Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, narrates the story, and starts by explaining how her brother, Jem, broke his arm. The first member of the family was a fur-trader and apothecary called Simon Finch. He had a farm; Finch’s Landing, which provided for the whole family. Normally, all men in the family remained on the farm, but Atticus Finch (Scout and Jem’s father) went to Montgomery to study law. His younger brother Jack Finch went to Boston to study medicine. Their sister, Alexandra, stayed on the Landing. Atticus is a successful lawyer, who makes a good living in Maycomb, a tired and old town in Maycomb County. He lives on the main residential street with Jem, Scout and Calpurnia, an old black woman (his cook). Jem and Scout’s mother died when Scout was two, so she doesn’t remember her very much. But Jem, four years older than Scout, remembers her well, and sometimes gets upset when thinking about her. In summer 1973, Charles Baker (Dill) Finch moves in next door, staying with his aunt (Miss Rachel). Dill is very talkative and lively. All three of them become good friends and act out stories and plays. Once they get bored of doing this, Dill suggests trying to lure Boo Radley out of his house, a mysterious and secretive person. Arthur (Boo) Radley lives in the derelict house, in which he was imprisoned by his father, after he got in trouble with the law. Fifteen years later, he stabbed his father in the leg with some scissors, and although other residents said he was crazy and that he should be out in an asylum, old Mr. Radley refused to send his son to an asylum, and brought his brother (Nathan Radley) to live with Boo when he died. Boo still stayed inside. Dill tries to convince Jem and Scout to help him lure Boo outside. He then dares Jem to touch the wall. Eventually, Jem touches the house and runs back. They do not think anything has happened, but Scout thinks she saw a shutter moving, as if someone was watching them. Chapter 2 It is now September – school has started and Dill has left to return to the town of Meridian. Scout is going to school, for her first time – she has been very keen to go. However, Miss Caroline Fisher, her teacher, cannot deal with children well. Miss Fisher eventually finds out that Scout knows how to read – she must’ve been taught by Atticus. She makes Scout feel guilty for being educated. At recess, Scout meets up with Jem and complains about her teacher. Jem tries to explain that Miss Carline is trying out a new type of teaching. Scout and her teacher get on badly in the afternoon too. Walter Cunningham is a boy in Scout’s class, and he has not brought lunch. Miss Caroline offers him a quarter so that he can buy something, and then pay her back tomorrow. However, Walter refuses it. Scout tries to explain that Walter’s family is very poor and quite large – they have to pay Atticus with hickory nuts, turnip greens or other goods when they need Atticus to help legally. Therefore, Walter cannot pay back the teacher or bring lunch to school. Unfortunately, Miss Caroline doesn’t understand and gets so annoyed that she slaps Scout’s hand with a ruler. Chapter 3 At lunch, Scout rubs Walter’s nose in the dirt for getting her in trouble. Jem intervenes and invites Walter to lunch. At their house, Walter and Atticus talk about farm conditions. Scout is disgusted and horrified when Walter puts molasses all over his meat and vegetables. She criticises him, but Calpurnia calls her to the kitchen to tell her off, slaps her on the way back to the dining room, and tells her to be a better hostess. Back at school, Miss Caroline becomes petrified when a tiny bug (“cootie”) crawls out Burris Ewell’s hair – he is a member of the Ewell clan, which is even poorer and less respectable than the Cunningham clan. Burris only comes to school the first day of every school year, making a small appearance to avoid trouble with the law. When he leaves the classroom, he makes so many vicious and horrible remarks to Miss Caroline that she starts to cry. At home, Atticus follows Scout outside to ask if anything is wrong – she says that she isn’t feeling well. She tells him that she doesn’t think that she should go to school anymore, and that Atticus should teach her. Atticus replies by saying that the law dictates that she must go to school, but he promises that he will still keep reading to her, as long she doesn’t tell her teacher about it. Chapter 4 The rest of the school year passes gloomily for Scout – her curriculum moves too slowly, so she constantly gets annoyed in class. After school one day, she walks passes the Radley place and sees some tinfoil sticking out of a knot hole in one of the Radley’s oak trees. In the knothole, she finds two pieces of chewing gum. She chews both of them, and tells Jem about it. He panics and makes her spit out. On the last day of school, they find two old ‘Indian-head’ pennies hidden in the same knothole – they decide to keep them.
Summer comes again, and Dill returns. Scout, Jem and Dill begin their games again. One of the first things they do is roll each other inside on old tyre. When it is Scout’s turn, she rolls in front of the Radley house – Jem and Scout panic. However, this gives Jem an idea for their next game: they will play ‘Boo Radley’. As summer passes, the games become complicated, until they are acting out a whole Radley family melodrama. Eventually, Atticus finds them doing this, and asks if their game has anything to do with the Radleys. Jem lies – Atticus goes back in the house. The three of them wonder if the game they play is safe. Chapter 5 Jem and Dill grow closer, leaving Scout feeling left out of their friendship. Therefore, she starts spending a lot of her time with Miss Maudie Atkinson, one of their neighbours. She has a talent for gardening and cake baking, and she was a childhood friend of Atticus’ brother Jack. She tells Scout that Boo Radley is still alive, and it is her theory that Boo was harshly treated by his severe father (now dead), who believed that most people are going to hell. She also says that Boo was always polite and friendly as a child, and that most of rumours regarding him are false, but if he wasn’t crazy as a child, he would probably be by now.
In the meantime, Jem and Dill are planning to give a note to Boo, inviting him out so that they can get ice-cream with him. When they try to stick the note in the window of the Radley Place with a fishing pole, Atticus catches them and commands them to ‘stop tormenting that man’ with notes or the ‘Boo Radley’ game. Chapter 6 Jem and Dill keep their word with Atticus, until Dill’s last day in Maycomb. Then, they plan to sneak over to the Radley Place, and look in through a loose shutter. Scout goes with them, and they creep around the house, peeking in through different windows. Suddenly, they see the shadow of a man with a hat on. They run away, hearing a shotgun go off behind them. They escape under the fence by the schoolyard, but Jem’s pants get caught on the fence, and he has to kick them off to free himself.
When they return home, they come across a collection of neighbourhood adults, including Atticus, Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie Crawford, the neighbourhood gossip. Miss Maudie says that Mr. Nathan Radley shot at a Negro in his yard. Miss Stephanie adds that Mr. Radley is waiting outside with his gun, so he can shoot at the next sound he hears. Atticus soon notices that Jem’s pants aren’t with him. When he questions where they are, Dill interrupts and says that he won them in a game of strip poker. Shocked, Atticus asks if they were playing cards. Jem replies by saying that they were just playing with matches. Later that night, Jem returns to the Radley Place and finds his pants. Chapter 7 A few days later, after school has started again, Jem tells Scout that when he went to fetch his pants, they were mended and hung neatly on the fence. When they come home from school that day, they find a ball of grey twine hidden in the knothole. They leave it there for a few days, but it is still there, so they take it for themselves.
Unsurprisingly, Scout is as unhappy in second grade as she was in first grade, but Jem promises her that school will get better, the further one she goes. Late that autumn, they find another present in the knothole – two figures carved in soap, to resemble Scout and Jem. The figures are followed by chewing gum, a spelling bee-medal and an old pocket watch on a chain with an aluminium knife. The next day, Jem and Scout find that the knothole has been filled with cement. When Jem asks Mr Radley (Nathan Radley, Boo’s brother) about the knothole, he replies that he filled the hole with cement, because the tree was dying. Chapter 8 For the first time in many years, Maycomb endures a real winter. There is a light a light snowfall. As this is very rare, school is closed. Jem and Scout haul as much snow as they can from Miss Maudie’s yard to their own. There is not enough snow to make a real snowman, so they build a small figure out of dirt, and cover it with snow. They make it look like Mr. Avery (an unpleasant man who lives down the street). The figure looks so much like Mr. Avery that Atticus demands that they disguise it – Jem puts Miss Maudie’s sunhat on its head, and sticks her hedge clippers in its hand, with which she is not very happy.
That night, Atticus wakes Scout, and helps her put on her bathrobe and coat and goes outside with her and Jem. Miss Maudie’s house is on fire. The neighbours help to save her furniture. The fire truck arrives in time to stop the fire from spreading to other houses, but Miss Maudie’s house eventually burns to the ground. In the chaos, someone drapes a blanket over Scout. When Atticus asks her about it, she doesn’t know who put it over her. Jem realises that it was Boo Radley who put it on her, and he reveals all the stories of the knothole, presents, mended pants to Atticus. Atticus tells them to not tell anyone, and Scout nearly throws up, after realising that Boo was right behind her.
Even though she has lost her house, Miss Maudie is still cheerful the next day. She tells the children how much he hated her old house, and that she is already planning to build a smaller house, and to plant a larger garden. She says that she wishes she was there when Boo put the blanket on Scout, to catch him doing it. Chapter 9 At school, Scout nearly starts a fight with a classmate called Cecil Jacobs, after he announced that ‘Scout Finch’s daddy defends niggers.’ Atticus had been asked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus cannot win this case, since the jury is white and Tom is black (they will be racist), but he tells Scout that he must argue it to keep up his sense of justice and self-respect.
At Christmas-time, Atticus’s brother, Jack, comes to stay with them for a week during the holidays. Scout normally gets along well with Uncle Jack, but when he arrives in Maycomb, she begins cursing in front of him (a habit that she has picked up recently). After supper, Jack has scout sit on his lap and he warns her not to curse in his presence. On Christmas Day, Atticus takes Jem, Scout and Jack to Finch’s Landing, a rambling old house in the country where Atticus’s sister, Alexandra, and her husband live. There, Scout meets Francis, Alexandra’s grandson, who had been dropped off at Finch’s Landing for the holiday. Scout thinks that he is the most boring child she has met. She also has to put up with proper Alexandra, who insists that Scout dress and act like a lady, instead of wearing pants.
One night, Francis tells Scout that Dill is a runt and calls Atticus a ‘nigger-lover’. Scout curses him and beats him up. Francis tells Alexandra and Uncle Jack that Scout hit him. Uncle Jack spanks Scout, without listening to her side of the story. When they return to Maycomb, Scout tells Jack what Francis said and Jack becomes very angry. Scout makes him promise not to tell Atticus, because Atticus had asked her not to fight anyone over what is said about him. Jack promises and keeps his word. Later, Scout overhears Atticus talking to Jack: Tom Robinson is innocent but the all-white jury will still convict him, as he is black. He is doomed. Chapter 10 Scout says that Atticus is somewhat older than most of the other fathers in Maycomb, so this often embarrasses his children – he wears glasses and reads, instead of hunting and fishing like the other men in town. One day, a mad dog appears, wandering down the main street towards the Finch’s house. Calpurnia calls Atticus, who returns with the sheriff of Maycomb, Heck Tate. Heck brings a rifle and asks Atticus to shoot the animal. Surprising and amazing his kids, Atticus does so, hitting the dog with only one shot, despite his considerable distance from the dog. Later, Miss Maudie tells Scout and Jem that Atticus used to be the best shot in the country, when he was a young man: “One-shot Finch.” Scout is keen to brag about this, but Jem tells her to keep it secret, because if Atticus wanted them to know, he would’ve told them. Chapter 11 On the way to the business district in Maycomb is the house of Mrs. Dubose, a bad-tempered old lady, who always shouts at Jem and Scout as they pass by. Atticus warns Jem to be a gentleman to her, because she is so old and sick, but one day, she tells the children that Atticus is not much better than the ‘niggers and trash he works for’, and Jem loses his temper. He takes a baton from Scout, and ruins all of Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bushes. As a punishment, he has to read to her every day for a month, at her house. Scout goes with him, and they endure her abuse and weird fits, which happen at the end of the reading sessions. Each session is a little longer than the one before. She dies about a month after his punishment ends. Atticus reveals to Jem that she was a morphine addict, and that the reading was part of a successful effort to fight the addiction. Atticus gives Jem a box that Mrs. Dubose had given her maid for Jem – in it is a single white camellia.
By now, Jem is 12, and begins to not want Scout around so much, to ‘stop pestering him’ and act more like a girl. Scout becomes upset and looks forward to Dill coming in the summer, but he writes letter saying that he cannot come to Maycomb – he has a new father (maybe, his mother remarried) and he will have to stay with his family in Meridian. To make things worse, the state legislature, of which Atticus is a member of, is called into session, forcing Atticus to travel to the state capital every two weeks.
Calpurnia decides to take the children to her ‘coloured’ church that Sunday. Maycomb’s black church is an old building called First Purchase, as the free slaves bought it with their first earnings. Lula, a woman in the church, criticises Cal for bringing in white children, although the congregation is generally friendly and Reverend Sykes welcomes them, saying that everyone knows their father. The church has no money for hymnals, and few of the parishioners can read, so they sing by echoing words from Zeebo, Cal’s eldest son, and the town garbage collector, that read from their only hymnal. During the service, Reverend Sykes takes up a collection for Tom Robinson’s wife, Helen, who cannot find work, as her husband has been accused of rape. Afterwards, Scout learns that Tom Robinson was accused by Bob Ewell, and cannot understand why anyone would believe the Ewells. When the children return home, they find someone waiting for them – their Aunt Alexandra. Chapter 13 Aunt Alexandra explains that she should stay with the children for a while, to give them some ‘feminine influence’. Everyone in Maycomb gives her a fine welcome: various ladies in the town bake her cakes, and have her over for coffee, and before long, she becomes an important part of the town’s social life. She is very proud of the Finches, and spends most of her time discussing the characteristics of different families in Maycomb. This ‘family consciousness’ is a vital part of life in Maycomb, an old town where some families have lived there for generations. However, she is very proud of the Finches, and spends most of her time discussing the characteristics of different families in Maycomb. This ‘family consciousness’ is a vital part of life in Maycomb, an old town where some families have lived there for generations. However, Jem and Scout don’t have the pride that Aunt Alexandra considers to be appropriate with the Finches. She orders Atticus to lecture them on the topic of their ancestry. He makes a brave attempt, but makes Scout cry. Chapter 14 The future trial of Tom Robinson and Atticus’s role as his defence lawyer make Jem and Scout the objects of whispers and glances whenever they go to town. One day, Scout tries to ask Atticus what rape is, and the subject of the children’s trip to Cal’s church comes up. Aunt Alexandra tells Scout that she cannot go back the next Sunday. Later, she tries to convince Atticus to get rid of Cal, saying that they no longer need her, but Atticus refuses. That night, Jem tells Scout not to annoy Alexandra. Scout gets very angry at being lectured and attacks Jem. Atticus breaks up the fight and sends them to bed. Scout discovers something under her bed. She calls Jem, and they find Dill hiding there.
Dill has run away from home because his mother and new father did not pay enough attention to him. He took a train from Meridian to Maycomb Junction, fourteen miles away, and covered the remaining distance on foot and on the back of a cotton-wagon. Jem goes to tell Atticus, who asks Scout to get more food than a pan of cold corn bread for Dill. Atticus goes next door to tell Dill’s aunt, Miss Rachel, of his whereabouts. Dill eats, then gets into Jem’s bed to sleep, but soon climbs over to Scout’s bed to talk things over. Chapter 15 A week after Dill’s arrival, a group of men led by the sheriff (Heck Tate) come to Atticus’s house in the evening. As his trial is nearing, Tom Robinson is to be moved to Maycomb jail. The group arrive to warn Atticus that Tom is in danger, as there is a possibility that a lynch mob has arisen. Later, Jem tells Scout that Alexandra and Atticus have been arguing about the trial – she nearly accused Atticus for bringing disgrace on the family. The following evening, Atticus takes the car into town. At about ten o’clock, Jem (accompanied by Scout and Dill) sneaks out of the house and follows Atticus to the town centre. From a distance, they see Atticus sitting in front of the Maycomb jail, reading a newspaper. Jem suggests that they shouldn’t disturb Atticus, and return home.
Straight away, four cars arrive, and park near the jail. A group of men get out, and one demands that Atticus move away from the jailhouse door. Atticus refuses, and Scout suddenly comes racing out of her hiding-place next door, only to realise that this group of men is not the same one from the group that came to their house the previous night. Jem and Dill eventually come out too, and Atticus orders Jem to go home. Jem refuses, and one of the men in the group tells Atticus that he has 15 seconds to get his children to leave.
Meanwhile, Scout looks around the group and recognises Mr. Cunningham, the father of one of her classmates, Walter Cunningham. She starts talking to him about his legal entailments and his son, and asks him to tell his son that she says: “Hey.” All of the men stare at her. Mr Cunningham, suddenly embarrassed, squats down and tells Scout that he will do so, and then he tells the group to leave. After they leave, Mr. Underwood, the newspaper owner, speaks from a nearby window, where he is positioned with a double-barrelled shotgun. He says that he had Atticus ‘covered all the time’. They talk for a while, and then Atticus takes the children home. Chapter 16 The trial begins the next day. People from all over the county flood the town. Everyone makes an appearance in the courtroom, from Miss Stephanie Crawford to Mr. Dolphus Raymond, a wealthy eccentric who owns land on a river bank, and lives near the county line, is involved with a black woman, and has mulatto (children with black and white parents) children. Only Miss Maudie refuses to go, saying that watching someone on trial for his life is like attending a Roman carnival.
The vast crowd gathers in the town square to eat lunch. Afterwards, Jem, Scout and Dill wait for most of the crowd to enter the courthouse, so that they can slip back in at the back, and therefore prevent Atticus from seeing them. However, because they wait too long, they succeed on getting seats only when Reverend Sykes lets them sit in the balcony, where black are required to sit in order to watch the trial. From these seats, they can see the whole courtroom. Judge Taylor, a white-haired old man with a reputation for running his court in an informal fashion, presides over the case. Chapter 17 The prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer, questions Heck Tate, who recounts how on the night of November 21st, Bob Ewell urged him to go to the Ewell house, and told him that his daughter Mayella had been raped. When Tate had got there, he found Mayella beaten and bruised, and she told him that Tom Robinson had raped her. Atticus cross-examines the witness, who admits that no doctor was called, and tells Atticus that Mayella’s bruises were mainly on the right-hand side of her face, Tate leaves the stand, and Bob Ewell is called.
Bob Ewell and his children live behind the town garbage dump, in a tin-roofed cabin, with a yard full of trash. No one is sure how many children Ewell has, and the only orderly corner of the yard is planted with well-tended geraniums, rumoured to belong to Mayella. Ewell, a very rude, little man, testifies that on the evening in question, he was coming out of the woods with a load of kindling, when he heard his daughter yelling. When he reached the house, he looked in the window and saw Tom Robinson raping her. Robinson fled, and Ewell went into the house, saw his daughter was all right, and ran to the sheriff. Atticus’s cross-examination is brief: he asks Ewell why he didn’t call a doctor – there was no need and it was too expensive. He has Bob Ewell write his name – he is left-handed. A left-handed man is more likely to cause bruises on the right side of the face. Chapter 18 The trial continues, with the whole town focused and concentrated on the proceedings. Mayella, who testifies next, is reasonably clean – by the Ewell’s standards – an obviously terrified nineteen-year-old girl. She says that she called Tom Robinson inside the fence, and offered him a nickel to break up a dresser for her, and once he got inside the house, he grabbed her and took advantage of her. In Atticus’s cross-examination, Mayella reveals that her life consisted of seven unhelpful siblings, and drunken father and no friends.
Atticus then examines her testimony and asks why she didn’t put up a better fight, why her screams didn’t bring the other children running, and most of all, how Tom Robinson managed the crime – how he bruised the right side of her face, with his useless left hand, which was torn apart by a cotton gin when he was a boy. Atticus pleads with Mayella to admit that there was no rape, that her father beat her. She shouts at him, and yells that the courtroom would have to be a bunch of cowards not to convict Tom Robinson. She then bursts into tears, refusing to answer any more questions. In the break that follows, Mr. Underwood notices the children up in the balcony, but Jem tells Scout that the newspaper editor won’t tell Atticus about them being there – although he might include it in the social section of the newspaper. The prosecution rests, and Atticus calls only one witness – Tom Robinson. Chapter 19 Tom testifies that he always passed the Ewell house on the way to work, and that Mayella often asked him to do chores for her. On evening of 21st November, he recounts, she asked him to come inside and fix the door. When he got inside, he noticed that there was nothing wrong with the door, and the children had gone. Mayella told him she had saved her money and sent them all to buy ice-cream. Then she asked him to lift a box down from a dresser. When Tom climbed on a chair, she grabbed his legs, scaring him so much that he jumped down. She then hugged him around the waist and asked him to kiss her. As she struggled, her father came to the window, calling Mayella a whore and threatening to kill her. Tom fled.
Link Deas, Tom’s white employer, stands up and declares that in eight years of work, he’s never had any trouble from Tom. Judge Taylor furiously tells Deas to leave the courtroom for interrupting. Mr. Gilmer gets up and cross-examines Tom. The prosecutor points out that the defendant was once arrested for disorderly conduct and gets Tom to admit that he has the strength even with one hand, to choke the breath out of a woman and sling her to the floor. He begins to pester the witness, asking about his motives for always helping Mayella with her chores, until Tom declares that he felt sorry for her. This statement makes the courtroom awkward – in Maycomb, black people aren’t supposed to feel sorry for a white person. Mr. Gilmer reviews Mayella’s testimony, accusing Tom of lying about everything. Dill begins to cry, and Scout takes him out of the courtroom. Outside, Dill complains to Scout about Mr. Gilmer’s rude treatment of Tom Robinson during the questioning. As they walk, they encounter Mr. Dolphus Raymond, the rich, white man with the coloured mistress and mulatto children. Chapter 20 Mr Dolphus Raymond reveals that he drinking from a paper sack. He commiserates with Dill and offers him a drink in a paper-bag. Dill drinks up some of it, and Scout warns Dill not to take too much, he says that the drink isn’t alcoholic – it is Coca-Cola. Mr Raymond tells them that he pretends to be drunk to provide the white people with an explanation of his lifestyle, when actually, he prefers black people to whites.
When Dill and Scout return to the courtroom, Atticus is making his closing remarks. He has finished going over the evidence and now makes a personal appeal to the jury. He points out that the prosecution has produced no medical evidence of the crime, and has only presented the shaky testimony of two unreliable witnesses. Moreover, the physical evidence suggests that Bob Ewell beat Mayella, and not Tom Robinson. He offers his own version of the events, describing how Mayella, and lonely an unhappy girl, committed the unmentionable act of lusting after a black man and then concealed her shame by accusing him of rape after being caught. Atticus begs the jury to avoid the state’s assumption that all black people are criminals and to deliver justice by freeing Tom Robinson. As soon as Atticus finishes, Calpurnia comes into the courtroom. Chapter 21 Cal hands Atticus a note telling him that his children have not been home since noon. Mr Underwood says that Jem and Scout are in the coloured balcony and have been there since one in the afternoon. Atticus tells them to go home and have supper. They beg to be allowed to hear the verdict; Atticus says that they can return after supper, though he knows that the jury will likely to have returned before then.
Cal marches Scout, Jem and Dill home. They eat quickly and return to find the jury still out, the courtroom still full. Evening comes, night falls and the jury continues to deliberate. Jem is confident of victory, while Dill has fallen asleep. Finally, after eleven at night, the jury enters. Scout remembers that a jury never looks at a man it has convicted and she notices that the 12 men don’t look at Tom Robinson, as they file in and deliver a guilty verdict. The courtroom begins to empty, and as Atticus goes out, everyone in the coloured balcony rises in a gesture of respect. Chapter 22 That night, Jem cries, complaining about the injustice of the verdict. The next day, Maycomb’s black population delivers a huge amount of food to the Finch household. Outside, Miss Stephanie Crawford is gossiping with Mr Avery and Miss Maudie, and she tries to question Jem and Scout about the trial. Miss Maudie rescues the children by inviting them in for some cake. Jem complains that his illusions about Maycomb have been shattered – he thought these people were the best in the world, but after seeing the trial, he doesn’t think so anymore. Miss Maudie points out that there were people who tried to help, like Judge Taylor, who appointed Atticus to the case instead of the regular public defender. She adds that the jury’s staying out so long makes a sign of progress in race relations. As the children leave Miss Maudie’s house, Miss Stephanie runs over to tell them that Bob Ewell approached their father that morning, spat on him, and swore revenge. Chapter 23 Bob Ewell’s threats worry everyone, except Atticus. Atticus tells Jem and Scout that because he made Ewell look like a fool, Ewell needed to get revenge. Now that Ewell has gotten the vengefulness out of his system, Atticus expects no more trouble. Aunt Alexandra and the children remain worried. Meanwhile, Tom Robinson has been sent to another prison 70 miles away, while his appeal winds through the court system. Atticus feels that his client has a good chance of being pardoned. When Scout asks what will happen if Tom loses, Atticus replies that Tom will go to the electric chair, as rape is a capital offence in Alabama.
Jem and Atticus discuss the justice of executing men for rape. The subject then turns to jury trials, and to how all 12 men could’ve convicted Tom. Atticus tells Jem that in Alabama, court of law, a white man’s word always beats a black man’s, and that they were lucky to have the jury out so long. In fact, one man on the jury wanted to acquit – amazingly, it was one of the Cunninghams. After hearing this revelation, Scout announces that she wants to invite Walter Cunningham to diner, but Aunt Alexandra forbids it, telling her that the Finches do not associate with trash.
Scout grows very angry, and Jem quickly takes her out of the room. In his bedroom, he reveals his little growth of chest hair, and tells Scout that he is going to try out for the football team in the autumn. They discuss the class system – why their aunt despises the Cunninghams, why the Cunninghams look down on the Ewells, who hate black people, and other such matters. After being unable to figure out why people go out of their way to despise each other, Jem suggests that Boo Radley doesn’t come out of his house because he doesn’t want to leave it. Chapter 24 One day in August, Aunt Alexandra invites her missionary circle to tea. Scout, wearing a dress, helps Calpurnia bring in the tea. Aunt Alexandra invites Scout to stay with the ladies. Scout listens to the missionary circle first discuss the troubles of the poor Mrunas, a benighted African tribe being converted to Christianity, and then talk about how their own black servants have behaved badly ever since Tom Robinson’s trial. Miss Maudie shuts up their prattle with icy remarks. Suddenly, Atticus appears and calls Alexandra to the kitchen. There he tells her, Scout, Calpurnia and Miss Maudie that Tom Robinson attempted to escape prison and was shot 17 times and is now dead. He takes Calpurnia with him to tell the Robinson family of Tom’s death. Alexandra asks miss Maudie how the town can allow Atticus to wreck himself in pursuit of justice. Miss Maudie replies that the town trusts him to do it right. They return with Scout to the missionary circle, managing to act as if nothing is wrong. Chapter 25 September has begun, and Jem and Scout are on the back porch when Scout notices a roly-poly bug. She is about to crush it with her hand, when Jem tells her not to. She dutifully places the bug outside. When she asks Jem why she shouldn’t have crushed it, he replies that the bug didn’t do anything to harm her. Scout observes that it is Jem, not she, who is becoming like a girl. Her thoughts turn to Dill, and she remembers him telling her that he and Jem ran into Atticus as they started home from swimming during the last two days of August. Jem had convinced Atticus to let them accompany him to Helen Robinson’s house, where they saw her collapse even before Atticus could say that Tom, her husband, was dead. Meanwhile, the news occupies Maycomb’s attention for about two days, and everyone agrees that it is typical for a black man to do something irrational like trying to escape. Mr Underwood writes a ling editorial condemning Tom’s death as the murder of an innocent man. The only other significant reaction comes when Bob Ewell is overhead saying that Tom’s death makes ‘one down and about two more to go.’ Summer ends and Dill leaves. Chapter 26 School starts, and Jem and Scout again begin to pass by the Radley Place every day. They are now too old to be frightened by the house, but Scout still wistfully wishes to see Boo Radley just once. Meanwhile, the shadow of the trial still hangs over her. One day in school, her third-grade teacher, Miss Gates, lectures the class on the wickedness if Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and on the virtues of equality and democracy. Scout listens and later asks Jem how Miss Gates can preach about equality when she came out of the courthouse after the trial and told Miss Stephanie Crawford that it was about time that someone taught the blacks in town a lesson. Jem becomes furious and tells Scout to never mention the trial again. An upset Scout goes to Atticus for comfort. Chapter 27 By the middle of October, Bob Ewell gets a job with the WPA, one of the Depression job programs, and loses it a few days later. He blames Atticus for ‘getting’ his job, but actually, he was fired for being lazy. Also in the middle of October, Judge Taylor is home alone and hears someone prowling around. When he goes to investigate, he finds his screen door open and sees a shadow creeping away (someone tried to burgle his house). Bob Ewell then begins to follow Helen Robinson to work, keeping his distance but whispering obscenities at her. Deas sees Ewell and threatens to have him arrested if he doesn’t leave Helen alone – he gives her no further trouble. But these events worry Aunt Alexandra, who points out that Ewell seems to have a grudge against everyone connected with the case.
That Halloween, the town sponsors a party and a play at school. This plan constitutes an attempt to avoid the unsupervised mischief of the previous Halloween, when someone burglarised the house of 2 elderly sisters and hid all of their furniture in the basement. The play is an ‘agricultural pageant’ in which every child portrays a food: Scout wears wire mesh shaped to look like ham. Both Atticus and Alexandra are too tired to attend the functions, so Jem takes Scout to the school. Chapter 28 It is dark on the way to school, and Cecil Jacobs jumps out and frightens Jem and Scout. Scout and Cecil wander around the crowded school, visiting the haunted house in a seventh-grade and buying homemade candy. The pageant nears it start and all the children go backstage. Scout, however, has fallen asleep and consequently misses her entrance. She runs onstage at the end, prompting Judge Taylor and many others to burst out laughing. The woman in charge of the pageant accuses Scout of ruining it. Scout is so ashamed that she and Jem wait backstage until the crowd has gone, and they then make their way home.
On the walk back home, Jem hears noises behind him and Scout. They think must be Cecil Jacobs trying to frighten them again, but when they call out to him, they hear no reply. They have almost reached the road when their pursuer begins running after them. Jem screams for Scout to run, but in the dark and hampered by her costume, she loses her balance and falls. Something tears at the metal mesh and she hears struggling behind her. Jem then breaks free and drags Scout almost all the way there, before their attacker pulls Jem back. Scout hears a crunching sound and Jem screams. She runs towards him and is grabbed and squeezed. Suddenly, her attacker is pulled away. Once the noise of struggling has ceased, Scout feels on the ground for Jem, finding only the prone figure of an unshaven man smelling of whiskey. She stumbles towards home, and sees, in the light of the streetlamp, and man carrying Jem towards her house.
Scout reaches home, and Aunt Alexandra goes to call Dr. Reynolds. Atticus calls heck Tate, telling him that someone has attacked his children. Alexandra removes Scout’s costume, and tells her that Jem is only unconscious, not dead. Dr. Reynolds then arrives and goes into Jem’s room. When he emerges, he informs Scout that Jem has a broken arm and a bump on his head, but he will be alright. Scout goes in to see Jem. The man who carried him home is in the room, but she doesn’t recognise him. Heck Tate appears, and tells Atticus that Bob Ewell is lying under a tree, dead, with a knife stuck under his ribs.
As Scout tells everyone what she heard and saw, Heck Tate shows her costume with a mark on it where a knife slashed, and was stopped by the wire. When Scout gets to the point in the story where Jem was picked up and carried home, she turns to the man in the corner and really looks at him for the first time. He is pale with torn clothes and a thin, pinched face and colourless eyes. She realises that it is Boo Radley. Chapter 30 Scout takes Boo, or as Atticus tells Scout to call him: “Mr. Arthur”, down to the porch, and they sit in shadow listening to Atticus and heck Tate argue. Heck Tate insists on calling the death an accident, but Atticus, thinking that Jem killed Bob Ewell, doesn’t want his son protected from the law. Heck Tate corrects him – Ewell fell on his knife; Jem didn’t kill him. Although he knows that Boo stabbed Ewell, Heck wants to hush up the whole affair, saying that Boo doesn’t need the attention of everyone brought to his door. Tom Robinson died for no reason, he says, and now the man responsible is dead: “Let the dead bury the dead.” Chapter 31 Scout takes Boo upstairs to say goodnight to Jem. Boo wants Scout to take him home. She does so – he goes inside his house, and she never sees him again. But, just for a moment, she imagines the world from his perspective. She returns home and finds Atticus sitting in Jem’s room. He reads one of Jem’s books to her, until she falls asleep.