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To Kill a Mocking Bird

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To Kill a Mocking Bird

To Kill a Mocking Bird is written by the author Harper Lee, and is about growing up. The main character is a girl named Scout Finch, who is about to turn six when the book begins, and eight when it ends. During the two years, she learns many things about people, and about life. Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus. The story takes place from 1933-1935 in the sleepy Alabama town of Maycomb. Atticus works as a lawyer, however they don’t have much money because most of his clients are poor. One summer, their friend named Dill comes over to stay next door, and he spends the summer with Scout and Jem. Eventually, Dill becomes increasingly curious with the spooky house on their street called the Radley Place. The house is right across the street from Scout’s and the family that lives in it are extremely unsocial. The son, Arthur Radley is about 30 years old and hasn’t been seen outside for many years. The children in the town refer to him as Boo Radley, as if he were a ghost. Scout basically learns 4 major lessons throughout the course of the book; she learns them partly from Atticus and partly from her own experiences.
The first lesson is that you don’t understand someone until you put yourself in their shoes. Throughout the first part of the book, Scout, Jem and Dill play games involving the Radley house. They run past it, dare each other to touch it, then one day they start finding presents like candy and pennies hidden in a hole in a tree. Boo Radley has been leaving gifts for them, although it takes them a while to figure it out. The kids make schemes to get Boo Radley to come out of the house so that they can see what he looks like, so one night they sneak through the back of the house to try and get a look at him through the window. They get shot at by Boo Radley’s older brother Nathan Radley, and Jem gets his pants caught in the fence. Boo Radley then mends Jem’s pants, and leaves them hung over the fence for him. When winter came, Scout and Jem find more presents in the tree, assumingly left by the covert Boo. One night when it was very cold, and Scout and Jem were standing outside one of the neighbours’ houses was burning down, Boo Radley placed a blanket on Scout’s shoulders in order to keep her warm. However she never realises that it was him that did it, and she still imagines that he’s really scary. Convinced that Boo was doing all these things, she tells her father Atticus about the mended pants, gifts, and the blanket. So over the course of the year, they slowly realise that Boo is actually nice.
The second lesson has a literal meaning, which is; don’t kill mockingbirds. When Atticus gives Scout and Jem air rifles, he tells them that they can shoot at whatever birds they want, but not mockingbirds, because mockingbirds don’t eat anyone’s plants or harm anything; they just make music. Mockingbird also has a metaphorical meaning: “Anyone who is weak or defenceless.”
To kill a mockingbird in that sense would be to take advantage of someone weaker than you.
The second phase of the book involves Tom Robinson. Tom is a black man who has been charged for raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. Atticus was appointed as Tom’s defence attorney, and was determined to do a good job at it even though he knew he was going to lose because of racism. Everybody in the town is racist, to one degree or another. Scout and Jem end up getting teased and talked about because their father is defending a black man for a crime like that. Tom Robinson’s trial begins, and when the accused man is placed in the local jail, a mob gathers to lynch him. Atticus props his chair against the jail door and faces the mob down the night before the trial. Jem and Scout then go looking for Atticus, and Scout then recognizes one of the men. She tells him that she goes to school with his son and shames him into dispersing the mob.
Scout and Jem sit in the court house with the town’s black citizens, and watch the trial along with the rest of the town. Atticus does a great job with his defence, providing clear evidence that the two accusers Mayella Ewell and her father Bob, are lying. The true story was that Mayella had approached Tom herself, and was caught by Bob, her father. To cover her shame she accused Tom of rape, and the wounds on Mayella’s face are in fact inflicted by her own father upon discovering her with Tom, so he called her a whore and beat her. The physical evidence was against them, as the bruises on Mayella’s face were on the right side, and Tom can’t even use his left arm, but Bob Ewell is left handed and he could have easily beaten his daughter. However despite the significant evidence showing the fact that Tom is innocent, the jury convicts Tom; because a white jury is not going to acquit a black man accused of raping a white woman.
The children are crushed by Tom’s conviction, as Atticus knew all along they would be. In one dramatic moment, they learn about the evil side about their whole community, and the fact that even the justice system is tainted by unfairness. Despite the end result for the trial, Bob Ewell still feels as though Atticus has made a fool out of him, and carries a grudge against him. He threatens Atticus that he would seek revenge on him.
On Halloween, as Scout and Jem were walking home from a party, Bob Ewell attacks the two with a switchblade and tries to murder them. Ewell then breaks Jem’s arm by twisting it. Boo Radley, hearing their cries, comes out of his house with a kitchen knife and fatally stabs Ewell with it, though Jem and Scout don’t understand that this was happening at the time because of the dark. The Sherriff and Atticus then discuss what to do about Boo’s situation, and the Sherriff insists on the story that Bob Ewell had tripped on a tree root and fell on his own knife. Since Arthur had saved the children’s lives, the best reward would be for him to keep his privacy. Atticus on the other hand is afraid to do this, because his children had just lived through this miscarriage of justice through the trial. If they see Atticus bending the law because his association with the Sherriff, he fears they won’t ever respect him as a father ever again. However Scout tells her father that she understands. Making a hero out of Boo would be like killing a mockingbird. This is a climactic moment in the book, because it means she has absorbed the lesson about mockingbirds. Despite seeing the unfairness of life, she sees its value as well. Arthur is actually very child-like himself, and at one point asks Scout if she could walk him across the road because he was scared. After she does so, she looks out from the Radley porch and imagines all of her activities over the past couple of years as seen through Arthur’s eyes. That’s when she first grasps the lesson of understanding people, by putting yourself in their shoes.

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