is Scout.
  • The antagonist is a character who opposes, or is in conflict with, the protagonist. In To Kill a Mockingbird one of the main protagonists is Bob Ewell.

Characterisation is the way in which the author reveals characters’ personalities. This is by describing their thoughts, feelings, expressions and actions. As you read the novel, look for evidence that shows the characters’ personalities and emotions, and how they change during the story.

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Main characters

The main characters are the most important for the development of the story. This section only gives an outline of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. More information is given in the chapter by chapter section of the guide.

Atticus Finch

  • He is the father of Jem and Scout. Atticus treats his children as sensible and intelligent young people, answering their questions directly (including definitions of rape). He does not believe in beating them, but he does believe in firm discipline. When the children quarrel he always hears both sides of the argument before taking action.
  • Atticus is also a lawyer and a member of the legislature (government) of the state of Alabama. Although he lives in a racist and sexist society he does not share the prejudices of those around him. He respects all people, black and white, male and female, who deserve respect.
  • Atticus does what is right: he does his best to save Tom and win the case. He defends Tom even though other people in Maycomb are angry with him for doing so.
  • Atticus shows physical courage (bravery) and moral courage in the book.

Scout Finch

  • The narrator’s full name is Jean Louise Finch but she prefers her nickname of Scout, which most people use. At a time (the 1930s) when girls were expected to wear dresses and play with dolls, she wears overalls (except for church on Sundays and for afternoon tea with the missionary circle ladies) and climbs trees with Jem and Dill.
  • Scout is an unusual little girl because she is unusually intelligent – she speaks more like an adult than a child and she learned to read and write before she started school. Often, she is unusually thoughtful and concerned about people’s situations.
  • She is unusually confident in many situations – for example, she is not afraid to fight boys even when they are older and bigger than she is and she is not afraid to express her ideas to adults.
  • At the beginning of the novel Scout believes that all people are basically good. As she experiences the events in the book, she realises that some people behave in mean, unfair and prejudiced ways. Scout is a bit like Atticus – she stands up for what she believes is right and is prepared to fight for it.

Jem Finch

  • Jem, whose full name is Jeremy Atticus Finch, is quieter and more reserved than Scout, who is his younger sister. During the almost three years in which the story takes place he grows from a child into a young teenager.
  • As he grows up he begins to separate himself from Scout to some extent. However, he remains her close companion and protector throughout the novel, even risking his life to protect her when they are attacked after the Halloween pageant.
  • He is very proud of his father and is particularly upset and angry about what he considers to be the lack of justice for Tom Robinson.

Aunt Alexandra

  • She is Atticus’s sister and is very concerned about the social position of the Finch family.
  • She is very strict and has strong ideas about the way society should work and the way southern women should behave. She thinks that Scout is growing up “wild” and decides she needs to learn how to behave like a young lady.
  • Aunt Alexandra has different views from Atticus on raising children and about black people, but ultimately she is loyal to her family.


  • She is the Finch family’s housekeeper and cook. Since the death of his wife, Atticus has relied on her to look after both the house and the children. She is strict with Scout and Jem, but also fond of the children.
  • She is the children’s main link between the white and black communities of Maycomb. Her care and concern for others is shown when she goes with Atticus to give Helen Robinson the terrible news of her husband’s death and to comfort Helen.

Arthur “Boo” Radley

  • Boo is a secretive man who never leaves his house. He is described as being pale, because he does not go out in the sunlight. It seems that he has been emotionally damaged as a result of his father locking him in the house when he was a teenager.
  • In the early chapters of the novel, Scout, Jem and Dill are fascinated by this person they have never seen because they have heard many strange rumours about him. They wonder if he really exists. When he leaves small gifts for them in the knothole of the tree at the corner of his yard and mends Jem’s pants, he becomes increasingly real to the children.
  • At the end of the novel he is the person who saves them when they are attacked by Bob Ewell: good triumphs over evil. Boo is one of the symbolic mockingbirds in the novel: a good person who has been damaged by the cruel actions and prejudices of others.

Miss Maudie Atkinson

  • “Miss Maudie” is a widow. Her home is opposite the Finch’s house. She spends a lot of time working in her garden (yard). She is an old friend of the family and understands Scout and Jem. She lets them play in her garden, but only if they do not damage any of her plants. They enjoy spending time with her – especially as she bakes cakes for them.
  • Like Atticus, she is concerned about fairness and justice. She is often critical of what she considers to be unfair or mean behaviour. She supports what Atticus does to defend Tom Robinson.

Bob Ewell

  • He lives with his children in poor circumstances at the edge of the town. He is usually unemployed and is likely to spend the welfare (social grant) money that he gets on alcohol.
  • He abuses his children. It seems likely that he is responsible for the bruises on his daughter Mayella’s face that were noticed by the sheriff. However, Bob Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of being responsible for these bruises and of raping his daughter.
  • Although he is pleased when Tom is found guilty, he is angry about the information about himself and his lifestyle that everyone in the courtroom heard during the trial. This is why he attacks Atticus’s children: to get his revenge.

Dill (Charles Baker) Harris

  • Dill is the nephew of the Finch’s neighbour, Rachel Haverford. He is a small boy, with white hair. He is shorter than Scout, although he is almost 7 at the beginning of the novel, one year older than Scout.
  • He lives with his mother in Meridian in the state of Mississippi. It seems that he does not see his father, but he makes up stories about him.
  • Dill visits Maycomb every summer to stay with his Aunt Rachel. He plays with Scout and Jem. He is brave and adventurous, and he has a very strong imagination.

Minor characters
Other members of the Finch family

  • Uncle Jack Finch: Atticus’s and Alexandra’s brother, who is a doctor and who comes to visit at Christmas time
  • Francis Hancock: Aunt Alexandra’s grandson, with whom Scout fights during a Christmas visit to Finch’s Landing

The Finch family’s neighbours

  • The Radleys: Old Mr and Mrs Radley; Arthur (Boo) Radley; Mr Nathan Radley, Boo’s brother, who comes to live in their house after old Mr Radley dies.
  • Miss Rachel Haverford: Next door neighbour to the Finch’s, and Dill’s aunt.
  • Miss Stephanie Crawford: A woman who likes to gossip. Miss Maudie goes to stay with her after her own house burns down.
  • Mrs Dubose: An elderly woman who suffered from a serious illness. Atticus thinks she is the bravest person he knows because she fights her drug addiction.
  • Mr Avery: Scout and Jem build a snowman that looks like him.

Other townspeople

  • Dr Reynolds: Family doctor to the Finch family and the Maycomb community;
  • Heck Tate: The sheriff (law officer)
  • Mr Underwood: The owner and editor of the local newspaper, The Maycomb Tribune
  • Mr Gilmer: The lawyer who acts as the prosecutor in Tom Robinson’s trial
  • Judge Taylor: The judge who presides over Tom Robinson’s trial
  • Eula May: The operator of the town’s telephone exchange
  • Mrs Grace Merriweather: A woman who plays a leading role in the Missionary Society and other activities in the town, such as the Halloween pageant.
  • Miss Caroline Fisher: Scout’s first teacher
  • Miss Gray: Another of Scout’s teachers
  • Cecil Jacobs: A boy from the town who is in Scout’s class, who scares Scout and Jem in the dark on the way to the Halloween pageant.

People living on the edge of the town
The Ewells

  • Bob Ewell is the father of many children – some in the town say six, others say nine children. Those children named in the novel are Burris Ewell, who is in Scout’s class at the beginning of the school year but who does not stay at school, and Mayella Ewell, who accuses Tom Robinson of raping her.

Members of the black (Negro) community

  • Calpurnia: The housekeeper for the Finch family
  • Zeebo: Calpurnia’s son, who is the town’s garbage collector
  • Rev Sykes: The minister of the church Calpurnia goes to
  • Lula: A member of the congregation of the church Calpurnia goes to
  • Tom Robinson: A farmworker who is accused and found guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, despite evidence proving his innocence. He is later killed by guards in prison.
  • Helen Robinson: Tom Robinson’s wife
  • Mr Dolphus Raymond: A wealthy white property owner who has chosen to live with the black community.

Members of the farming community

  • The Cunninghams: Mr Walter Cunningham is a very poor white farmer, but he works hard and refuses to accept any charity. He always pays his debts in some way. His son, Walter (junior) is in Scout’s class at school.
  • Link Deas: A farmer and store (shop) owner who employs Tom and Helen Robinson.
  • Chuck Little: A boy who is in Scout’s class at school.

Make your own character charts
A character chart can help you to keep track of the evidence about a character as you revise the story. In your character chart:

  • Write the characteristics (features or qualities) of the character in the first column.
  • Write the evidence for these characteristics in the second column. Include the chapter number for the evidence so it is easier to find again.

We have filled in Scout’s character chart for you – so you can see how to do it in the other character charts.

e.g.  Character chart: Scout (Jean Louise) Finch
Scout is the narrator of the story – it is told from her point of view.
She is the innocent child who learns the hard lesson that human nature also includes being cruel and unfair to others.



1. She does not behave the way girls are expected to behave.

  1. She wears overalls most of the time, instead of dresses like other girls do.
  2. She likes to do ‘boy-like’ activities like climbing trees, instead of being ‘lady-like’ and playing with dolls.
  3. Her Aunt Alexandra is always complaining that she does not behave the way girls are expected to.

2. She is very intelligent.

  1. She learnt to read and write before she started school.
  2. The things she notices about her community and her relatives show that she is a thoughtful child.

3. She is compassionate.

  1. Her schoolmate Walter Cunningham comes from a family too poor to afford school lunches for him. Scout defends him from the insensitive teacher.
  2. She is very compassionate towards Tom Robinson and his family because of the injustice they experience.
  3. She is a supportive friend to Dill, who comes from an unhappy family.

4. She is unusually confident.

  1. She is not afraid to express her opinions to adults.
  2. She is not afraid to fight boys who are bigger and stronger than she is.

5. She shares her father’s principles about justice for all.

  1. Racism makes no sense to her. She loves Calpurnia as a person and can’t understand why her community has such strange views about black people.
  2. She shows great courage in front of the jail when the group of men try to attack Tom Robinson. She uses her sensitivity and understanding of people to calm the situation.

 4.3 Structure and plot development
This section gives an overview of the main plot of To Kill a Mockingbird. There are other events that happen, such as the fire in Miss Maudie’s house, or the incident with the rabid dog. These are called sub-plots.


  • The novel begins with Scout saying that when Jem was nearly 13 his arm was badly broken.
  • It goes on with the story of how the Finch family’s ancestor, Simon Finch, left Cornwall, in England, and settled in Alabama in the USA.
  • The main characters in the novel are introduced.

Rising action

  • Jem and Scout make friends with a boy called Dill. The three children are frightened of, and, at the same time, fascinated by, a man called Boo Radley, who lives in a house in their street. They have never seen him but they have heard many stories about him. They spend a lot of time planning how to look into his house or to get him to come outside. They do not succeed, but Scout and Jem find small gifts left in a tree outside the Radley’s house.
  • The games the children play about the mysterious Boo form sub-plots in the novel.
  • The main problem in the plot concerns Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. The local judge appoints Atticus to defend Tom. A complication is that some of the local people disapprove of a white man defending a black man in court. The tension rises the night before the trial begins, when Atticus sits outside the jail where Tom is being held because he is worried that some men will try to break in and harm him. A group of men does arrive but Scout calms things down by talking to one of the men whom she knows and the men leave.
  • During the trial it becomes clear that Tom is innocent. The tension rises again as the characters wait for the jury to give its verdict.


  • Despite the evidence of Tom’s innocence, the jury convicts him. Even though Atticus plans to appeal the judgement, Tom feels hopeless and tries to escape from prison. He is shot and killed.
  • After the trial Bob Ewell is angry that his way of life was exposed to people in the court. The tension rises again and reaches another climax. He attacks Scout and Jem as they walk home in the dark from a school concert. Jem’s arm is broken in the fight.
  • A man rescues the children and carries Jem home while Scout follows. Later, Scout realises that the man who has saved them is Boo Radley.

Resolution or ending

  • Heck Tate, the town’s sheriff, discovers the dead body of Bob Ewell where the children were attacked.
  • It seems likely that Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell, but the sheriff and Atticus agree that he should not be put on trial. Boo would be upset by all the attention from the townspeople.
  • When Atticus asks Scout whether she understands this decision, she replies that she does, because to put Boo on trial would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird”.

4.4 Themes
This section provides a summary of the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. More examples are given in the “Chapter by chapter” section of the guide.

Good and evil
The theme good and evil is shown by contrasting characters in the novel:

  • Atticus Finch believes there is both good and evil in people but that the good usually comes out on top.
  • At the beginning of the novel both Jem and Scout think like their father. However, during Tom Robinson’s trial they discover that good does not always come out on top. At the end of the trial, evil wins.
  • At the end of the novel both children are faced with evil when Bob Ewell tries to kill them. A truly good person, Boo Radley, saves them. This time good comes out on top.

The timeline for this story is like a circle.
Yes, it begins with Scout telling us that Jem has broken his arm. She then takes us back about two years and begins her story of the events that led up to this.
And at the end of the novel we find out exactly how Jem’s accident happened, so the story has come full circle – it has ended where it began!

Innocence and loss of innocence
The word “innocent” can have two meanings:

  • Not guilty – Tom Robinson was not guilty of raping Mayella, he was innocent of the crime.
  • Being unaware of evil, for example, a child who is innocent does not know about the bad things in life. At the end of the novel Scout, Jem and Dill are much less innocent than they were at the beginning. They have lost their innocence.


  • Racism is the belief that the physical characteristics of a person or group determine their abilities and that some race groups are naturally superior to others. In the novel the theme of racism is connected to the theme of good and evil.
  • The town of Maycomb is divided into areas for black people and areas for white people. Throughout the novel, Scout explores the differences between black and white residents. She enjoys going to church with Calpurnia and wants to visit Calpurnia’s home. The visit does not take place, mainly because Aunt Alexandra disapproves.

Social inequality

  • Scout and Jem try to understand the social class differences in Maycomb. Scout believes “folks are just folks” (that is, everyone is equal); while Jem thinks people are considered to be of a higher or lower class according to how long their relatives and ancestors have been able to write.
  • The Finch family is high up in the social structure. They are white, they own land (at Finch’s Landing) and they have professional jobs (Atticus is a lawyer and his brother, Jack, is a doctor).
  • Some of Scout’s classmates, from poor farming families, are much lower down in Maycomb society. The Ewell family is at the bottom and Atticus calls them “trash” because of the way they live and the way Bob Ewell treats his own children and other people.
  • Many people in Maycomb County believe that even white trash are higher on the social scale than honest, hardworking members of the black community such as Tom Robinson, Reverend Sykes and Calpurnia.

Courage and bravery
Bravery is shown in different ways:

  • Atticus is brave in the face of physical danger, for example, when he kills the rabid dog and when he faces the mob of men outside the jail. He is brave to defend Tom Robinson when so many people in Maycomb disapprove of his doing so.
  • Atticus tells Scout to be brave by not fighting with children who criticise her or her family. Atticus thinks that non-violence is the highest form of bravery.
  • The opposite of bravery is cowardice. Bob Ewell is a coward. He tells lies in the courtroom to protect himself. Later he attacks the children to get his revenge on Atticus.


  • Throughout the novel Scout experiences conflicts between education at home and education at school. When she first starts school her teacher, Miss Fisher, punishes her for already having learned to read and write.
  • Although Atticus does not approve of Miss Fisher’s attitude, he also knows that it is important for the children to be with other children and to be part of the system. However, he continues to teach them at home – especially about the importance of non-racism and non-violence.

The law

  • Atticus is a lawyer and much of the novel is about his defence of Tom Robinson both in court and out of court. He believes that all men should be treated equally in a court of law and that progress towards racial equality and social justice can be made through the courts.
  • While Atticus believes strongly in upholding the law, he also understands that sometimes it needs to be ignored. For example, if the sheriff did not allow Bob Ewell to continue to hunt for small animals during the months of the year in which the law stated that hunting was not permitted, his family would starve. The law would require Boo Radley to be put on trial (taken to court) to find out whether or not he killed Bob Ewell in self-defence.
  • Atticus accepts, and so do Heck Tate and Scout, that Boo should not be forced to experience such public attention. Also, Heck Tate feels justice has been served, as Bob Ewell was responsible for Tom Robinson’s death.


  • Empathy means understanding how other people think and feel and why they behave in certain ways.
  • Throughout the novel Atticus encourages his children to “step into other people’s shoes” in order to understand how other people see the world.


  • Revenge is punishing someone for hurting you, physically or emotionally. Revenge is often an act of anger, which leads to more violence rather than solving the problem.
  • In the novel, Bob Ewell takes revenge by attacking Jem and Scout because he wants to hurt Atticus for shaming him in court.

Love and caring

  • In the novel there are many examples of love and caring within families, for example, between Atticus and his children and in the way Jem protects Scout.
  • There are also examples of other people in the community helping each other.

4.5 Symbols
The mockingbird: See 3. Title in this section of the study guide for more information on the symbolism of the mockingbird.

5. Style

This section explains some of the features of the way of writing used in the novel.

5.1 The narrator
The narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout. This is why the novel is written in the first person, using the pronoun “I”.

  • At the start of the novel Scout is six years old and at the end she is eight. Readers “see” the events and the characters in the novel through Scout’s eyes. In some parts of the novel Scout’s point of view is childlike and innocent, but at other times she seems like a wise adult.
  • Scout judges people by what they do and not by who they are in society – rich or poor, black or white. She is much more accepting of people than most of the adults in the town. As narrator, Scout reveals the main ideas of the novel. One of these is the writer’s criticism of a society in which people are judgemental about each other for the wrong reasons.

5.2 Diction and figurative language
Harper Lee uses the local phrases and sayings that would have been used in Alabama in the 1930s to help the readers feel as if they are in a small, southern American town. For example:

  • Scout describes what people were saying about how Tom Robinson died:
    “ ‘Did you hear about? ... No? Well, they say he was runnin’ fit to beat lightnin’...’ ” (Chapter 25)
    Running fast enough to beat lightnin’ means that he was running away faster than lightning flashes through the sky.
  • Atticus talks about Mrs Dubose, and real courage:
    “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” (Chapter 11)
    You’re licked means you are defeated, but not necessarily in a physical fight.
    Harper Lee uses a lot of imagery and figurative language throughout the book. For example:
  • Simile: “Aunt Alexandra fitted into the world of Maycomb like a hand into a glove ...” (Chapter 13)
    Like a hand into a glove means that she found that the people in Maycomb were just like her so she felt as comfortable with them as a hand does in a glove.
  • Metaphor: “‘It do,’ another deep voice said. Its owner was a shadow.” (Chapter 15)
    Its owner was a shadow suggests that it was so dark that Scout could not see the person clearly, he just looked like a dark shadow.
    You will find examples of diction and figurative language in the next section of this guide (To Kill a Mockingbird – chapter by chapter).

5.3 Dialogue
Harper lee uses language in the dialogue that suggests how people from Alabama in the 1930s would really speak. For example:

  • “She likes Jem better’n she likes me, …” - better than
  • “You little folks won’t tell on me now, will you? It’d ruin my reputation if you did.” - will not; It would
  • “Take a good sip, it’ll quieten you.” - it will
  • “I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have made you go read to her.” - had not; I would

The dialogue also uses an order of words to reflect how these people really speak:

  • “There ain’t no need to fear a cootie, ma’am.” - is no; madam.

5.4 Tone and mood

  • The tone changes throughout the novel. Because the events are shown from young Scout’s eyes, the tone is often fun, amusing, childish and innocent.
  • During the climaxes of the novel, the tone becomes excited, angry, shocked and sad. This is sometimes expressed through dialogue, like in this example when Calpurnia is angry with Scout for being rude to Walter Cunningham: “Hush your mouth. Don’t matter who they are ... don’t you let me catch you remarking on their ways like you was so high and mighty! …”

Mood is the feeling a reader has when reading the novel, such as happiness, sadness, anger or indifference. How did To Kill a Mockingbird make you feel?




This part of the study guide is divided into sections. Each section covers a group of chapters.
This section of the study guide contains:

  • A summary of what happens and who is involved – the main events and characters in the chapter
  • The main themes and symbols, and some examples of language use in the chapter
  • Activities with exam-type questions for you to test yourself, and answers to these activities.

Chapter summaries

The table below gives a brief summary of what happens in each chapter in the novel, with a timeline so you can see what happens when.
Use this table to find out which section of the study guide to turn to when revising particular parts of the story.


Year and time of year

What happens


Part One

Chapters 1 to 3 The Finch family, Maycomb, and Boo Radley



Early summer

To start the story Scout refers to something that happens to Jem at the end of the story. She describes the Finch family (past and present generations) and Calpurnia. She describes the town of Maycomb. Scout and Jem meet Dill, who has come to stay with his aunt, Miss Rachel. The three children try to get Boo Radley to come out of his house.



Scout starts school. She gets into trouble with Miss Caroline Fisher (the teacher) because she can already read. There are middle-class town children and poor children from the farms (such as Walter Cunningham) in her class.



Miss Caroline doesn’t understand the backgrounds of some of the children – especially the Ewells.


Test yourself: Chapters 1, 2 and 3

Chapters 4 to 8 Scout, Jem and Dill are curious about Boo Radley



Late spring/ early summer

Scout and Jem find small presents in a hole in the base of a tree. Dill returns to Maycomb.


Late spring/ early summer

Atticus Finch catches Jem, Scout and Dill trying to give a note to Boo.


Late summer

Jem, Dill and Scout spy on Boo at night. Jem loses his trousers when he tries to get away through a fence.


October/ November

Nathan Radley fills the hole in the tree with cement.



There is snow in Maycomb and Jem builds a snowman. At night, while the children watch a fire that destroys Miss Maudie’s house, ‘someone’ brings Scout a blanket to keep her warm.


Test yourself: Chapters 4–8

Chapters 9 to 11 More about Atticus. Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson in court




Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, who has been accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. When the family celebrates Christmas at Finch’s Landing, cousin Francis insults Atticus. Scout fights Francis because of what he says about her father.




Atticus shoots a mad dog (the dog has a disease called rabies).



Jem is in trouble with Atticus for damaging Mrs Dubose’s garden. He must read to her as punishment. Mrs Dubose overcomes her addiction to morphine but soon afterwards she dies.


Test yourself: Chapters 9–11


Year and time of year

What happens


Part Two

Chapters 12 to 15 Background information for understanding Tom Robinson’s trial




Jem and Scout go to Calpurnia’s church. Aunt Alexandra arrives to ‘look after’ the children.



Aunt Alexandra entertains the ladies of Maycomb and we learn more about the town’s history. Jem and Scout are not pleased about the way Aunt Alexandra expects them to behave.



Dill returns to Maycomb.



Atticus “guards” Tom Robinson the night before his trial starts. A mob of men tries to break into the jail to kill Tom. Scout calms things down by talking to Mr Cunningham and the mob leaves.


Test yourself: Chapters 12–15

Chapters 16 to 21 The trial of Tom Robinson




In the court house the trial begins. Scout and Jem watch from the balcony with the black community.



Sheriff Heck Tate and Bob Ewell give their evidence.



Both lawyers question Mayella Ewell.



Both lawyers question Tom Robinson. Dill is upset by the way Mr Gilmer questions Tom. Scout takes him out of the court house and they meet Mr Dolphus Raymond.



Outside the court house Scout and Dill talk to Mr Raymond. Inside Atticus sums up the case for the defence. Jem thinks Tom will be set free. Calpurnia comes to the court house in search of the children.



Calpurnia takes the children home for supper but they are allowed to return to hear the verdict. The jury finds Tom guilty even though he is innocent.


Test yourself: Chapters 16–21

Chapters 22 to 25 Consequences of the verdict in Tom Robinson’s trial




Jem is very upset about the verdict. Members of the black community bring gifts of food to Atticus to thank him for doing his best to defend Tom. Bob Ewell threatens to harm Atticus because Atticus made him look bad during the court case.


Year and time of year

What happens



Atticus seems unconcerned about Bob Ewell’s threats. Scout and Jem discuss all the different kinds of “folks” in Maycomb.



The missionary circle meets in the Finch home and Scout has to wear a dress and talk to the women at the meeting. The town hears the news of Tom’s death. He was shot while he was trying to escape over the wall of the prison.



Atticus and Calpurnia tell Tom’s wife (Helen) about Tom’s death. Mr Underwood writes a newspaper editorial criticising the people of Maycomb for being the cause of Tom’s death


Test yourself: Chapters 22–25

Chapters 26 to 28 Scout’s new teacher. A break-in at Judge Taylor’s house. Scout and Jem are attacked.




School starts. Scout’s new teacher, Miss Gates, criticises Hitler and the German government for persecuting Jewish people. She says Germany is a dictatorship and America is a democracy where people are not persecuted.



Bob Ewell tries to get his revenge on Judge Taylor (who was the judge in Tom’s court case) and on Helen Robinson. The town prepares for the Halloween pageant.



Scout takes part in the Halloween pageant. She wears a costume that makes her look like a ham. When she and Jem are walking home afterwards they are attacked. “Someone” saves them, although Jem is injured. Bob Ewell’s body is later found at the scene of the attack.


Test yourself: Chapters 26–28

Chapters 29 to 31 Boo Radley saves Scout and Jem. Scout learns to think about other people’s situations.




Boo Radley comes to the Finch home with the injured Jem and frightened Scout. Jem and Scout learn that Boo saved them.



Atticus thinks that Jem stabbed Bob Ewell. Sheriff Tate claims that Bob fell on his own knife.



Scout takes Boo home and looks at the town from Boo’s point of view.


Test yourself: Chapters 29–31

Chapters 1-3

  • The Finch family
  • Maycomb
  • Boo Radley

1. Structure and plot development

The main characters and setting for the novel are introduced:

  • The Finch family (its history)
  • Some of the main characters in the story, for example, Scout, Jem, Atticus and Calpurnia
  • The town of Maycomb and the people who live in it and in the district surrounding it
  • Scout’s first experiences of school

Rising action
The plot begins to develop, as Scout, Jem and Dill’s interest in the Radley house and in Boo Radley is described.
The children are fascinated by Boo Radley because of the rumours they have heard about him and what people say happened in the Radley house. The children’s description of these things builds up the excitement in the story.

2. Themes


  • Scout begins to experience a conflict between education at home and education at school. Miss Fisher punishes her for already being able to read and write. (Chapter 2)
  • Atticus teaches his children values like caring and respect for all when Walter comes home for lunch. (Chapter 3)


  • Scout shows empathy for Walter. She understands why he has no lunch and also why he will not accept money from Miss Fisher. (Chapter 2)
  • Atticus teaches Scout about empathy when he says you cannot really understand another person “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. (Chapter 3)

Love and caring

  • Although times were hard during the Depression, people helped each other to survive. For example, Atticus did not charge money for the help he gave to Mr Cunningham and Mr Cunningham paid him back in other ways. Dr Reynolds, the town doctor treats people, even if they cannot pay him. (Chapter 2)

3. Tone

The description of the town of Maycomb helps the reader to imagine the setting of the novel. The tone is sad and critical: “Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the street turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the court-house sagged in the square.”(Chapter 1)

4. Chapter by chapter

4.1 What happens in Chapter 1 and who is involved?

  • The novel begins with Scout saying that her brother, Jem, broke his arm when he was 13. Scout seems to be a strong-willed, confident person who can make up her own mind.
  • She and Jem argue about the cause of his accident:
    • Scout believes it was the fault of the Ewells.
    • Jem disagrees – he says it started when they met Dill.
    • Jem mentions Boo Radley needing encouragement to come out of his house.
  • Scout tells us about her and Jem’s ancestor, Simon Finch, and how he and the Finches after him had come to live in Maycomb at Finch’s Landing. Simon became a wealthy landowner and, against the teachings of his faith, bought several slaves.
  • The children’s mother died when Scout was very young and the family is looked after by Calpurnia, a very capable black woman. She is strict with the children and Scout feels she is stricter with her than she is with Jem. Atticus always takes Calpurnia’s side.
  • Scout mentions some of the people who live in her street and tells us about the mysterious Radley house, and the mysterious “Boo” who lives there but never leaves the house.
  • Dill wants to see what Boo looks like and decides that the children’s mission is to “make him come out”.

The mystery of Boo

  • As a teenager, Boo Radley had got into trouble and been arrested. His father persuaded the judge to let him go if he promised to keep Boo at home and not let him leave the house.
  • There was a lot of gossip about Boo in the town. Miss Stephanie Crawford even claimed that Boo had attacked his father with a pair of scissors.
  • Everybody in the town believed Boo was responsible for any mischief or unexplained events in Maycomb. For example:
    • “When people’s azaleas [flowers] froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them.” (Chapter 1)
    • “from the Radley chicken-yard tall pecan [nut] trees shook their fruit into the school yard, but the nuts lay untouched by the children: Radley pecans would kill you.” (Chapter 1)
    • “he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were blood-stained – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off.” (Chapter 1)
    • The black people in the town feared the Radley house and would not walk past it at night but would cross the road. 

Activity 1

Read the extract and then answer the questions below.

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out. 
  1. a) In what way does this extract manage to interest the reader in the rest of the events in the novel? (3)
    b) Quote ONE word to prove that the narrator is persistent and strong-willed. (1)
    c) When you read the words, “the Ewells started it all”, what is your expectation of the kind of people the Ewells are? Give two reasons for your answer. (2)
  2. What is Finch’s Landing? (1)
  3. State whether this statement is TRUE or FALSE and give a reason for your answer: ‘Atticus Finch and his family had lived in Maycomb for only a short time.’ (2)
  4. In your own words, describe Calpurnia, the woman who has looked after Scout and Jem since their mother died. (2)
  5. Scout and Jem’s new friend, Dill, is very curious about the Radley’s house and about Boo Radley.
    a) Explain why Boo’s father shut Boo up in the house when he was a teenager. (3)
    b) Dill dares Jem to run to the Radley’s house and touch the wall. When Jem does this, what do the children notice? (1)
  6. State whether this statement is TRUE or FALSE and give a reason for your answer:
    Miss Fisher has a good understanding of the family backgrounds of all the children in her class. (2) [17]

Answers to Activity 1

    1. The extract interests the reader in the rest of the novel by hinting that the Ewells might have caused Jem to break his arm, leading the reader to want to find out what happened.✓ The strange name of “Boo” makes the reader want to find out more about him. ✓ Like the children, the reader would like to know what this terrifying person called “Boo” looks like. ✓
    2. “maintained” ✓
    3. I would expect them to be bad/dangerous ✓ people because whatever they had done had led to Jem breaking his arm. ✓
  2. Finch’s Landing is the name of the place where the ancestors of Atticus Finch settled when they came to America from England. ✓
  3. False. The novel states that Atticus was “born and bred in Maycomb”. The Finch family is related to many of the people who live in Maycomb. ✓✓
  4. Calpurnia is strict with the children and expects them to behave well. ✓ She works hard for the family and looks after them very well. ✓
    1. When Boo was a teenager he and some other boys took a car for a ride around the town and when the beadle tried to arrest them the boys locked him up.✓ When they appeared in court the judge decided they should be sent to a state industrial school but Mr Radley felt this would disgrace his family.✓ He promised the judge he would see to it that Boo caused no further trouble. He did this by making sure that his son never left the house. ✓
    2. The children notice that a shutter on one of the windows in the Radley’s house had moved very slightly, showing them that Boo had seen them. ✓
  6. False. Miss Fisher does not understand that some children (for example Walter Cunningham) are too poor to have money for lunch. ✓✓
    Miss Fisher does not understand that some children (for example, Burris Ewell) do not come to school regularly because they are too poor or because their families do not care whether they attend or not. ✓✓

4.2 What happens in Chapter 2 and who is involved?

  • Scout starts school – Miss Caroline Fisher is her first teacher.
  • Scout is different from the other children because she can already read fluently – instead of congratulating her, Miss Fisher scolds her.
  • Scout finds the lessons boring and starts writing a letter to Dill. She is scolded again by Miss Fisher, this time for being able to write.
  • Miss Fisher is sure that Atticus taught Scout to read but Scout says he did not. Scout does not know how she learnt to read. She can’t remember a time when she couldn’t read.
  • We learn about the Cunninghams for the first time when Scout innocently tells Miss Crawford why Walter Cunningham has not brought lunch to school. They are very poor and cannot afford proper meals.
  • Scout asks Atticus whether her family is poor and Atticus explains that they are – just like the rest of the townspeople. However they are better off than the farmers, who are hardest hit by the Depression.
  • Dr Reynolds, the town doctor, is introduced as a good-hearted person who treats people, even if they cannot pay him.

Activity 2

Test yourself by answering the questions below.

  1. Does Scout enjoy her first day at school? Give two reasons for your answer. (2)
  2. How had Scout learned to read and write? (2)
  3. Is the following statement TRUE or FALSE? Give a reason for your answer.
    The Depression made families in Maycomb richer. (2)
  4. Explain what theme is introduced in Chapter 2 by Miss Fisher’s punishment of Scout for having learned to read and write at home.(2)  [8]

Answers to Activity 2

  1. No, Scout does not enjoy her first day at school. The teacher is angry with her for being able to read and write.✓ The teacher also punishes Scout for telling the class that the Cunninghams are poor but honest. ✓
  2. She learned to write when Calpurnia made her copy extracts from the Bible. ✓ Atticus read the newspaper aloud to her while she sat on his lap. ✓
  3. False. The Depression made people poorer so they not afford to pay for services in cash. ✓ People like lawyers and doctors had to wait before they could be paid. ✓
  4. The theme introduced is education. ✓ There is a conflict between the school’s attitude to education and education at home. ✓ 

4.3 What happens in Chapter 3 and who is involved?

  • Scout is so angry that Walter Cunningham was the reason the teacher punished her on her first day at school that she rubs his nose in the dirt during break.
  • Jem tells Scout to stop since she is bigger than Walter. Jem invites Walter to lunch.
  • Atticus welcomes Walter. We learn that the Cunninghams are poor and Walter does not go to school regularly because he has to help on the farm.
  • Both Atticus and Calpurnia treat Walter courteously. They scold Scout when she innocently comments on Walter’s eating habits when he pours molasses (syrup) over his meat and vegetables.
  • Scout thinks that Calpurnia is treating her unfairly, but Atticus takes Calpurnia’s side. He explains to Scout that Calpurnia is not being meaner to her than she is to Jem. He says that Calpurnia is a fair and good person who looks after the family well.
  • Back at school the teacher is upset by the lice in Burris Ewell’s hair. The children are quite used to it. We get a hint of the kind of people the Ewells are: Burris is not only the “filthiest human” Scout had ever seen, he also swears at the teacher and waits “until he was sure she was crying” before he leaves the classroom
  • After school, Atticus gives Scout another lesson in how to get on with different types of people. He says that you cannot really understand another person “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.
  • Both the Ewells and the Cunninghams are poor and are looked down upon by other white people in Maycomb. However, the difference between them is that the Cunninghams all work hard and the Ewells do nothing to improve their situation.

Activity 3

Test yourself by answering the questions below.

  1. Describe three things that upset Miss Caroline Fisher on her first day of teaching in Maycomb. (3)
  2. Explain why Calpurnia ordered Scout into the kitchen during lunch.(1)
  3. Why do you think Atticus agreed with Calpurnia that Scout behaved badly? (1)
  4. Explain what you think Atticus means in the quotation below. Atticus says to Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – … – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (2)
  5. How, according to Atticus, do the Ewells get away with breaking the law? (1)
  6. How does Atticus persuade Scout to go back to school when she really does not want to? (1)  [9]

Answers to Activity 3

  1. Scout knows how to read and write. ✓ She is frightened by the “cootie” (louse) the falls out of Burris Ewell’s hair. ✓
    Burris yells at her when he leaves the classroom. ✓
  2. Calpurnia ordered Scout into the kitchen to stop her from saying anything more to embarrass Walter. ✓
  3. Atticus agreed with Calpurnia that Scout behaved badly because he believes everybody should be treated with respect. ✓
  4. Atticus means that, to understand another person, you have to know what their life is like and see their point of view. ✓ Only if you are in similar circumstances (“in their skins”) can you begin to understand them. ✓
  5. People know that nothing will make the Ewells change so they try to ignore the things they do, like not going to school or hunting out of season. ✓
  6. Atticus suggests a compromise. She will go to school and he will allow her to read with him at home every night. ✓ 

Definitions of words from Chapter 1:

ambled (verb; past tense):

walked at a slow, leisurely pace

apothecary (noun):

an early type of pharmacist (person who prepares medicines at a chemist’s shop or pharmacy)

apparel (noun):


assuaged (verb, past tense):

made less or made calmer. Therefore, if Jem’s fears about being able to play football were assuaged, it means that he no longer feared that he wouldn’t be able to play the sport.


(noun) a flowering bush

beadle (noun):

a minor official, lower in rank than a policeman, whose main duties revolved around preserving order at functions such as trials and town hall meetings

brethren (noun):

in this case, members of a particular church or sect

corsets (noun):

a corset is an undergarment designed to produce a particular effect on the figure That effect usually results in a slim (or slimmer) waist and, for a woman, a larger bust and hips.

courteous detachment

(adjective + noun):

polite lack of emotion This suggests that Atticus respected his children but did not behave in an emotional way with them.

dictum (noun):

in this case, a formal statement of principle

domiciled (verb, past tense):

A domicile is a house or a place where a person lives. If you are domiciled somewhere, that is where you live. The Finch family lived in the northern part of the county (district).

eaves (noun):

the lower edges of a roof which stick out beyond the walls

foray (noun):

When you make a foray, you go somewhere or do something that is unusual or not normal for you. It was certainly not Jem’s usual behaviour to go near the Radley house; thus, doing so was a foray for him.

hollering (verb):


human chattels


a chattel is a moveable possession; Human chattels are people who are owned by the person who bought them; they are slaves

impotent (adjective):

powerless; Simon’s fury and anger regarding the Civil War was impotent because there was nothing he could have done about it.

imprudent (adjective):


malevolent (adjective):

evil; wanting to cause harm

meditatively (adverb):

thinking seriously

Methodists (noun):

members of a Protestant Christian denomination which believes in living and worshipping in ways that are not extravagant (i.e. not expensive or grand)

mild concession

(adjective + noun):

giving in, in a small way, to what someone else wants

nebulous (adjective):

unclear, indistinct, vague

phantom (noun):


picket (noun):

a pointed or sharpened pole or stake. Many pickets held together can make a picket fence.

piety (noun):

devotion to religious duties and practices


Definitions of words from Chapter 1:

predilection (noun):

a predilection is a preference, or a preferred way of doing something; The Radley’s preferred way of spending a Sunday afternoon was to keep the doors closed and not receive visitors.

punt (verb):

kick a ball (particularly an American football or a rugby ball)

puny (adjective):

undersized, small or weak

ramrod (adjective):

rigid, severe, straight

read law (verb + noun):

to study for a law degree; a qualified lawyer can then be admitted to the bar which means being permitted to practice as a lawyer

repertoire was vapid: (noun + adjective):

a repertoire is all the special skills a person has; vapid, in this case, means boring or uninteresting. When Scout says that their repertoire was vapid, she means that the games they had made up had become uninteresting over time.

scold (noun):

A scold is a person who scolds; that is, someone who often finds fault with people or things or criticises

seldom (adverb):

not often



worried about what other people think about you

shingles (noun):

a kind of roof tile

sneered (verb, past tense):

looked at or spoke in an unkind way

spittoon (noun):

a container to spit into; usually used to spit tobacco juice into.

strictures (noun):

conditions or rules

stinginess (noun):


taciturn (adjective):

speaking very little. Apparently, Aunt Alexandra’s husband was a very quiet man.

tyrannical (adjective):

the cruel behaviour of a tyrant (although Calpurnia was not cruel: she just expected the children to behave well)

unsullied (adjective):

untouched, unused, in perfect condition. The fact that Atticus’s edition of the Code of Alabama is unsullied suggests that he seldom consults this book.

veranda (noun):

a porch or open area with a floor and a roof that is attached to a house

wilted (verb, past tense):

lost stiffness, became floppy

Andrew Jackson:

an American General who became the seventh President of the United States (1829-1837)

Battle of Hastings:

In this battle, in 1066, the Normans (French) defeated the English and then ruled England.

collard patch:

piece of ground in which a green vegetable like a cabbage is grown


a region in the southwest corner of England

disturbance between the North and the South:

This is a reference to the American Civil War (1861-1865) fought between the northern states where most people wished slavery to be abolished and the southern states where most people wished slavery to continue.


the 1931 film version of the famous vampire story.


another name for a Model-T Ford, an early brand of inexpensive motor car

Hoover carts:

car bodies that were pulled by horses or mules


an island country in the West Indies, south of Cuba.

John Wesley (1702-1791):

Founder of the Methodist Church.

Meridian, Mississippi:

Meridian is a city in the American state of Mississippi.


The name of the magician who was an adviser to King Arthur in the stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.


a city in southwest Alabama.

no money to buy it with:

this is a reference to the effects of the Great Depression.

nothing to fear but fear itself:

the American president Franklin D Roosevelt included these words in the speech he made when he became president.


a city in the state of Florida.


a city in the state of Pennsylvania.

run the Creeks up the creek:

The Creeks were native American people who lived in the area that became the state of Alabama. To be ‘up the creek’ means to be in a difficult or awkward position that is very hard to get out of. General Jackson and his soldiers had chased the Creek people away from their lands, making it easy for Simon Finch to settle in their territory.

stumphole whiskey:

illegally made and sold whiskey that would be hidden in holes in tree stumps

trot lines:

fishing lines


a city in the state of Alabama.


Definitions of words from Chapter 2:

auburn (adjective):

reddish-brown in colour

catawba worms


these are caterpillars that are highly prized by fishermen in the southern United States.

condescended (verb, past tense):

To condescend is to agree to do something even though you think you are too important or in too high a position to do it. Jem condescends to take Scout to school, even though, as a fifth-grader, he feels superior to his first-grade sister.

covey (noun):

a group

crimson (adjective):

deep-red in colour

cunning (adjective):

Usually this word means clever, especially in a dishonest or unfair way but in this case, cunning means cute - perhaps too cute

entailment (noun):

a legal situation regarding the use of inherited property. See Study Guide for further explanation.

grudge (noun):

an unfriendly feeling towards someone because of what they did in the past

hog (noun):

pig (American English)

hookworms (noun):

a type of parasite; Hookworms usually enter the body through bare feet and move through the body to the small intestines where they attach themselves with a series of hooks around their mouths.

immune (adjective):

In this case, to be immune to something means that it has no effect on you. The story Miss Caroline reads to the class has no effect on them; they don’t understand it.

indigenous (adjective):

belonging to / originating in a particular region or country

recess (noun):

break between classes (e.g. lunch break)

scrip stamps (noun):

paper money of small denominations (less than US $1.00) issued for temporary emergency use; During the Great Depression, the government gave out scrip stamps, or sometimes tokens, to needy people.

seceded (verb, past tense):

To secede is to break away. During the American Civil War, Alabama was one of the states that broke away, or seceded from the United States of America.

sentimentality (noun):

a show of feelings that is stronger than it should be

smilax (noun):

a bright green plant, often used for decorating houses

sojourn (noun):

a visit

subsequent mortification (adjective + noun):

Something that is subsequent will follow closely after something else. Mortification is a feeling of shame or the loss of self-respect. If Scout had been able to explain things to Miss Caroline, she could have prevented her teacher from losing self-respect or feeling shameful later on.

uninitiated (adjective):

not aware of or not understanding something new

vexations (noun):

To vex is to annoy, so a vexation is something that causes annoyance or problems.

wallowing illicitly (verb, continuous tense + adverb):

In this case, to wallow is to greatly enjoy something. Illicit, used like this, means illegal or unauthorized or improper. After listening to Miss Caroline, Scout feels that, by reading, she has been happily doing something which she should not have been doing.


a reference to a book called Bullfinch’s Mythology which is a well-known collection of Greek myths. While Jem is teasing Scout, his reference to Bullfinch’s Mythology is another indication that Scout reads a great deal.

Dewey Decimal System:

A system for organizing books in libraries devised by Melvil Dewey. Contrary to what Jem tells Scout, this Dewey has nothing to do with John Dewey, a famous American educator.

diaries of Lorenzo Dow:

Lorenzo Dow (1777 - 1834) was a Methodist preacher who travelled throughout the country, including the state of Alabama.

a quarter:

a coin worth 25 cents

the crash:

the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression. See information in the Study Guide.

The Mobile Register:

the name of a newspaper. Scout is able to read the information in it about the stock market

union suit:

a one-piece underwear garment with a buttoned flap in the back


one of the two sides in the Civil War (the North)


Definitions of words from Chapter 3:

amiable (adjective):


compromise (noun):

an agreement where each person agrees to give up something



To be contemptuous is to have the feeling that someone or something is beneath you; that it or they are worthless. The Ewell boy seems to feel this way about his teacher, Miss Caroline.



In the chapter it means always ready to argue or fight

cootie (noun):

a slang term for a head louse. A louse (plural: lice) is a bloodsucking parasite.

crackling bread (noun):

a type of mealie bread mixed with cracklings (bits of fried pork skin)

diminutive (adjective):

very small

disapprobation (noun):


discernible (adjective):

noticeable or understandable

dispensation (noun):

a release from an obligation or promise.

dose (of) Magnesia

(noun + noun):

A dose is an exact amount of medicine. Magnesia is a type of medicine.

eddy (noun):

a current of water that moves against the main current; a whirlpool

erratic (adjective):

irregular; Calpurnia usually uses good grammar, but when she is angry, her grammar is irregular (i.e. sometimes correct and sometimes incorrect).

flinty (adjective):

Flint is a very hard rock. Something that is flinty is extremely hard and firm.

fractious (adjective):

mean or cross

gravely (adverb):


haint (noun):

a ghost or spook; someone or something very scary

irked (verb):

to be irked is to be annoyed. Scout is annoyed when Jem tells Walter that she won’t fight with him (Walter) anymore.

kerosene (noun):


lye soap (noun):

Lye is a very strong alkaline substance used for cleaning. Lye soap is very strong, harsh soap that contains lye.



Mono means ‘one’. A syllable is word or a part of a word which can be pronounced with a single, uninterrupted sound. The name ‘Atticus’, for example, is made up of three syllables: at + ti + cus. Thus, monosyllabic literally means ‘one sound’. Scout’s monosyllabic replies to Atticus’s questions about her first day at school might have been made up of one- sound words like ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

mutual concessions

(adjective + noun):

A concession is an agreement; something that is mutual is done by two or more people. Thus, a mutual concession occurs when two or more people agree on something.

onslaught (noun):

a violent attack

pecans (noun):

a pecan is a type of nut that is good to eat

persevere (verb):

to carry on in spite of difficulties



very unusual

tranquillity (noun):

peacefulness; calmness

what the sam hill:

an American slang expression meaning what the devil or what the hell

Chapters 4-8

  • Scout, Jem and Dill are curious about Boo Radley 

1. Structure and plot development

Rising action
The children become more and more daring in their efforts to get Boo to come out of his house. They put themselves in danger when they try to peep into the window at night.

2. Themes


  • Scout continues to dislike the style of learning enforced at her school.

Love and caring

  • Although Jem sometimes gets annoyed by his little sister, he still cares about her safety.

3. Tone

There is a sense of excitement among the children as they plan ways to find out more about Boo.

4. What happens in Chapters 4 to 8 and who is involved?

  • Chapters 4 to 8 show that Scout, Jem and Dill are mischievous and curious children. Although some of the things they do may seem hurtful, that is not their intention.
  • These chapters also show that Boo Radley is not really evil or scary. He is kind and thoughtful.
  • Scout keeps going to school but she does not like it any more than she did on the first day. (Chapter 4)
  • On the way back from school one day Scout notices that something is sticking out of a knothole in the trunk of one of the oak trees outside the Radley’s “lot” (garden). She finds two pieces of chewing gum. (Chapter 4)
  • Jem gets upset that she has eaten something she has found without knowing where it came from. (Chapter 4)
  • Later Scout and Jem find other things hidden in the knot-hole. (Chapter 4)
  • Dill comes back to Maycomb and the children play games about Boo Radley. (Chapter 4)
  • Miss Maudie tells Scout Boo’s real name. (Chapter 5)
  • On Dill’s last night in Maycomb the children have a scary adventure. (Chapter 6)
  • Scout goes into second grade. (Chapter 7)
  • It snows in Maycomb for the first time in Scout’s life. (Chapter 8)
  • Miss Maudie’s house burns down, because she had kept a fire going for her potted plants. (Chapter 8)

Activity 4

Test yourself by answering the questions below.

  1. On different occasions the children find something that has been left in the knothole in a tree at the edge of the Radley’s yard. Name five things that they find. (5)
  2. Atticus is very cross with the children for doing two things which have to do with Boo Radley. What are these two things? (2)
  3. On Dill’s last night in Maycomb before returning to his mother, what do the children decide to do? (1)
  4. What happens to Jem’s pants (trousers) that night? (2)
  5. What does Mr Nathan Radley do to the tree with the knothole? (1)
  6. Say whether this statement is TRUE or FALSE and give a reason for your answer:
    ‘Snow is very unusual in Maycomb.’ (2)
  7. What do Jem and Scout do with some of the snow? (1)
  8. What happens at Miss Maudie’s house on the night after the snowfall? (1)
  9. What kind thing does ‘someone’ do for Scout on that night? (1)   [16]

Answers to Activity 4

  1. On different occasions the children find chewing gum,✓
    two old pennies, ✓ a medal (for success in a spelling competition), ✓ an old pocket watch ✓ and wood carvings of a boy and a girl that look like Jem and Scout. ✓
  2. Jem, Scout and Dill act out plays in which they pretend to be members of the Radley family. ✓ They also write a note to Boo asking him to come out. They try to push the note through the letterbox of his house. ✓
  3. They decide to go into the yard of the Radley’s house and look through the windows to see if they can see Boo. ✓
  4. Jem’s pants get caught on a wire fence and he leaves them
    behind when they run away from the Radley’s house. ✓ Later, when he goes back to get them, he finds that they have been mended and folded neatly on the fence. ✓
  5. Mr Nathan Radley fills in the knothole with cement. ✓
  6. True. It is usually too warm in Maycomb for snow to fall. ✓ The children had never seen snow before. ✓
  7. Jem and Scout make a snowman who looks like Mr Avery. ✓
  8. Miss Maudie’s house catches fire and burns down. ✓
  9. Someone puts a blanket round Scout’s shoulders while she waits in the cold watching the fire. Later, they realise that this kind person was Boo Radley. ✓ 


Definitions of words from Chapter 4:

arbitrated (verb, past tense):

made a ruling

auspicious (adjective):

favourable; suggesting success in the future

hollered (verb, past tense):


melancholy (adjective):

sad and gloomy

quelling (of) nausea: (verb, continuous tense

+ noun):

To quell something is to quieten it or calm it down. Nausea is the feeling you get when your stomach is upset and you feel as if you’re about to vomit. Scout is trying to quell her nausea, or make her stomach settle down.

scuppernongs (noun):

sweet table grapes, grown chiefly in the southern United States

suffocating (adjective):

having difficulty in breathing



able to be seen through. Scout means that it is easy to work out what Jem is thinking.

unanimous (adjective):

when everyone is in agreement


Before the head of American president Abraham Lincoln was placed on a US one cent coin (a penny) pennies had the head of a native American (an American Indian) on them.

One Man’s Family:

a radio serial (like a soap opera) which began in 1932 and proved to be enormously popular for almost 30 years. By acting out their version of the Radley story the children are making up their own version of the drama.


Definitions of words from Chapter 5:

asinine (adjective):

stupid; silly

benevolence (noun):

generous behaviour

benign (adjective):

kind and gentle

bridgework (noun):

Unlike dentures (false teeth), which replace the upper or lower sets of teeth, bridgework is made up of sections of replacement teeth that can be inserted and removed from one’s mouth.

chameleon (adjective):

In nature, chameleons are small lizards that have the unusual ability to change the colour of their skin in order to blend into their surroundings. By calling Miss Maudie a chameleon lady, Scout points out that her neighbour’s appearance was as changeable as one of these lizards: when she worked

in her garden she wore an old hat and men’s overalls but in the evening she

dressed up.

cordiality (noun):

sincere affection and kindness

edification (noun):

education; instruction

gaped (verb, past tense):

To gape at someone is to stare at that person with your mouth open.

inquisitive (adjective):

curious; questioning; interested in everything

mimosa (noun):

a flowering shrub or tree

morbid (adjective):

having a strong interest in unpleasant subjects, especially death; gruesome

nagging (noun):

the action of asking, over and over again in an annoying way, that someone should do something

placidly (adverb):

calmly; quietly

Protestant (adjective):

Protestant is the name given to Christian churches other than the Roman Catholic church. Protestant churches mentioned in the novel include the Baptist and the Methodist churches.

pulpit Gospel

(adjective + noun):

A pulpit is the raised platform or lectern from which a preacher speaks in church. The Gospel refers to the teachings of Jesus Christ, specifically the first four books of the New Testament. Scout says that her faith in what she’s heard about the teachings of Christ from the pulpit (preacher) in her own church has been shaken a bit.

quibbling (verb, continuous tense):

a way of arguing in which the speaker brings up small and unimportant details

tacit (adjective):

a word used to describe an agreement, or, in this case, a ‘treaty’ that has been made without anything being said. The children know that they can play on Miss Maudie’s front lawn even though she had never directly told them that it was all right to do so.

tormenting (verb, continuous tense):

being deliberately cruel to someone

Old Testament pestilence:

Pestilence refers to a condition or disease that causes great damage or death. One example of pestilence in the Old Testament of the Bible is a plague of locusts.

Second Battle of the Marne:

a battle in World War I (1914-1918).


Definitions of words from Chapter 6:

collards (noun):

a type of cabbage with very coarse leaves. It would be difficult to walk quietly through a patch of collards.

commotion (noun):

sudden noise or activity


To dismember someone is to tear or cut that person’s limbs (arms and legs) off. Although it is unlikely that anyone would have actually pulled off Dill’s arms and legs, Harper Lee uses the word to point out how outraged Miss Rachel must have been to discover that the children had been playing strip poker.

eerily (adverb):

strangely; mysteriously

ensuing (adjective):

Something that ensues is something that comes immediately after something else.

Franklin stove (noun):

a cast iron heating stove, invented by Benjamin Franklin

hovering (verb, continuous tense):

staying in one place in the air

kudzu (noun):

a quick-growing vine with large leaves, often found in the southern United States



a structure of crossed strips or bars, as in a screen; Light that passes through any kind of a lattice -work would produce lattice-work shadows.

malignant (adjective):

very bad; dangerous; evil

prowess (noun):

great ability or skill

ramshackle (adjective):

loose or rickety; about to fall apart

respiration (noun):


rigid (adjective):

very stiff

waning (adjective):

becoming less bright, intense, or strong; The moonlight is waning because it’s getting closer to morning, and the moon is changing its position in the sky.


Definitions of words from Chapter 7:

cleaved (verb, past tense):

stuck to

gnats (noun):

small, winged insects that can bite or sting. [Pronounced: NAT]

hoodooing (noun):

actions that cause bad luck; performing a kind of witchcraft

meditative (adjective):

To meditate is to reflect upon something, or think about it. When Jem gives the patch on the tree a meditative pat, he touches it in a thoughtful way.

miniatures (noun):

very small copies of something bigger

palate (noun):

the roof of one’s mouth

perpetual embalming

(adjective + noun):

Something that is perpetual lasts forever. Embalming is the process of preserving a dead body. The Egyptians invented a type of paper (not toilet paper), as well as embalming which, by its very nature, is perpetual and that is why Atticus said that Jem did not need to use the word ‘perpetual’.

rendered (her) speechless: (verb, past tense + noun):

made her unable to speak

vigil (noun):

a period of time during which a person or group of people stay(s) quietly for a period of time. Jem is waiting and watching for Mr Nathan to appear.

whittles (verb, present tense):

To whittle is to use a knife to cut away thin shavings of wood, sometimes to make an object.

Egyptians walked that way:

Jem’s idea about how Egyptians would have walked is probably based on pictures of Egyptian art in which people’s arms and legs were painted facing sideways.


Definitions of words from Chapter 8:

aberrations (noun):

An aberration is something that is completely different from what usually happens. The fact that winter comes so quickly in Maycomb is very unusual and is thus an aberration.

cannas (noun):

brightly coloured flowering plants

caricatures (noun):

drawings or descriptions of a person that change some of their features to make them look silly or strange

cordial (adjective):

warm and friendly

flue (noun):

a channel in a chimney that allows smoke and flames to pass to the outside



anything to do with meteorology or weather

morphodite (noun):

Scout has misheard Miss Maudie, who would actually have said the word hermaphrodite. Technically, a hermaphrodite is an animal or plant that has both female and male reproductive organs. Of course, the children’s snowman is not really a hermaphrodite, but it does have both male and female characteristics.

near libel (adjective + noun):

When you commit libel, you harm someone’s reputation. Atticus tells the children that they have committed a near libel. Their snowman is almost libellous because it so closely represents one of their neighbours and could harm that neighbour’s reputation.

perpetrated (verb, past tense):

carried out; committed

plaited (verb, past tense):


procured (verb, past tense):

got; obtained

prophets (noun):

Prophets are people who are able to predict the future.

quelled (verb, past tense):

To quell is to stop something. The tin roof of Miss Maudie’s house quelled the flames because tin cannot burn and so the fire eventually stopped.

roomers (noun):

people who rent and live in rooms in a house; boarders or tenants

switches (noun):

slender twigs or branches

taffeta (noun):

a shiny, stiff fabric sometimes used for women’s dresses, especially formal wear

torso (noun):

the main part of a body, excluding the head, legs and arms

touchous (adjective):

touchy; very sensitive

treble (adjective):

high sound or note


a place in the state of Virginia; On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert

E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulisses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House, ending the American Civil War.


Miss Maudie is referring to Walter and Bessie Bellingrath who, in 1932, opened their large, beautiful gardens to the public.

Lane cake:

a rich white cake.

Rosetta Stone:

This was discovered in Egypt in 1799. It is a large piece of rock on which there is writing in three languages which gave historians many clues to the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs (picture writing). The writing gives information about a law passed in 196 BC.

Chapters 9-11

  • More about Atticus
  • Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson in court

1. Structure and plot development

Rising action
A very important new part of the story is introduced in these chapters. Tom Robinson, a black farm worker, has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Atticus has agreed to defend Tom in court. This creates tension in Maycomb, and Scout and Jem are increasingly upset by the nasty things people are saying about Atticus.

2. Themes


  • Scout manages not to fight Cecil Jacobs when he makes the racist comment that her father is defending “niggers”. She does fight with her cousin Francis when he calls Atticus “a nigger lover”. (Chapter 9)


  • Atticus bravely faces the mad, rabid dog and expertly shoots it. (Chapter 10)
  • Atticus thinks that Mrs Dubose is very brave to stop taking the drug morphine. Morphine is a powerful drug which relieves her pain but which makes her sleepy and unable to think clearly. (Chapter 11)

3. Tone

The tone is angry and threatening. There is a lot of anger in these chapters and also the threat of violence. It begins when Scout wants to attack Cecil Jacobs for insulting Atticus, and goes on to when she does attack Francis. When Atticus has to shoot the rabid dog there is both tension and fear, and also relief, once the dog is dead.

4. Chapter by chapter

Chapters 9 to 11 give readers a lot of information about Atticus: about his belief in justice, about how he brings up his children, about how he relates to people in the town, and about his bravery.

4.1 What happens in Chapter 9 and who is involved?

  • Scout wants to fight Cecil Jacobs when he says that her father defended “niggers” (an insulting name for black Americans).
  • She tells Atticus about this and he explains to her and to Jem why he will be defending Tom Robinson.
  • Atticus gives Scout and Jem air rifles for Christmas although he does not really approve of guns.
  • Scout manages not to fight with Cecil Jacobs but when Atticus, Jem and Scout go to Finch’s Landing for Christmas with Aunt Alexandra and her family, she fights her cousin Francis when he calls Atticus “a nigger lover”.

4.2 What happens in Chapter 10 and who is involved?

  • Scout describes how different Atticus is from other fathers. For example, he does not like playing football.
  • Atticus tells the children that he would rather they used their air rifles to shoot at tin cans than at birds but if they do shoot at birds they must remember “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Scout asks Miss Maudie what Atticus means.
  • Miss Maudie explains to Scout that mockingbirds never do any harm and that they provide pleasure with their songs. She says:
  • Your father’s right, Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make 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 is why it is sin to kill a mocking bird. (Chapter 10)
  • The children learn some new things about their father from Miss Maudie. For example, they learn that he is a good lawyer and plays checkers (a board game) well.
  • The children find out that Atticus can use a gun expertly when he kills a rabid dog with one shot. This impresses Scout and she wants to boast about it to other children, but Jem tells her not to talk about it. He understands that it is a skill that Atticus does not consider important as he has never told them about it.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 11 and who is involved?

  • Mrs Dubose, an elderly woman Scot and Jem do not like, criticises Atticus for defending “a nigger”. Jem gets so angry that he knocks the camellia flowers in her garden off their stems. Atticus insists that Jem apologise to Mrs Dubose.
  • Mrs Dubose wants to punish Jem by making him read to her in the afternoons and on Saturdays for a month. Jem does not want to do this but Atticus insists because it is part of his punishment for destroying Mrs Dubose’s flowers.
  • Jem and Scout spend a lot of time with Mrs Dubose. At the end of the month she tells the children that they have spent enough time with her. A month later she dies.
  • The children learn that Mrs Dubose had become addicted to morphine, a drug that helped with the pain she suffered. She had decided to stop taking it so that she could think clearly for the last months of her life. Having the children with her in the afternoons helped her to cope. Atticus explains to Jem and Scout that it was very brave of her to stop taking the drug.
  • Mrs Dubose leaves a present for Jem. It is a beautiful camellia. It is her way of saying that she has forgiven Jem.

Activity 5

Read the extract and then answer the questions below.
[Atticus talks to Jem about Mrs Dubose.]

Jem opened the box. Inside, surrounded by wads of damp cotton, was a white, waxy, perfect camellia. It was a Snow-on-the-Mountain. Jem’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Old hell-devil, old hell- devil!” he screamed, flinging it down. “Why can’t she leave me alone?” In a flash Atticus was up and standing over him. Jem buried his face in Atticus’s shirt front. “Sh-h,” he said. “I think that was her way of telling you – everything’s all right now, Jem, everything’s all right. You know, she was a great lady.”
“A lady?” Jem raised his head. His face was scarlet. “After all those things she said about you, a lady?”
“She was. She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine, maybe ... son, I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have made you go read to her. I wanted you to see something about her – I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”
Jem picked up the candy box and threw it in the fire. He picked up the camellia, and when I went off to bed I saw him fingering the wide petals. Atticus was reading the paper.
(Chapter 11) 
  1. Mrs Dubose sends Jem a camellia in a box. Relate the events that lead up to this. (4)
  2. Refer to line 14 (“I wanted you … real courage is”).
    Explain how Mrs Dubose showed that she had “real courage”. (2)
  3. Refer to lines 15-17 (“It’s when you ... no matter what”).
    Explain how Atticus shows in the novel as a whole that he lives by these words. (3)
  4. What does the extract convey about Atticus as a parent? (3)
  5. Discuss your views on Mrs Dubose’s character. (3)  [15]

Answers to Activity 5

  1. Jem is upset by Mrs Dubose’s comments about their father representing a black man in court. ✓ Jem loses his temper and destroys Mrs Dubose’s camellias/flowers. ✓ As punishment, Jem has to read to Mrs Dubose every afternoon ✓ Before Mrs Dubose dies, she arranges for a camellia to be given to Jem. It is her way of telling Jem that all is forgiven. ✓
  2. Mrs Dubose shows her courage by giving up morphine ✓ even though she is very ill/in great pain. ✓
  3. Atticus accepts the challenge to defend a black man against a white man in a racially divided society. ✓ He knows the white jury will not find his client not guilty but he still takes on the case ✓ and defends Tom to the best of his ability, despite the pressure he and the children face in Maycomb. ✓
  4. Atticus is a disciplinarian, but he is fair. ✓ He wants his children to recognise other people’s views, even though they might not agree with them. ✓ He teaches his children the values of fairness and courage so that they will learn to forgive those who wrong them. ✓
  5. Although Mrs Dubose displays courage when she gives up morphine, ✓ she is a horrible woman. ✓ She is a racist and takes out her anger towards Atticus on the children and that is unacceptable. ✓
    Although I find her behaviour towards the children unacceptable, I admire her courage. ✓ She could have taken the easy way out and remained addicted to morphine. ✓ Through sheer strength of will she overcomes her addiction.✓ 


Definitions of words from Chapter 9:

ambrosia (noun):

a dessert made up of a mixture of fruits, nuts, and coconut

analogous (adjective):

similar to; comparable to

attire (noun):


bawled (verb, past tense):

cried out noisily

bluff (noun):

the broad, flat front of a cliff

catwalk (noun):

a narrow, raised walkway or ramp – often what fashion models walk on to show off clothes

changelings (noun):

a changeling is a child believed to have been put, secretly, in the place of another

compensation (noun):

To compensate means to do something that makes up for something else. Aunt Alexandra’s good cooking skills, in some ways, make up for the fact that, for Scout, spending the holidays with her and Francis is not a lot of fun.

constituted (verb, past tense ):

made up or consisted of

crooned (verb, past tense):

To croon is to sing in a low, gentle tone.

deportment (noun):

way of walking or, more generally, of behaving

dim (adjective):

unclear; not strong

donned (verb, past tense):

put on

doused (verb, past tense):

to douse someone is to pour liquid, in this case water, all over that person.

evasion (noun):

avoidance; to evade is to avoid doing or answering something directly. Uncle Jack’s evasion occurs when he doesn’t directly answer Scout’s question.

fanatical (adjective):

A fanatic is a person whose extreme enthusiasm, interest, zeal, etc. goes beyond what is reasonable. Aunt Alexandra is fanatical about Scout’s clothes because, according to Scout, her aunt’s interest in this subject goes beyond what is reasonable.

gallantly (adverb):

kindly and politely (usually used to describe the behaviour of a man to a woman)

gastric (adjective):

of, in, or near the stomach. A stomach ache would be a gastric complaint.

gravitated (verb, past tense):

Gravity is the force that pulls you to earth and keeps you from floating into outer space. When you gravitate toward something or someone, you find yourself being pulled in the direction of that object or person.

guilelessness (noun):

Guile is craftiness and cunning in dealing with others. To be guileless is to have none of that craftiness. Here, Lee is being ironic since it is obvious that Simon Finch didn’t trust his daughters at all, and planned his house accordingly.

harboured (verb, past tense):

held in the mind

hookah (noun):

A tobacco pipe with a flexible tube that draws smoke through a bowl of water

impaired (adjective):

damaged; weakened

indecision (noun):

being undecided what to do; Scout’s indecision revolves around whether she should obey Uncle Jack or run away from him.

indicative (adjective):

showing that something is the case about someone or something The manner in which Simon Finch arranged his house showed something about him.

ingenuous (adjective):

simple; innocent

innate (adjective):

something one is born with

inordinately (adverb):

excessively; too greatly

invective (noun):

Invectives are abusive terms such as curses, insults, or swear words

isolate (verb, present tense):

set apart from others

jar (verb):

shake up in an unpleasant way; disturb

jetty (noun):

a type of wall built out into water to protect a coastline or restrain currents of water

mishaps (noun):

unlucky or unfortunate accidents

mortify (verb, present tense):

embarrass very greatly

nocturnal (adjective):

happening at night

obsess (verb, present tense):

to think about something all the time



noisy and unruly

pantry (noun):

a small room off a kitchen where foodstuffs and cooking ingredients are stored

porter (noun):

a person who carries luggage, etc., in this case, at a railway station

provocation (noun):

To provoke is to excite some sort of feeling; often anger or irritation. Uncle Jack tells Scout that, as far as cuss words are concerned, he doesn’t see the use for them unless they are used when one is very angry or provoked to use them.

ringworm (noun):

a contagious (meaning one person can ‘catch’ it from another) skin disease caused by a fungus

siblings (noun):

brothers and/or sisters

still (noun):

an apparatus for making alcoholic liquors. The sort of still to which Scout refers would be an illegal one.

subdued (verb, past tense):

Someone who has been subdued has been soothed or softened or quietened.

tarried (verb, past tense):

delayed; waited longer than a person should have

tentatively (adverb):

uncertainly; Francis asks Scout his question tentatively because he is unsure of what her reaction will be and he is afraid to face her.

tongs (noun):

a device used to grab or lift objects. Tongs generally have two long arms that are hinged together

trousseau (noun):

all the new clothes a bride brings to her marriage

uncompromising lineaments (adjective

+ noun):

Lineaments are distinctive features or characteristics. Uncompromising, in this instance, means unchanging, firm or set. Alexandra’s and Francis’s uncompromising lineaments are their characteristics that are set and will never change.

wary (adjective):

being cautious or on your guard against something; In this instance, the children were never afraid of or cautious about their uncle’s appearance.

widow’s walk (noun):

a platform with a rail around it, built onto the roof of a house

Yankees (noun):

People from the northern American states; during the Civil War, the Yankees were the enemies of the South.

Confederate veteran:

a soldier who had fought for the South in the American Civil War

General Hood:

Lieutenant-General John B. Hood, a Confederate officer

House of Commons:

the lower house of parliament in England

Let the cup pass from you:

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Lord: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done [Luke 22:42].” By asking the Lord to “take this cup from me” he was praying that he might avoid his fate. Uncle Jack’s comment to Atticus shows that he understands that his brother was not looking forward to his fate: having to defend Tom Robinson.

Lord Melbourne (1779-1848):

He was the first prime minister in England during the time of Queen Victoria.

The Missouri Compromise (1820):

Allowed Missouri to be admitted to the Union as a slave state but stipulated that no more slave states would be allowed above the southern border of Missouri.

Mount Everest:

The highest known mountain in the world (29,028 feet), Everest is part of the Himalayas, on the border of Nepal and Tibet.

Ol’ Blue Light:

a reference to Stonewall Jackson, who was a leader of the Southern forces in the American Civil War.

Prime Minister:

the head of a parliamentary government like the one in Great Britain.


Definitions of words from Chapter 10:

alist (adjective):

tilted to one side

articulate (adjective):

able to speak and express oneself clearly

attributes (noun):

characteristics; qualities of a person or thing

bout (noun):

fight (especially boxing)

corncribs (noun):

A corncrib is a small structure used to store corn (mealies)

crook (of his arm)


The crook of your arm is the inside part of your arm where it bends at the elbow.

erratically (adverb):

not following a normal pattern

feeble (adjective):

weak; frail

gingerly (adverb):

very carefully; cautiously



To be conspicuous is to attract attention. To be inconspicuous is to do the opposite: to not attract attention. Scout wishes that Atticus would be more inconspicuous; that is, that he would attract less attention to himself.

Jew’s Harp (noun):

a small musical instrument that is played by plucking a piece of metal while holding the instrument to one’s mouth

jubilantly (adverb):

very, very happily

mad dog (adjective + noun):

a dog infected with rabies, which makes it act in a crazy, dangerous manner

mausoleum (noun):

a stone building housing the bodies of important dead people; Miss Maudie uses the term in a humorous way. She refers to her old house as a mausoleum because, to her, it was too large and dark and thus like a place where dead people would be put.

peril (noun):


Providence (noun):

the care of God

rudiments (noun):

the most basic parts of a subject

tartly (adverb):


vaguely (adverb):

not clearly


Definitions of words from Chapter 11:

apoplectic (adjective):

Apoplexy is a condition of sudden paralysis; a stroke. To be apoplectic, in this case, is to behave as if one is on the verge of having a stroke.

arbor / arbour (noun):

an outdoor area shaded by trees or, in this case, scuppernong vines on a lattice

bedecked (adjective):

covered (with decorations)

calomel (noun):

a laxative medicine; often used as a cure for intestinal worms

camellia (noun):

a shrub with glossy evergreen leaves and rose-like flowers

camisole (noun):

a woman’s sleeveless undergarment, usually worn under a sheer (one that can be seen through) blouse




decreed (verb, past tense):

A decree is an official order. As her older brother, Jem decreed what he and Scout would do.

degradation (noun):

a state of dishonour or disrespect

dog-trot hall (adjective):

a covered passageway between two parts of a building

escapade (noun):

an exciting or reckless adventure or prank

essence (noun):

most basic or fundamental part or quality

infuriated (verb, past tense):

angered greatly

interdict (noun):

prohibition; restraint

oppressive (adjective):

usually means cruel and unfair but in this case it means unpleasant

palliation (noun):

to palliate is to lessen the pain, or, in this case, fear and anxiety, of something without actually making the fear and anxiety go away. Calpurnia is not a great source of palliation; that is, she doesn’t make the children feel any less anxious or fearful.

passé (adjective):


philippic (noun):

a bitter verbal attack (i.e. an attack made with words)

plate (noun):

false teeth; dental plate

propensities (noun):

inclinations or tendencies

reconnaissance (noun):

action of finding out something; examination

rectitude (noun):

uprightness of character

relic (noun):

something of historic interest that has survived from the past. In this case Scout is referring to a gun that would have been used in the Civil War.

skulked (verb, past tense):

to move or slink about in a sinister or cowardly manner; The children are skulking in the kitchen because they are fearful of Atticus’s reaction when he returns home.

syringe (noun):

a device with a rubber bulb on one end and a narrow tube on the other which is used to inject into or extract fluids from the body

tirade (noun):

a long angry speech

tranquil (adjective):


umbrage (noun):

offence (to take umbrage is to take offence at what someone has said)

undulate (verb, present tense):

to move in waves or in a wavy manner

viscous (adjective):


Confederate Army:

the Southern army in the American Civil War.


Confederate States of America - the Southern side in the Civil War.

House of Commons:

the lower house of parliament in England

Dixie Howell:

Millard ‘Dixie’ Howell was a popular football player during the 1930s.


a novel written in 1819 by Sir Walter Scott

Chapters 12-15

  • Jem and Scout go to church with Calpurnia
  • Aunt Alexandra comes to stay
  • Tensions in Maycomb rise as Tom Robinson’s trial gets nearer

1. Structure and plot development

Rising action
The children are upset and a bit worried to find that Aunt Alexandra is coming to stay with them. They don’t understand why it is necessary because they are quite happy living with Atticus and Calpurnia.

2. Themes


  • Jem and Scout experience ‘racism in reverse’ in the black church. (Chapter 12)
  • The angry group of white men threatens Tom outside the jail. (Chapter 15)

Courage and bravery

  • Atticus, Scout and Jem face the angry group of white men to protect Tom in jail. (Chapter 15)


  • Scout shows great sensitivity and understanding of Mr Cunningham, and appeals to his shared humanity as a way of stopping the angry group of men turning violent. (Chapter 15)

Love and caring

  • Atticus runs his hand through Jem’s hair to show his love for his children and appreciation of their concern for him. (Chapter 15)

3. Tone

The tone is anxious and tense in these chapters. The children do not understand quite why Aunt Alexandra has come to stay, Scout does not understand why Jem is changing, and the whole family is worried about Atticus. Atticus is worried about Tom’s safety.

4. Chapter by chapter

Part Two of the novel begins with Chapter 12. Many different events are described in these chapters. All of them give readers information that is important for understanding the trial of Tom Robinson, which is described in Chapters 16 to 21.

4.1 What happens in Chapter 12 and who is involved?

  • Jem and Scout go with Calpurnia to her church one Sunday because Atticus is away, representing the Maycomb district in the state legislature (parliament).
  • They find this a fascinating experience, partly because the way of worshipping in this church is different from what they are used to. They also find it fascinating because Calpurnia behaves differently with members of her own community from the way she behaves with them – including speaking differently.
  • At the church, the children have an experience of ‘racism in reverse’ because Lula, one of the members of Calpurnia’s church, is not pleased to see white children there.
  • However, other members of the church welcome the children and Scout enjoys herself so much that she asks Calpurnia if she can come to visit her at her home. Calpurnia agrees but by the end of the novel this visit has not taken place.
  • When the children return home, they find that Aunt Alexandra has arrived.

4.2 What happens in Chapter 13 and who is involved?

Scout and Jem find out that their aunt has come to stay for a long time and they are not pleased – especially Scout, because Aunt Alexandra expects her to behave like a lady, to wear dresses and to be present when her aunt is entertaining the ladies of Maycomb.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 14 and who is involved?

  • Aunt Alexandra has come to stay because she feels that Atticus and Calpurnia are not raising the children properly. She also thinks Scout needs some “feminine influence”. Atticus disagrees; he thinks he and Calpurnia are doing a good job.
  • Aunt Alexandra also wants Atticus to send Calpurnia away. He refuses even to think about it: “Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to.”
  • As the summer goes on more and more people are talking about the forthcoming trial of Tom Robinson. Many of the white community criticise Atticus for representing him.
  • Dill returns to Maycomb with dramatic stories to tell of how he got there and sad ones about his family’s lack of interest in him.

4.4 What happens in Chapter 15 and who is involved?

  • On the night before the trial Scout and Jem wonder why their father leaves the house after supper carrying an electrical extension cord and why he takes the car instead of walking as he usually does. They collect Dill and go down to the courthouse, where they find Atticus “guarding” Tom Robinson, who is locked up inside.
  • Atticus is facing a mob of angry men. Scout behaves almost like an adult here. She understands that if she can make a friend of Mr Cunningham he might decide not to attack Atticus and Tom. She mentions:
    • his son, who, she says, is a good boy; and
    • the legal problems with his land (the entailment), which Atticus helped him with.
  • Mr Cunningham tells the men that they must leave.
  • Mr Underwood, the owner of the town’s newspaper, leans out of his office window to talk to Atticus. He had also been watching the courthouse and he had a gun.
  • Mr Underwood convinces Atticus to go home with the children. As they leave, Atticus runs his hand through Jem’s hair to show his love for his children and appreciation of their concern for him. 

Activity 6
Read the extract and then answer the questions below.
[A group of men gathers at the jail.]

 Answers to activity 6

In ones and twos, men got out of the cars. Shadows became substance as light revealed solid shapes moving towards the jail door. Atticus remained where he was. The men hid him from view. “He in there, Mr Finch?” a man said.
“He is,” we heard Atticus answer, “and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up.”
In obedience to my father, there followed what I later realized was a sickeningly comic aspect of an unfunny situation: the men talked in near-whispers.
“You know what we want,” another man said. “Get aside from the door, Mr Finch.”
“You can turn around and go home again, Walter,” Atticus said pleasantly. “Heck Tate’s around somewhere.”
“The hell he is,” said another man. “Heck’s bunch’s so deep in the woods they won’t get out till mornin’.”
“Indeed? Why so?” “Called ‘em off on a snipe hunt,” was the succinct answer. “Didn’t you think a ‘that, Mr Finch?”
“Thought about it, but didn’t believe it. Well then,” my father’s voice was still the same, “that changes things, doesn’t it?”
“‘It do,” another deep voice said. Its owner was a shadow. “Do you really think so?”
This was the second time I heard Atticus ask that question in two days, and it meant somebody’s man would get jumped.
(Chapter 15)

for question 7:
A snipe is a type  of bird. It is very difficult to shoot.
People do not usually hunt snipe, especially at night. In America, a “snipe hunt” is a type of practical joke, when a person is fooled into trying to complete a task which is impossible to do. It is similar to a “wild goose chase”.
Atticus understands that the farmers have tricked the sheriff into going to the woods with his men.

  1. When Atticus left his home a little earlier, his children found his behaviour strange. Give TWO examples of what Atticus did that was different from usual. (2)
  2. Refer to lines 1-3 (“Shadows became substance ... the jail door”). Briefly explain why Atticus is at the jail. State TWO points. (2)
  3. Refer to line 3 (“Atticus remained where he was”). Explain what this sentence suggests about Atticus’s character. (1)
  4. Choose the correct answer to complete the following sentence: When Jem and Scout go to the jail ... goes with them.
    A Walter
    B Calpurnia C Dill
    D Aunt Alexandra (1)
  5. In lines 7-8 Scout makes the following remark: “there followed what l later realized was a sickeningly comic aspect of an unfunny situation: ...”
    Explain why the situation is described as “unfunny”. State TWO points. (2)
  6. Refer to line 12 (“You can turn around and go home again, Walter”). Give ANY TWO details about Walter that are revealed in the novel. (2)
  7. Refer to line 18 (“Thought about it, but didn’t believe it.”).
    The word “it” refers to the “snipe hunt”. Explain why Atticus cannot believe that Heck Tate was called out on a “snipe hunt”. (2)
  8. How does Scout prevent a possible disaster at the jail? (2)
  9. Atticus goes to the jail unarmed. Is he brave or foolish? Explain your answer. (2)
    Do you think people have the right to take the law into their own hands in certain circumstances? Discuss your view. (2)  [18]

 Answers to Activity 6

  1. Atticus takes an extension cord/light bulb. ✓ He takes the car, instead of walking like he usually does. ✓ It was unusual for him to go to work at that time of day (after supper). ✓
  2. Atticus is afraid that the townspeople might harm Tom Robinson ✓ so he goes there to protect him. ✓
  3. Atticus is a man of conviction. ✓
    He will not back down or change what he believes in. ✓
    He is courageous and brave. ✓
  4. C/Dill ✓
  5. The men have come to threaten or harm Tom ✓ but they whisper so as not to disturb their victim, which is strange. ✓
  6. He is a very poor white farmer. ✓ He is independent. ✓ He is hard-working. ✓ He has a sense of pride. ✓ He is highly principled. ✓ He is Walter (Cunningham) Junior’s father. ✓
  7. Atticus cannot believe that the men could go as far as sending the sheriff out of town on a false alarm so that they can get to Tom, ✓ and that the sheriff would fall for their trick. ✓
  8. Scout talks to Walter Cunningham directly and appeals to his humanity. ✓ By doing this, she makes him realise that what he is doing is wrong. ✓
    She asks about Mr Cunningham’s entailment ✓ and reminds him that Atticus helped him. ✓
  9. Atticus is brave. Although there is a possibility of danger, he still goes to the jail to protect Tom at all costs. ✓ He is standing firmly by his beliefs. ✓
    Atticus is foolish. He has been warned twice not to defend Tom, ✓ but still goes to the jail unarmed while he is aware of the possibility of danger. ✓
  10. Yes. If they do not trust the justice system, or if it has let them down, they may want to take action to bring about justice. ✓ Although this view is not encouraged, it is understandable. ✓
    No. They should leave it to the justice system ✓ because if they take their own revenge, it will lead to chaos. ✓

Definitions of words from Chapter 12:

alien (adjective):

unnatural; very strange

appalling (adjective):

shocking; horrifying

asafoetida (noun):

a strong-smelling (like garlic) substance made from a parsley-like plant; often used in folk medicine to stop illness

austere (adjective):

stern and severe

boded (verb, past tense):


church (verb):

To church someone is ban a person (usually temporarily) from attending church because he or she is believed to have done something wrong

clad (verb, present tense):

dressed in



To behave or speak contemptuously toward someone is to treat that person as if he or she is unworthy or beneath one’s dignity.

contentious (adjective):

always ready to argue

denunciation (noun):

To denounce is to strongly disapprove of or condemn something. The denunciation of sin in the reverend’s sermon indicates his strong disapproval of sin.

diligently (adverb):

industriously; in a hard-working manner

dispelled (verb):

driven away

ecclesiastical impedimenta (adjective + noun):

items used during a church service

frivolous (adjective):

silly; not serious

garish (adjective):

showy, very bright or gaudy

habiliments (noun):

outfits; clothing



not in agreement with

indignantly (adverb):

angrily; You are likely to feel indignant if someone treats you unfairly or insults you.

lilac talcum (adjective

+ noun):

Lilacs are a very sweet smelling flower Talcum, often called talcum powder, is a fine talc, or powder, used for the body or face. Lilac talcum is lilac-scented talcum powder.

rotogravure print


Rotogravure is a process of printing pictures. Since rotogravure prints often appeared in newspapers, it is possible that the print in the church had been taken from a newspaper.

snuff (noun):

a preparation of powdered tobacco, usually sniffed through the nose

tapeworm (noun):

a parasite that can live in a person’s intestines

to scrape a few barnacles off the ship of state:

Barnacles are shellfish that grow on the bottom of ships and the ship of state is the government . This expression means to clean up the government.

unceiled (adjective):

without ceiling boards inside the roof

voile (adjective):

a thin, cotton-like fabric



one of the most important books ever written on British law


people who make and/or sell illegal liquor.

bread lines:

During the Great Depression thousands of people relied on charitable organisations for meals and would line up for simple meals, often of bread and soup.

Brown’s Mule:

a brand of chewing tobacco


a type of soap, originally made in Spain

Garden of Gethsemane:

the place where Jesus went to pray on the night before his crucifixion

Hoyt’s Cologne:

a strong cologne, originally made in Germany and popular during the first part of the 20th century

Hunt’s The Light of the World:

a well-known painting of Jesus Christ

Octagon soap:

a very harsh, strong soap


One of the three men whom King Nebuchadnezzar threw into a blazing furnace, as told in Danial 3 in the Bible. Because of their faith in God, all three men escaped unharmed.

sit-down strikes:

During the Great Depression there were many sit-down strikes at American workplaces. Unlike ‘regular’ strikes, workers in a sit-down strike would literally ‘sit down on the job’; that is, they would refuse to leave the building until their demands were met.

Definitions of words from Chapter 13:

caste system

(adjective + noun):

class distinctions based on birth, wealth, etc.

curtness (noun):

To be curt is to be brief and short to the point of being rude.

devoid (adjective):

completely without

flighty (adjective):

foolish; irresponsible

formidable (adjective):

impressive in a frightening way

incestuous (adjective):

Incest is sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry legally. Atticus’s comment that the Finches might have an incestuous streak refers to the fact that so many Finches had married their cousins.

irritable (adjective):

easily annoyed

mandrake roots


The roots of the mandrake plant were often thought to have magical powers because it was thought that their shape resembled the human body

myopic (adjective):

Myopia is an abnormal eye condition, often called nearsightedness. Someone who is myopic cannot see clearly.

obliquely (adverb):


prerogative (noun):

exclusive right or privilege

shinny (noun):

a slang term for liquor; usually whiskey or bourbon.

sluggish (adjective):

lacking energy; lazy

soberly (adverb):


spun (verb, past tense):

To spin a tale is to tell a story in a creative, fanciful way.

tactful (adjective):

To be tactful is to be able to say the right thing to a person without being offensive. Scout realizes that her question about her aunt and uncle was not tactful and may have been offensive or, at least, embarrassing.

tight (adjective):

in this chapter, this adjective means drunk

Lydia E. Pinkham:

a maker and manufacturer of medicines in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


the period of time, roughly between 1867-1877, when the Southern states were reorganised and re-established after the Civil War.

Rice Christians:

people converted to Christianity in ‘developing countries’ especially those in parts of Asia.

War Between the States:

the Civil War.

Definitions of words from Chapter 14:

antagonize (verb, present tense):

make someone feel unfriendly towards you or angry with you

bushel (noun):

a unit of measurement for crops such as wheat or fruit

edification (noun):

a type of education that usually focuses on morals or values

erosion (noun):

a gradual wearing away (often to do with soil)

infallible (adjective):

never wrong

manacles (noun):


neat (adjective):

in this chapter, not mixed with anything, such as water or soda; straight

penitentiary (noun):

prison; Scout feels as though she is in prison when she has to wear a stiff, pink cotton dress

pensive (adjective):


pondered (verb, past tense):

thought about something

taut (adjective):

tightly stretched

Definitions of words from Chapter 15:

acquiescence (noun):

agreement without protest

affliction (noun):

in this case, a condition

aggregation (noun):

group; gathering

begrudge (verb, present tense):

To begrudge someone something is to feel resentment or disapproval about the fact that they have something. Atticus says that he doesn’t think anyone in the town would resent the fact that he has a client.




façade (noun):

the front of a building; the part facing the street

futility (noun):

uselessness, hopelessness

impassive (adjective):

showing no emotion

linotype (noun):

a typesetting machine that used to be used in publishing (newspapers, magazines, books)

ominous (adjective):

threatening; sinister

shinnied up (adjective):


stifle (verb, present tense):

hold back; suppress

succinct (adjective):

clear and brief

uncouth (adjective.):

crude or rude

venerable (adjective):

impressive on account of age or historic associations

venue (noun):



a low wall with open spaces built on top of a castle wall or fort

flying buttressess:

a buttress (support) connected to a building by an arch


a style of architecture developed in Western Europe between the 12th and 16th century

Jitney Jungle:

a supermarket chain. Supermarkets were still relatively new to America in the 1930s. Most shoppers bought their supplies at smaller grocery stores.

snipe hunt:

a practical joke. The ‘victim’ is taken on a hunt deep into a forest at night and told to look for and capture ‘snipes’, small, flightless birds that do not actually exist. While the hunter searches, the rest of the party leaves.

Chapters 16-21

  • The trial of Tom Robinson

1. Structure and plot development

At last the day everybody in Maycomb has been waiting for arrives and most of the people in the town go to the courthouse to watch what happens. Although it is clear that Tom is innocent, the jury finds him guilty.

2. Themes


  • Mr Raymond feels he has to pretend to be a drunk so that the white community can make sense of why he would choose to live with a black woman.

Innocence and loss of innocence

  • Tom is innocent of the crime, but the jury finds him guilty.
  • Jem, Scout and Dill lose their innocent, childish view that a court of law can deliver justice. They learn that the courts can be unjust to black men when racist white men are in control.

The law

  • Mayella Ewell’s lies are accepted by a white, male jury, and help to send innocent Tom to jail. This shows that the members of the jury don’t care about justice, but care only about protecting their own white community. The law courts are therefore not a place where justice can be found – at least for a black man.

3. Tone

Along with the sense of excitement about the trial is a great deal of anger. Most of this comes from Bob and Mayella Ewell during the trial. Jem and Dill are angry about the way Mr Gilmer speaks to Tom. Jem is angry and upset that Tom is found guilty when he is so clearly innocent.

4. Chapter by chapter

These chapters describe what happened during the trial of Tom Robinson.

Who’s who in the court process in Tom’s trial Judge: Judge Taylor
Jury: 12 white men
Prosecuting lawyer: Mr Gilmer
Person on trial (the accused): Tom Robinson
Defence lawyer: Atticus Finch 

 4.1 What happens in Chapter 16 and who is involved?

  • The Finch family discusses the events outside the courthouse the previous night.
  • Dill arrives at the Finch’s house. He tells them, “It’s all over town this morning ... about how we held off a hundred folks with our bare hands.” This is an example of hyperbole.
  • Atticus leaves for the start of the trial, telling the children not to leave their house. They obey during the morning and are still at home when Atticus comes home for his meal.
  • In the afternoon they go into the town to see what is going on and find that many people, black and white, have come to town to attend the trial or to find out what is happening.
  • Jem, Scout and Dill decide to go to the courthouse but find there is no room for them downstairs where white people sit.
  • Reverend Sykes, whom they met at Calpurnia’s church, invites them to sit up in the balcony with the black community and they gladly accept.

4.2 What happens in Chapters 17, 18 and 19 and who is involved?

  • The prosecuting lawyer (Mr Gilmer) and the defence lawyer (Atticus Finch) question Sheriff Heck Tate, Bob Ewell, Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson.
  • ccording to the Ewells, Mayella asked Tom to do some work for her while her father was out. He came into the house, beat her up, raped her and ran off when her father returned home.
  • According to Tom, Mayella invited him inside and then threw her arms round him and began to kiss him. Tom tried to push her away. When Bob Ewell arrived he was angry with his daughter and gave her a beating and Tom ran away because he was scared of what would happen to him.
  • Heck Tate testifies that Mayella’s bruises were on the right side of her face, which suggests that she was probably punched by a person’s left hand. Tom Robinson’s left hand is useless because it was damaged in an accident. Bob Ewell punches with his left hand.
  • Dill gets so upset by the rude and racist way in which Mr Gilmer questions Tom that Scout has to take him out of the courthouse. Outside they meet Dolphus Raymond.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 20 and who is involved?

  • The children find out that Mr Raymond only pretends to drink alcohol from a container hidden inside a packet. What he is really drinking is Coca-Cola.
  • He explains to Scout and Dill that, by pretending to be drunk, he gives the people of Maycomb an explanation that they can accept for why he lives with a black woman.

4.4 What happens in Chapter 21 and who is involved?

  • Calpurnia arrives at the courthouse with a note for Atticus from Aunt Alexandra, telling him that the children are missing. This is when he finds out that the children have disobeyed him and are in the courthouse.
  • Atticus sends them home for supper but allows them to return to hear the jury’s verdict.
  • The jury takes several hours to reach a decision but eventually they find Tom Robinson guilty.
  • When Atticus begins to walk down the aisle (passage between the rows of seats) in order to leave the courthouse, all the members of the black community stand up to show their respect for him.

Activity 7

Read the extract and then answer the questions below.
[Scout and Dill meet Mr Dolphus Raymond outside the court.]

As Mr Dolphus Raymond was an evil man I accepted his invitation reluctantly, but I followed Dill. Somehow, I didn’t think Atticus would like it if we became friendly with Mr Raymond, and I knew Aunt Alexandra wouldn’t.
“Here,” he said, offering Dill his paper sack with straws in it. “Take a good sip, it’ll quieten you.”
Dill sucked on the straws, smiled, and pulled at length.
“Hee hee,” said Mr Raymond, evidently taking delight in corrupting a child.
“Dill, you watch out, now,” I warned.
Dill released the straws and grinned. “Scout, it’s nothing but Coca- Cola.”
Mr Raymond sat up against the tree-trunk. He had been lying on the grass. “You little folks won’t tell on me now, will you? It’d ruin my reputation if you did.”
“You mean all you drink in that sack’s Coca-Cola? Just plain Coca- Cola?”
(Chapter 20) 
  1. Choose the correct answer to complete the following sentence. Write only the answer (A-D).
    Dill is…
    1. Miss Maudie’s nephew.
    2. Miss Dubose’s nephew.
    3. Calpurnia’s nephew.
    4. Miss Rachel’s nephew (1)
  2. Using THREE points, describe what leads to Dill and Scout’s meeting with Dolphus Raymond. (3)
  3. In line 7, Dill accepts a drink from Dolphus Raymond. What TWO characteristics of Dill’s are shown here? (2)
  4. In which TWO ways are Dolphus Raymond and Atticus Finch similar? (2)
  5. Is the following statement TRUE or FALSE? Write ‘true’ or ‘false’ and give a reason for your answer.
    Dolphus Raymond drinks alcohol to escape from his problems. (2)
  6. Is Dolphus Raymond a victim of racism? Give a reason for your answer. (2)
  7. What does this extract tell you about Mr Dolphus Raymond’s attitude to children? State TWO points. (2)
  8. In your view, can Dolphus Raymond be compared to a mockingbird? Give a reason for your answer. (1)
  9. Do you think Scout benefits in any way from meeting Dolphus Raymond? Explain your answer. (1)   [16]

Answers to activity 7

  1. D ✓
  2. The children go to court for Tom’s trial. ✓ Dill is upset about the way Mr Gilmer asks his questions. ✓ Dill and Scout go outside, where they meet Dolphus Raymond. ✓
  3. Dolphus Raymond is prepared to challenge racist barriers. ✓
    He is not influenced by the people of Maycomb. ✓
  4. Atticus and Dolphus Raymond are similar in that they are not racist. ✓ They are not afraid to be different from the other white people in Maycomb. ✓
  5. False. Dolphus Raymond only pretends to drink alcohol. ✓✓
  6. Yes. Dolphus Raymond is treated badly because he lives with a coloured woman. ✓✓
  7. He is sympathetic – he understands what has made Dill feel ill. ✓ He is polite – he calls Scout “Ma’am” ✓. He is caring
    – he offers Dill a drink to “settle his stomach”. ✓ He treats
    children like grownups because he explains why he behaves the way he does. ✓
  8. Yes. People look down on him/frown/judge him even though he does nothing wrong. ✓
    No. He does not suffer to the extent that Tom and Boo do. ✓
  9. Yes. She learns not to judge people before meeting them. ✓ OR
    No. She has always been a strong-willed person and this meeting will not change her views. ✓ 

Definitions of words from Chapter 16:

affirmed (verb, past tense):

firmly declared or stated

akimbo (adjective):

putting hands on hips with elbows bent outward

circuit solicitor (noun):

a lawyer who travels to different locations to prosecute in trials

dispel (verb, present tense):

drive away

eccentricities (noun):

odd ways of behaving

elucidate (verb, present tense):


fey (adjective):

strange; eccentric

khaki (adjective):

a yellowish-brown colour; sometimes used as a noun for cotton cloth or clothing of this colour

litigants (noun):

people who bring cases to a court of law

Mennonites (noun):

members of a church who believe in living simply and dressing plainly

profane (adjective):

not connected with religion or religious matters

prominent (adjective):

well-known or important

ruddy (adjective):

reddish colour

scripture (noun):

religious text (usually referring to the Christian bible)

snickered (verb, past tense):

a version of the verb ‘sniggered’ which means an action of ‘half laughing’

subpoena (noun):

a written legal order directing a person to appear in court to give information

subtle (adjective):

not obvious; quiet

sundry (adjective):


Braxton Bragg:

The commander of the Western Confederate Army during the Civil War.


During the time of the Old Testament, Ethiopia was a kingdom. Today, Ethiopia is a country in the part of Northeast Africa that is known as the Horn of Africa.

Greek revival columns:

a form of architectural columns

Prohibition ticket:

Prohibition was a period in U.S. history (1920-1933) when it was forbidden to make, transport or sell alcoholic beverages. By voting the straight Prohibition ticket, Mr Jones always votes for those political candidates who support Prohibition.

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925):

Bryan was a lawyer, a politician (he ran for president three times), and a famous public speaker. His speeches were major events and would draw huge crowds.

Definitions of words from Chapter 17:



sarcastic; bitter; nasty

affirmative nod

(adjective + noun):

Affirmative means positive. To give an affirmative nod would be to nod or shake one’s head up and down to indicate ‘yes’.

amber (adjective):

dark orange yellow in colour



able to use both hands equally well (e.g. to write with, paint, etc.)

amiably (adverb):


audibly obscene speculations (adverb + adjective + noun):

audible means able to be heard; obscene means offensive and shocking in a sexual way; speculations are thoughts. The judge warns the spectators against making any more offensive comments that can be heard.

bantam cock (noun):

a small, aggressive rooster

benignly (adverb):

kindly; gently

boiling (adjective):

in this case this word is used as an adjective to describe an angry or unruly group

capacity (noun):


cast (noun):

To have a cast in one’s eye means to have a squint; the eye does not look straight at people or objects.

complacently (adverb):

in a self-satisfied way

congenital (adjective):

a congenital condition exists from birth; if a child is born with a weak heart that weakness is congenital; this is different from a heart that becomes weak when a person gets older.

contempt charges

(adjective + noun):

Contempt, in this case, is open disrespect of a court or judge. A judge may charge a person who acts that way with contempt and send him or her to jail.

corroborating evidence (adjective + noun):

In court, corroborating evidence is evidence which helps to prove that something happened in a particular way (e.g. because a witness saw something happen).

corrugated (adjective):

a series of alternating ridges and grooves, as on roof sheeting

counsel (noun):

lawyers (in court)

crepey (adjective):

Crepe is a thin, wrinkled cloth. Mr Ewell’s crepey neck looks like this fabric; that is, the skin is thin and wrinkled.

dictum (noun):

official pronouncement

dogged (adjective):

stubborn determination

economic fluctuations

(adjective + noun):

Economics, in this case, has to do with the economy; the financial state of the country and its people. To fluctuate means to change. As far as the Ewells were concerned, no matter how the economy of the country might change their situation was always the same. They were always poor.

edge (noun):

in this case, sharpness

gardenia (noun):

a large, whiter, perfumed flower

genially (adverb):

in a friendly manner

geraniums (noun):

flowering plants, usually with red, pink or white flowers, that are easy to grow

gullet (noun):

throat; neck

heaved (verb, past tense):

lifted something heavy

import (noun):


infinite (adjective):

without end

irrelevant ’n immaterial (adjectives):

‘irrelevant and immaterial’. Irrelevant means not related (to something). Immaterial means unimportant. The judge is saying that whether or not Mr. Ewell can read and write is not related to the case and is unimportant.

load o’ kindlin’ (noun):

‘load of kindling’. Kindling is usually made up of dry twigs, branches, etc. It is useful for starting a fire.

namesake (noun):

the person one is named after. In this case, Mr. Ewell’s namesake is the leader of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee.

prosperity (noun):

good fortune; wealth

refuse (noun):


ruttin’ on (verb, present continuous tense):

‘rutting on’. In this instance, the term is used to indicate that, according to Mr Ewell, Tom Robinson was having sexual intercourse with his daughter. This term is almost always used only to describe the mating habits of animals, not people.

serene (adjective):


scrutiny (noun):

the action of watching very closely and carefully

skewed (adjective):

not straight; slanted

slop jars (noun):

large buckets usually used to receive waste water from a wash basin or the contents of a chamber pot

smugness (noun):

To be smug is to be highly self-satisfied; to think a lot of oneself. Mr Ewell’s smugness, or appearance of self-satisfaction, shows on his face.

sulky (adjective):

showing annoyance by being quiet

sullen (adjective):

in this case, gloomy and threatening

supplemented (verb, past tense):

added to

tenet (noun):

a principle or belief generally accepted as true

testifying (verb, continuous tense):

giving evidence in court

title dispute (noun):

a legal fight over the ownership of a particular piece of property

turbulent (adjective):

stormy; unruly

varmints (noun):

in this case, flies and other flying insects that would be found in and around a garbage dump

warranted (verb, past tense):

gave a reason for; indicated the need for

fountain pen:

a pen with a special nib at the end that allowed the pen to be refilled with ink from a bottle


Before refrigerators, people used iceboxes which were large wood cabinets kept cold on the inside by blocks of ice that would be delivered to the home.

Model-T Ford (on blocks):

The Model-T was Henry Ford’s first popular motor car. Originally produced in 1909, it was affordable and relatively reliable. A car is put up on blocks for two main reasons: either it no longer has any tyres, or the owner can’t afford to drive it and putting it on blocks saves the tyres from the damage caused by having to carry the weight of the car.

shotgun hall:

A hallway that leads directly from the front door to the back door.

Definitions of words from Chapter 18:

arid (adjective):

very dry; without expression

chiffarobe (noun):

a large cabinet with drawers and a place for hanging clothes; a wardrobe



a person who interprets aspects of the law in a specific way

contorted (verb, past tense):

twisted into an unnatural shape

dusk (noun):

the time just before it gets dark at night

exodus (noun):

many people leaving a place at the same time

ground-itch (noun):

an itchy reaction to hookworms, which usually enter the body through bare feet

grudging (adjective):

describes doing what you don’t really want to do

lavations (noun):

washing of the body

mollified (adjective):

soothed; calmed down

neutrality (noun):

being neutral; not taking part on either side in an argument

perpetual (adjective):

everlasting; continuous

pilgrimage (noun):

in this chapter, a long walk

proof of the pudding:

an expression meaning the test of something is in the results: the proof of the pudding is in the eating (how the pudding tastes); The proof that Judge Taylor is a good judge is that higher courts seldom reverse(change/overrule) his judgements.

riled (adjective):


strenuous (adjective):

requiring hard work

tedious (adjective):


tollable (adjective):

Mayella’s way of pronouncing the word ‘tolerable’. Someone who is tolerable is a person who is fairly good; someone who can be tolerated

wrathfully (adverb):


cotton gin:

a for separating cotton from its seeds

Mr Jingle:

A character in Charles Dickens’s novel The Pickwick Papers, Mr Jingle usually talks in short phrases rather than in sentences.

Definitions of words from Chapter 19:

candid (adjective):

open and honest

ex cathedra remarks

(adjective + noun):

remarks made with the authority that comes from one’s official position

expunge (verb):

remove completely

grimly (adverb):

sternly; without humour

impudent (adjective):

disrespectful; cheeky

subtlety (noun) of Tom’s predicament (noun):

in this case, the fine or complicated details of Tom’s difficult situation

thin-hided (adjective):

thin-skinned; very sensitive

unimpaired (adjective):

unhurt; undamaged

volition (noun):

will or choice; Scout is saying that someone like Tom would never choose to go into somebody’s yard on his own or unless he had been invited.

Definitions of words from Chapter 20:

aridity (noun):

extreme dryness

attentive (adjective):

paying attention; observant

calibre (noun):

strength or quality of character

capital charge

(adjective + noun):

charged with a crime that is punishable by death

corrupting (verb, continuous tense):

To corrupt someone is to bring that person down to a lower moral level. Since it at first seems that Mr Raymond has given Dill liquor to drink, it would seem that he is corrupting him.

cynical confidence

(adjective + noun):

To be cynical, in this case, means to believe that people are only motivated in what they do by selfishness; that no one truly behaves or does something because they believe it is right. When Atticus talks about the witnesses’ ‘cynical confidence’ he means they are selfish and self-centred enough to think that everyone will believe their story.

discreet (adjective):

careful about what you say or do

fraud (noun):

a lie; a trick; a dishonest action

indicted (verb, past tense):

formally accused; charged

iota (noun):

a very small amount

minute (adjective):

very small, but in this chapter it means very detailed (pronounced: my- NEWT)

pauper (noun):

an extremely poor person

perpetrated (verb, past tense):


run-of-the- mill



temerity (noun):

a great deal of confidence or boldness



unquestionable; without doubt; used to emphasise how bad or extreme something is. In the 1930s in the racist southern states of the USA it would have been extremely foolish of a black man to say that he felt sorry for a white woman. According to these white racists Tom should not have any feelings for white women and especially not feelings of pity for those who are his ‘superiors’.

all men are created equal:

A phrase from the American Declaration of Independence

distaff side of the Executive branch:

a reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (the Executive branch is the President and distaff, in this case, means wife). Eleanor Roosevelt was often criticised, especially in the South, for her views on civil rights.


Albert Einstein (1979-1955), German-born physicist


John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), one of the richest men in America at the time

Thomas Jefferson:

third President of the United States (1801-1809) and author of The Declaration of Independence

Definitions of words from Chapter 21:

acquit (verb, present tense):

find not guilty

charged the jury (verb

+ noun):

When Judge Taylor charges the jury, he gives them instructions before they go off to decide on their verdict.

demurred (verb, past tense):

raised objections to

exhilarated (adjective):

extremely happy and excited

fretfully (adverb):

anxiously or complainingly (often used to describe children’s behaviour)

indignant (adjective):

angry because you feel insulted or unfairly treated

intensity (noun):

strength or power

peeved (adjective):

irritated or cross

railing (noun):

a fence or barrier made of rails

relenting (verb, continuous tense):

becoming less strict and allowing something that you had not allowed before

remorse (noun):

feeling of being sorry because you have done something wrong

toyed with (verb, past tense):

thought about, but not very seriously

Chapters 22-25

  • Consequences of the verdict in Tom Robinson’s trial

1. Structure and plot development

Falling action
The excitement of the trial is over and the people of Maycomb go back to their everyday lives.
Even though the jury found Tom Robinson guilty, the black community appreciated what Atticus had tried to do.
Yes, all the black people who were in the courtroom stood up to show their respect for Atticus when he walked out at the end of the trial.
And the next day many of them took gifts of food to his house.

2. Themes

Love and caring

  • Even though Aunt Agatha did not really approve of Atticus taking on Tom’s case she sees how upset he is about the verdict and tries to comfort him: “I’m sorry brother,” she murmured”. (Chapter 22)
  • Miss Maudie tries to comfort the children by explaining why the length of time it took the jury to find Tom guilty is, itself, sign of a positive change in their society. (Chapter 22)


  • Atticus excuses Bob Ewell’s behaviour when Bob spits in his face. He asks Jem to try to understand how Bob must be feeling, saying, “see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute”. (Chapter 23)

Innocence and loss of innocence

  • Scout and Jem have to face the fact that the court did not deliver justice in its verdict, but instead expressed the deep racism of society. (Chapter 22)
  • To kill a mockingbird means to destroy what is good and innocent. After Tom is shot, Mr Underwood, the newspaper editor, compares his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds”. He is saying that Tom was good and innocent. (Chapter 25)


  • Tom is found guilty because he is a black man accused of rape by a white woman. In fact, it is very clear he is innocent of this crime.

The law

  • The verdict against Tom shows that people are not all treated equally in a court of law, as Atticus likes to believe.

3. Tone

These chapters start with a tone of thankfulness towards Atticus, shown by members of the black community. The tone changes to one of fear when Bob Ewell threatens Atticus, and finally to a shocked tone when Atticus comes home with the news of Tom’s death.

4. Chapter by chapter

4.1 What happens in Chapter 22 and who is involved?

  • Jem is particularly upset about what he sees as the unfairness of the jury’s decision to find Tom guilty.
  • Members of the black community bring gifts of food to Atticus to thank him for doing his best to defend Tom.
  • Bob Ewell threatens to harm Atticus because Atticus made him look bad during the court case.
  • Scout and Jem are very upset when the jury finds Tom guilty. This is because the evidence presented in court showed that Tom had a damaged left arm and so it is unlikely that he could have attacked Mayella Ewell in the way that she and her father, Bob, described.
  • Miss Maudie tries to comfort the children by explain that that Atticus could not have won the case because, in the south of America in the 1930s, a white jury would never find a black man charged with raping a white woman innocent, no matter what the evidence showed.
  • Miss Maudie in fact sees the trial as “a baby-step” forward for justice and racial equality in her society. This is because Atticus had argued the case so well that it took the jury several hours to agree on their verdict. This shows that there was some serious discussion among the members of the jury before they could arrive at a decision.

4.2 What happens in Chapter 23 and who is involved?

  • Atticus refuses to get angry about Bob Ewell spitting in his face and threatening him. He makes a joke about it.
  • The children have some serious discussions with their father and with Aunt Alexandra about juries (for example, who is chosen to be on a jury and how they make decisions); and about “folks” and the way they behave.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 24 and who is involved?

  • Aunt Alexandra holds a meeting of the women’s Missionary Circle at the Finch’s home. Scout has to wear a dress and talk to the women at the meeting.
  • During the meeting Atticus comes home with the terrible news that Tom Robinson has been shot and killed while trying to escape from prison. Even though Atticus was trying to appeal the decision of the court, Tom had felt hopeless.
  • Atticus asks Calpurnia to go with him to tell Tom’s wife, Helen, what has happened.

4.4 What happens in Chapter 25 and who is involved?

  • Scout remembers Dill explaining how he and Jem also ended up going to Tom Robinson’s wife’s house to tell her the news of Tom’s death. In the car, on their way to the house, Atticus and Calpurnia passed Jem and Dill on the road and the boys persuaded Atticus to take them along.
  • Dill describes to Scout how Helen responded to the news.
  • Mr Underwood writes a newspaper editorial criticising the people of Maycomb for causing Tom’s death.
  • At the end of the chapter Scout grows up a little bit more after reading Mr Underwood’s article. She realises that despite what seemed like a fair trial, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”

Activity 8

Read the extract and then answer the questions below.
[Dill describes Atticus’s visit to Helen Robinson’s house.]

“Scout” said Dill, “she just fell down in the dirt. Just fell down in the dirt, like a giant with a big foot just came along and stepped on her. Just ump –”
Dill’s fat foot hit the ground. “Like you’d step on an ant.”
Dill said Calpurnia and Atticus lifted Helen to her feet and half carried, half walked her to the cabin. They stayed inside a long time, and Atticus came out alone. When they drove back by the dump, some of the Ewells hollered at them, but Dill didn’t catch what they said.
Maycomb was interested by the news of Tom’s death for perhaps two days; two days was enough for the information to spread through the county. “Did you hear about? ... No? Well, they say he was runnin’ fit to beat lightnin’...”
To Maycomb, Tom’s death was Typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw.
(Chapter 25)
  1. Describe the events leading up to Helen’s collapse. State TWO points. (2)
  2. Refer to lines 1-2 (“just fell down ... stepped on her.”).
    a) Identify the figure of speech used in these lines. (1)
    b) Explain this figure of speech. (1)
    c) What does Dill’s description show you about the effect the news had on Helen? (1)
  3. Refer to lines 5-7 (“Dill said ... came out alone”). Why do you think Atticus “came out alone”? State TWO points. (2)
  4. Refer to the words (“the Ewells hollered at them”) in line 8.
    a) What does the attitude of the Ewells to Atticus suggest about them? State TWO points. (2)
    b) Why do the Ewells have such an attitude? State TWO points. (2)
  5. Refer to the words in lines 11-12 (“runnin’ fit to beat lightnin’”). Choose the correct answer to complete the following sentence. These words mean that he was running ...
    A very fast.
    B during a storm.
    C dangerously.
    D in a criss-cross way. (1)
  6. Refer to lines 9-15 (“Maycomb was interested ... chance he saw”).
    a) What do these lines tell you about the people of Maycomb? State TWO points. (2)
    b) Do you think Tom’s attempt to escape from jail really had “no plan, no thought for the future”? Explain your answer. (2)
  7. Do you think the Maycomb community now has a responsibility to take care of Tom’s family? Discuss your view. (2)  [18]

Answers to Activity 8

  1. Helen’s husband is (unfairly) convicted of rape. ✓
    Tom tries to escape from jail. ✓
    Tom is killed/shot. ✓
  2. a) A simile.) ✓
    b) Helen fell down as if a giant with a big foot had stepped on her. ✓
    c) She is devastated/shattered/her whole life has fallen apart. ✓
  3. He wants to leave Calpurnia alone to comfort Helen. ✓ As women, they will understand each other. ✓
    Atticus is sensitive and realises that he is not needed there. ✓ As the only man, he feels uncomfortable, so he leaves the women alone. ✓
  4. a) They are coarse/vulgar. ✓ They are rude/disrespectful. ✓ They are unforgiving/vengeful. ✓ They are racist. ✓
    b) The Ewells have this attitude because Atticus defended Tom Robinson, a black man. ✓ / Atticus revealed the truth about Bob.✓/ Atticus proved that Mayella lied in court. ✓/ Atticus showed that Mayella was sexually interested in a black man (this was against the law in those days). ✓ / Atticus proved that Bob is an abusive father.✓
  5. A/very fast ✓
  6. a) They talk a lot about each other. ✓ /They are gossips. ✓/They know each other’s business. ✓ / They are racist. ✓ / They are judgemental. ✓
    b) Yes. He reacted impulsively or out of desperation. ✓✓
    No. He knew that there was no hope of being released and this was his only opportunity to get away. ✓✓
    No. I do not think there was a plan at all – he never tried to escape, but this was part of a plan to kill him. ✓✓
  7. Yes. They have a responsibility to look after the family because everybody knows that Tom was innocent and died because of the racism of the jury. ✓ The least they can do is take care of his family now. ✓
    No. Helen can work and take care of her family herself. ✓ It is not the community’s fault that Tom tried to escape and was killed. ✓ 

Definitions of words from Chapter 22:

cynical (adjective):

unwilling to believe that someone has good reasons for doing something

fatalistic (adjective):

accepting that nothing can be done to change something

feral (adjective):

wild; savage (usually used to describe domestic animals or birds that have ‘gone wild’)

heathen (adjective):

a person without religion or morals

impassive (adjective):

not showing any emotion

overstepping (verb):

going beyond what one should do or say. In this case Calpurnia is worried that the Finch family may think that that members of the black community, who bring gifts to the Finch home to thank Atticuis for what he tried to do for Tom, are doing something they are not supposed to do. Atticus tells her he is very grateful but also does not want them to do this again because they need to keep the food for themselves.

ruefully (adverb):


Definitions of words from Chapter 23:

acquittal (noun):

being found not guilty of a crime

circumstantial evidence (adjective + noun):

facts or signs that make something seem to be true but that do not definitely prove it to be so

commutes (verb, present tense):

changes to make less severe

dry (adjective):

sounding serious when making a joke

furtive (adjective):

sly, sneaky

‘go to the chair’:

This expression means that a person found guilty of a serious crime will be put to death by being strapped to a chair through which an electric current is passed (i.e., the person will be electrocuted).

infantile (adjective):


statute (noun):

a written law

vehement (adjective):

full of emotion and strong feeling

wary (adjective):


wryly (adverb):

with slightly sarcastic humour

Definitions of words from Chapter 24:

apprehension (noun):

in this case, fear

bellows (noun):

a piece of equipment that allows air to be pumped through a system; in this case, an organ (a piano-like musical instrument)

bovine (adjective):

like a cow

brevity (noun):


charlotte (noun):

a dessert made with fruit in a mould that is lined with pieces of bread or cake.

devout (adjective):

devoted to one’s religion

hypocrites (noun):

people who pretend to be something they are not

impertinence (noun):

disrespect, rudeness

largo (noun):

Largo is a direction used in music which means very slowly. Mrs Merriweather is apparently speaking to Scout very slowly.

squalid (adjective):

miserable; wretched

squalor (noun):


yaws (noun):

an infectious contagious tropical disease.


a city in Central Alabama.

Mrs. Roosevelt:

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

People up there set ’em free:

people in the northern states of the USA are responsible for the fact that the slaves were freed

tryin’ to sit with ’em:

in 1939 Eleanor Roosevelt attended a meeting of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama, where she sat in the centre aisle, between whites and blacks, after police told her she was breaking segregation laws by sitting with black people.

Definitions of words from Chapter 25:

drowsily (adverb):


roly-poly (noun):

a small bug that can roll itself into a ball

scowling (verb, continuous tense):

to look at someone in an angry way

English Channel:

The English Channel is a stretch of sea that separates Great Britain from France. It is also the route for much of the trade between Great Britain and the European continent. According to Scout, Miss Stephanie is the route of gossip (talk about people’s private lives) for much of Maycomb.

Chapters 26-28

  • Scout’s new teacher
  • A break-in at Judge Taylor’s house
  • Scout and Jem are attacked

1. Structure and plot development

Rising action
The main events in these chapters build up to the attack on Scout and Jem as they walk home in the dark after the Halloween pageant at the high school.

2. Themes


  • The teacher, Miss Gates, teaches the children about the prejudice and inequality of Nazi Germany, but can’t see the racial prejudice and social inequality in her own community. (Chapter 26)

Love and caring

  • Despite the racism and tension in the town, Mr Link Deas helps Helen Robinson by giving her a job and protects her from Bob Ewell. (Chapter 27)
  • Jem tries to comfort Scout after she is laughed at at the Halloween pageant. (Chapter 28)
  • Aunt Agatha comforts Scout after the terrifying attack. (Chapter 28)

Courage and bravery

  • Jem shows a lot of courage in facing up to the attacker. (Chapter 28)
  • The unknown person who saves Scout and Jem from the attacker is also very brave. (Chapter 28)

3. Tone

The trial and death of Tom are still in the children’s minds and the tone is gloomy. Things are quiet for a while but the tense tone builds from the time Cecil Jacobs frightens Jem and Scout on the night of the Halloween pageant until the two are attacked.

4. Chapter by chapter

4.1 What happens in Chapter 26 and who is involved?

  • The new school year starts in September, which, in America is the end of the summer. Scout has a new teacher, Miss Gates.
  • Miss Gates criticises Hitler and the German government for persecuting (treating harshly and unfairly) Jewish people. She says Germany is a dictatorship, which is a kind of government in which the leader has complete power. She tells the children that America is a democracy, where people are not persecuted.
  • Scout, like Jem, is growing up and she is upset because she heard Miss Gates saying after Tom’s trial that black people needed to be taught a lesson because they were “getting above themselves”.
  • When Scout thinks of how some people in and around Maycomb have been treated she is not sure that Miss Gates is right when she says all Americans are safe from persecution.

4.2 What happens in Chapter 27 and who is involved?

  • Someone breaks into the home of Judge Taylor, who was the judge in Tom Robinson’s court case. It seems likely that this person is Bob Ewell.
  • Mr Link Deas has given Helen Robinson a job so that she can support her family. He tells Bob Ewell that he will have him put in jail if he does anything to harm Helen.
  • The town prepares for the Halloween pageant. In the pageant Scout is to dress up as a leg of ham. For this, she will wear a costume made of wire and covered in fabric which makes it difficult for her to see and to move.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 28 and who is involved?

  • Scout and Jem walk to the pageant, which is held at night in the high school auditorium (hall). On the way, Cecil Jacobs jumps out of the dark, giving them a fright.
  • The pageant is long and Scout falls asleep before it is her turn to go on stage. She has to be called loudly (“Po-ork!”) and she arrives on stage late, so the audience laughs at her.
  • After the pageant, Jem realises that Scout is upset about being laughed at and he tries to comfort her. This shows that he is kind and cares about Scout.
  • When she and Jem are walking home they are attacked by a man with a knife. They are saved by an unknown person, although Jem’s arm is badly broken in the fight. This unknown person carries Jem home.
  • After Atticus calls Heck Tate to investigate, the sheriff finds Bob Ewell’s body at the scene of the attack.
  • unt Agatha shows that she is not always mean. She is very sympathetic to Scout and tries to comfort her.

Activity 9

Test yourself by answering the questions below.

  1. Who is Scout talking about when she says to Jem, “How can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?”? (1)
  2. Which “folks” is this person speaking badly (“ugly”) about? (1)
  3. What happens at Judge Taylor’s home on a Sunday evening while his wife is at church? (1)
  4. Why does Mr Link Dias threaten to have Bob Ewell put in jail? (1)
  5. What excuse did Atticus and Aunt Alexandra give for not attending the Halloween pageant? (1)
  6. When the children are walking home after the pageant they hear a noise. At first, who do they think is making this noise? (1)
  7. What makes it difficult for Scout to run when Jem tells her to do so?  (1)
  8. Scout is very confused about who is involved in the fight and about what happened but as she approaches her home she sees a man carrying Jem. Who is this man? (1)
  9. State whether the following statement is TRUE or FALSE and give a reason for your answer:
    “After Aunt Alexandra called Dr Reynolds she was very kind to Scout.”(2)    [10]

Answers to activity 9

  1. Scout is talking about her new teacher, Miss Gates. ✓
  2. Scout heard Miss Gates being racist about the black people of Maycomb. ✓
  3. Someone tries to break into his house but runs away when the judge goes to investigate. ✓
  4. Bob Ewell had been making insulting remarks to Helen when she walked past his place on her way to work. ✓
  5. They both made the excuse that they were too tired. ✓
  6. At first they think it is Cecil Jacobs because he scared them on their way to the pageant. ✓
  7. Scout’s costume is made of wire and fabric. It makes it very difficult for her to run. ✓
  8. Once the unknown man is in the Finch’s home everyone realises that he is Arthur (Boo) Radley. ✓
  9. True. Aunt Alexandra calls Scout “Darling” and she brings her favourite overalls for her to wear instead of making her wear a dress. ✓✓ 

Definitions of words from Chapter 26:

maniac (noun):

(informal English) someone who behaves in a stupid or dangerous way

remorse (noun):

a feeling of regret and guilt

recluse (noun):

someone who stays away from society and the company of others

spurious (adjective):

false or fake. Miss Gates thinks The Grit Paper is spurious because, although it looks like a newspaper she believes it is not nearly as good as The Mobile Register or other newspapers.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945):

Nazi dictator who led the German government from 1933 to 1945 and who led Germany into the Second World War.

Adolf Hitler has been after all the Jews:

a reference to the anti-Jewish policies of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Elmer Davis:

a journalist and radio commentator who went on to head the US Office of War Information during the Second World War


a member of a small religious sect that expresses devotion by shouting and moving around during worship services.

Uncle Natchell story:

Uncle Natchell was a cartoon character featured in advertisements for fertiliser. Many of the advertisements for this product were in comic strip or story form.
Chuck Little has mistaken one of these advertising ‘stories’ for an actual current event.

Definitions of words from Chapter 27:

carcass (noun):

in this case it means a human body (Bob Ewell’s) but usually this word is used to refer to the body of a dead animal.

ear trumpet (noun):

old-fashioned instrument, shaped like a trumpet, which was held to the ear to help a person to hear better

florid (adjective):

writing or speaking style that uses more words than necessary

industry (noun):

in this case it means steady work

maiden ladies

(adjective + noun):

women who have never married

notoriety (noun):

fame, usually as a result of having done something wrong or bad



dull; with no special or interesting qualities

purloined (verb, past tense):


Bob Taylor:

Robert Love Taylor, late 19th-century public speaker and politician

Per Aspera:

Latin for ‘To the stars through difficulties’

Cotton Tom Heflin:

Thomas ‘Cotton Tom’ Heflin was a public speaker and Republican politician. Heflin’s political support was drawn chiefly from rural voters and members of the Ku Klux Klan (a white racist organisation).

dog Victrolas:

a reference to the advertising symbol of RCA/Victor, a company that made gramophones (record players). In the advertisements a dog looks into the horn of a gramophone or Victrola.

Ladies’ Law:

From the Criminal Code of Alabama, Vol. III, 1907: ‘Any person who enters into, or goes sufficiently near to the dwelling house of another, and, in the presence or hearing of the family of the occupant thereof, or any member of his family, or any person who, in the presence or hearing of any girl or woman, uses abusive, insulting or obscene language must, on conviction, be fined not more than two hundred dollars, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail, or sentenced to hard labour for the county for not more than six months.’

National Recovery Act:

better known as the National Recovery Administration or the NRA. The NRA was a series of programmes set up to help the USA, especially the nation’s businesses, recover from the effects of the Great Depression.

nine old men:

the members of the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional in 1935.


the motto of the NRA


People from Syria, a country to the south of Turkey.


During the Great Depression, when millions of Americans were out of work, the government instituted the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and employed over eight million people.

Definitions of words from Chapter 28:

boil-prone (adjective):

A boil is an inflamed, pus-filled swelling on the skin, like a pimple, only usually bigger. To be prone to something is to be inclined to it. If the children had been boil-prone, they would have been inclined to have a lot of boils.

climbers (noun):

social climbers; people trying to move up into a higher social class

crap games (noun):

craps is a gambling game played with two dice

divinity (noun):

In this case it means a white fudge made from whipped egg whites, sugar and nuts.

forest primeval (noun

+ adjective):

a forest that had been untouched or unchanged by man

gait (noun):

way of walking

hock (noun):

the joint bending backward in the hind leg of an animal such as a pig. Scout is dressed as a ham, and a ham is the upper part of a hog’s hind leg, Scout’s hock would be the part of her costume that resembles the joint of a pig’s leg.

irascible (adjective):


mocker (noun):

in this case, a mockingbird

pinioned (adjective):

held down

repertoire (noun):

accomplishments; skills. The repertoire of the mockingbird is all the songs it can sing and sounds it can make.

rout (verb):


smockin’ (noun):

Smocking is decorative stitching on clothing (usually small children’s clothing).

staccato (adjective):

distinct; sharp and crisp

three-corner hats, confederate caps, Spanish-American War hats, and World War helmets:

all references to what various soldiers from different wars wore on their heads

Chapters 29-31

  • Boo Radley saves Scout and Jem
  • Scout learns to think about other people’s situation

1. Structure and plot development

Resolution: The novel ends where it began – with Jem’s broken arm. However, now we know exactly what happened and how Jem came to break his arm. And we finally meet Boo Radley, who has been a mystery through the book. In an ironic twist, Boo turns out to be a brave and caring man, and not the monster the children had imagined at the beginning of the novel.

2. Themes


  • Bob Ewell attacked Jem and Scout because he wanted revenge on Atticus for his humiliation during the court case. (Chapter 29)

Love and caring

  • Atticus shows his great love for his children in the way he cares for them after the attack. (Chapter 30)

The law

  • If the law was properly followed then Boo Radley should have been arrested for the death of Bob Ewell. However, both Heck Tate and Atticus agree that it was more just to protect Boo from this process. (Chapter 30)

Courage and bravery

  • Boo Radley shows a lot of courage by saving Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell’s attack. (Chapter 29)


  • Scout learns to empathise with Boo by seeing for herself the view of the community Boo had from his house.

3. Tone

The tone at the end of the novel is a mix of different emotions. Everyone is shocked because of the attack which left Bob Ewell dead and Jem with a badly broken arm. On the other hand, everyone is also grateful for Boo Radley’s courage. The final tone is loving as Atticus cares for his wounded son and shocked daughter.

4. Chapter by chapter

4.1 What happens in Chapter 29 and who is involved?

  • The family is shocked when Heck Tate tells them that Bob Ewell is dead.
  • Scout tells Heck and Atticus what she remembers about the attack on her and Jem.
  • Scout realises that the man who saved them is Boo (Arthur) Radley.

4.2 What happens in Chapter 30 and who is involved?

  • Atticus believes it was Jem who stabbed Bob Ewell. Heck Tate tells him it was not Jem, but Atticus thinks Heck is just being kind.
  • Heck tells Atticus that Bob Ewell tripped over a root and fell on his own knife.
  • It becomes clear that Heck knows it was Boo, not Jem, who stabbed Bob Ewell to save the children. However, Heck says that he is not going to arrest Boo. Boo would be damaged by all the attention.
  • When Atticus asks Scout whether she understands why Boo will not be put on trial, she replies that she does. Scout says that to put Boo on trial would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird”.

4.3 What happens in Chapter 31 and who is involved?

  • Atticus asks Scout to take Boo home.
  • She takes him home and then stands on the steps of his house, thinking about how Boo would view the town. She is learning how to do what Atticus believes it is important for everyone to do: think about other people’s situations.
  • The novel ends with descriptions of Atticus caring lovingly for Scout and Jem.

Activity 10

Read the extract and then answer the questions below.
[Scout describes how she and Jem were attacked by Bob Ewell and rescued by Boo Radley.]

“Anyway Jem hollered and I didn’t hear him anymore an’ the next thing – Mr Ewell was tryin’ to squeeze me to death, I reckon ... then somebody yanked Mr Ewell down. Jem must have got up, I guess. That’s all I know …”
“And then?” Mr Tate was looking at me sharply.
“Somebody was staggerin’ around and pantin’ and – coughing fit to die. I thought it was Jem at first, but it didn’t sound like him, so I went lookin’ for Jem on the ground. I thought Atticus had come to help us and had got wore out—”
“Who was it?”
“Why there he is, Mr Tate, he can tell you his name.” As I said it, I half pointed to the man in the corner, but brought my arm down quickly lest Atticus reprimand me for pointing. It was impolite to point.
He was still leaning against the wall. He had been leaning against the wall when I came into the room, his arms folded across his chest. As I pointed he brought his arms down and pressed the palms of his hands against the wall.
They were white hands, sickly white hands that had never seen the sun, so white they stood out garishly against the dull cream wall in the dim light of Jem’s room.
I looked from his hands to his sand-stained khaki pants; my eyes travelled up his thin frame to his torn denim shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his grey eyes were so colourless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.
[Chapter 29] 
  1. Give reasons for Bob Ewell’s attack on the children. (2)
  2. Discuss Boo Radley’s feelings about the children. (3)
  3. Describe Atticus’s feelings after the attack on the children. (2)
  4. Refer to lines 1-9 (“Anyway Jem hollered … got wore out”).
    Identify and discuss the theme of the novel revealed in these lines. (4)
  5. Refer to line 5 (“‘And then?’ Mr ... at me sharply”). Why does Mr Tate visit Atticus?
    Choose the correct answer and write only the letter (A-D) next to the question number.
    A He has to investigate the attack on the children and Bob Ewell’s death.
    B He has come to check the injuries the children received during the attack.
    C He is Atticus’s good friend and has come to find out what happened to the children.
    D He is the sheriff and has come to arrest Jem for Bob Ewell’s death.  (1)
  6. Mr Tate decides not to reveal all the details of the attack. In your view, is he justified in doing this? Discuss your view. (3)
  7. Refer to lines 14-27 (“He was still ... of his head”).
    Explain why Boo Radley has “sickly white hands that had never seen the sun”. (2)
  8. From your knowledge of the novel as a whole, discuss the character of Bob Ewell. (3)
  9. Match the names in COLUMN 1 to the descriptions in COLUMN 2. Write down only the question number (9(a)–9(c)) and the letter (A-D) of your answer.  (3)

    COLUMN 1

    COLUMN 2

    (a) Aunt Alexandra

    A is remarkably calm after Bob Ewell’s attack

    (b) Boo

    B phones Dr Reynolds

    (c) Atticus

    C phones the police


    D saves the children from Bob Ewell

  10. Describe one or more incidents in the novel which you think are examples of racist behaviour or racist thinking. (2)  [25]

Answers to Activity 10

  1. During the trial, Atticus exposes the kind of life led by the Ewells and proves Bob to be a liar. Bob tries to take revenge on Atticus by attacking his children. ✓
  2. Boo Radley is kind/considerate towards the children. ✓ He is protective/does not want them to come to any harm. ✓ He loves them. ✓
  3. Atticus is shocked by the attack.✓He is unusually calm/rational.✓
  4. The theme of revenge is revealed. ✓ Bob Ewell attacks the children as he wants revenge on Atticus for revealing the truth about him in court. ✓ This shows that Bob is vindictive ✓ and does not hesitate to harm innocent children. ✓
    The theme of love/care is revealed. ✓ Boo Radley loves the children and cares about them. ✓ He comes to their rescue when they are attacked by Bob. ✓ He does not hesitate to risk his life to save them as he cares about them. ✓
  5. A ✓
  6. Yes, Mr Tate is justified in selecting which information he will release. ✓ Boo Radley could face a murder charge even though his intention was to help the children ✓ and this could endanger his freedom/he might face execution. ✓
    No, he is not justified in hiding the truth. ✓ As the sheriff of the county he should not attempt to cover anything up. ✓ A man has lost his life and he should let the law take its course. ✓
  7. Boo Radley has been locked inside his house since he was a teenager. ✓ His skin has not been exposed to the sun in all these years. ✓
  8. He is not to be trusted. ✓ / He is racist. ✓/ He is an alcoholic. ✓
    / He is rude. ✓ / He is violent. ✓ / He abuses his own children physically, emotionally, verbally and perhaps even sexually. ✓ / He is too lazy to work. ✓
  9. (a) B ✓
    (b) D ✓
    (c) A ✓
  10. Even adults who support justice and fairness use racist language.✓ For example, both Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mr Heck Tate refer to adult black men as “boys”. ✓
    Almost all the whites look down on Mr Dolphus Raymond because his partner is a black woman. ✓ Many (but not all) whites in the town think it is wrong of Atticus to defend a black man in court. ✓
    There are many examples of racial segregation: separate schools for black and white children, separate churches, separate parts of town in which to live, separate sections in which to sit in the court house. ✓✓

Definitions of words from Chapter 29:

hexagonal (adjective):


reprimand (verb):

to tell someone they have done something wrong

Definitions of words from Chapter 30:

blandly (adverb):

smoothly; without excitement

connived (verb):

secretly co-operated with or agreed to

instinctively (adverb):

naturally, without being taught

stubborn (adjective):

refusing to change one’s mind, no matter what

turmoil (noun):

a situation in which there is a lot of trouble or confusion

wisteria (noun):

woody vines with large clusters of flowers

Definitions of words from Chapter 31:

amiable acquiescence (adjective + noun):

amiable means friendly and acquiescence means agreement. Scout is puzzled because Atticus is agreeing in a friendly way that she can stay up after midnight because normally her father would insist that she go to bed.

body English:

Scout means body language: what one can learn from watching how a person moves his or her body

pointedly (adverb):

showing clear disapproval or annoyance

sedative (noun):

a drug given by doctors to make a person relax and usually to sleep

Last modified on Thursday, 09 September 2021 07:37