Table of Contents
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Introduction: This post introduces you to the renowned American novelist Harper Lee and more specifically to her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. We are going to look at the life of Harper Lee. We are also going to look at the ways in which this novel is of great importance not only to American literature but also to American history. This is a novel that asks very important questions about race relations. This is a novel that asks very important questions about how power operates at the level of law and we are going to see how this novel occupies a very central position in American literature as far as our understanding of the question of race is concerned.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written by Harper Lee. It is a very famous American novel. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is about a girl called Scout Finch. She lives in America. The novel is set in the 1930s in the U.S.A.
One of the most important themes in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is racism. In the novel, an Afro-American is accused of raping a white lady. It is clear that he is innocent but because he is black he is found guilty.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is set in a town called Maycomb. It is in the southern states of the U.S.A. During the 1930s racial discrimination was a big problem in the U.S.A. Black people were poor. They were not treated fairly. A lot of white people were racist. In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ all the black people are poor. They are treated badly by most white people. Scout and her family are different. They treated black people with respect.
In the 1930s the law did not help Afro-Americans. Many had to go to prison for crimes they did not do. In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ an innocent black man has to go to prison. In the USA in the 1930s many black people were murdered by white people.
About Harper Lee
Harper Lee was born on 28 April 1926 in Monroeville Alabama in the south and, that is to say, in the southern part of the United States of America. She is widely known not only for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird but she is also known for the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird which was published last year.
She grew up along with three of her siblings as a tomboy. Lee and Truman Capote, the writer, were childhood friends. After the divorce of Truman’s parents, he was sent to live with his mother’s relatives where he met Lee.
Like Truman Capote, Lee also developed an interest in literature from very early on in life after completing her graduation. She joined the Huntington College in Montgomery in Alabama. She continued her literary interest by contributing to her schools and to a humour magazine, also became its editor. Later she moved to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The university had a system that allows its undergraduate students to practice law. Thus, while she was still a junior she was accepted into the University’s Law School.
This new area of study took most of her time and eventually she had to leave the editorship of the magazine. It is very important to remember that she was actually studying law because her studies have a very great impact on the novel that she would very soon be writing. Initially, she continued her studies in law but after a year she began to express her unhappiness about it to her parents. However, she left for New York leaving her degree incomplete. There she worked as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines and British Overseas Air Corporation known as BOAC. With the help of an editor, she began her journey as a writer and wrote that much-acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird and also received a Pulitzer Prize for it.
THE TITLE TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), found in the southern states of America, is a thrush-like bird with a long tail, creamy grey breast and white flashes mid-wing. It is happy to nest near houses, and likes to perch on the lower branches of maple and sycamore trees. It is very vocal and, as its name suggests, can mimic other birds, animals and even mechanical noises like car alarms. It is popular in American folklore, as in the song “Listen to the Mockingbird”, and is the official state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
The bird functions as the governing metaphor of To Kill a Mockingbird, linking the innocence of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley with the natural world around Maycomb. Atticus tells Scout and Jem that he would rather shot their air rifles at tin cans than birds, but in any case, remember that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Scout has never heard Atticus describe anything as a sin; so she asks Maudie for an explanation. “Your father’s right,” says Maudie.
“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’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”.
In this novel, Lee uses the narrative style of the first-person singular that is to say that when you read the novel you almost feel as though the person who is narrating the novel is saying that to you. She uses the first-person narrative style to delineate the characters and to create empathic feelings in the readers through various kinds of languages. She has maintained the distinction between social class and educational status. So while you read the novel you will know that in the U.S. not everybody speaks in the same way. You speak in the way in which you are trained to speak. So therefore what you say, how you speak, what kind of language you use, entirely depends upon the kind of class that you belong to, the kind of education that you have had, the kind of society that you have grown up in. There is a difference in the language spoken by the people of white and black racial backgrounds. While the whites use a sophisticated language, the black people use a colloquial language. I would not go so far as to say that they use a colloquial language, I would much rather suggest that the kind of language that they use has got certain distinctive elements to it. It is got certain distinctive grammatical structures, it is got certain distinctive spellings. They are not necessarily colloquial. They are more you could think of them as perhaps a kind of a dialect almost, for example, Calpurnia who switches to white man’s language at Atticus’ home but later speaks in Black’s jargon in the company of other Black people
Language has also been used to describe or to delineate characters such as evil who uses foul words which reflects his poor social and educational backgrounds. Mayella’s conversations reveal her lack of education.
On the other hand, Atticus is formal. His use of language is very formal. Tom uses colloquial English like ‘suh’ for sir, chillun for children. Thus, language plays a significant role in this work of Lee because it is through language that characters are very often defined.
Background of Novel
What lies in the background of the novel. Many people believe that the novel is supposedly inspired by the real-life incident of her police father. The character of Truman is also present. The names of three maternal aunts of Lee also become her characters.
The locale described in the novel is also very much similar to the real-life locale of Lee. Supposedly, the incident that is described in the novel happened in 1936 when the writer was only 10 years of age. So the novel has many personal observations and a very personal investment on the part of the writer. The novel deals with serious issues like racial inequality and rape. It was very successful and it was also considered one of the classics and is still considered one of the classics of American literature.
Characters in the novel
Now let us talk about the various characters in the novel.
Jean Louise Finch (Scout): Jean Louise Finch is the narrator of the story. The story begins when Scout is six years old and ends when she is nine. It is told when she is an adult. She is a tomboy who likes to use her fists rather than her mind to solve a problem. So you could perhaps somehow be forgiven for thinking that Jean Louise Finch has perhaps modelled unhappily herself.
Scout is Atticus’s daughter, Jem’s sister, Alexandra and Jack’s niece, and friends with Dill. In the three years the novel covers, she grows from six-years-old to nine. Scout is intelligent and loves to read, but is also headstrong, outspoken, and a tomboy. As the novel opens, Scout is both innocent and intolerant of anything new or different. Scout’s innocence falls away in part because she is growing up and in part from the trial of Tom Robinson: she discovers how cruel and violent people can be. But she also learns, through Atticus’s careful teaching, that the necessary response to intolerance is to try to understand its origins, to relate to people in terms of their dignity rather than their anger, and to use that foundation as a way to try to slowly change their minds.
Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem): Another character we have is Jeremy Atticus Finch or Jim. He is the elder brother and friend of Scout and then you have Atticus Finch who is the father of Scout and Jem. He is the Maycomb attorney and also the state legislative representative. He is asked to defend Tom Robinson who is accused of rape.
Intelligent and adventurous as a child, Jem never loses these qualities but also grows into a young man who is strong, serious, idealistic, and sensitive. While both Scout and Jem love Atticus, Jem also reveres the justice and moral character that Atticus stands for, and which he wants to one day stand for himself.
Charles Baker Harris (Dill): Charles Baker Harris who is known as Dill. He is the friend of Scout and James who visits every summer to live with his aunt. He is an intensely imaginative and sensitive boy who uses his imagination to hide loneliness and pain: though his mother is divorced, he constantly makes up stories about the greatness of the father he barely knows. Dill is obsessed with Boo Radley.
There’s Tom Robinson who is the accused in the rape case.
There is Mayella Violet Ewell who is the young lady and is accused of a storm of rape.
There is Bob Ewell the father of my Mayella Violet Ewell and Burris Ewell. He claims to have seen Tom attacking my Mayella.
There are of course Mr Arthur Radley also known as Boo Radley. He is the mysterious man in the story. He has never seen outside by the children.
There is Nathan Radley he’s the brother of Boo Radley.
There Reverend Sykes. He helps children understand Tom’s case and arranges seats for them in the coloured balcony.
Atticus Finch: Scout and Jem’s widowed father, and Alexandra and Jack’s brother. He employs Calpurnia but thinks of her as family. A distinguished lawyer in Maycomb, Atticus believes in moral integrity and stands up against the racism of Maycomb to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of rape by a white man, Bob Ewell.
Yet as much as Atticus believes in acting morally, he does not believe in righteously
condemning those who don’t always act morally. Instead, Atticus teaches his children to search out and respect the dignity of every human being, to try to see the world from their individual point of view. Atticus Finch has become one of the great father figures in American literature.
Arthur Radley (Boo): A recluse who never sets foot outside his house, Arthur is an object of fascination for many Maycomb residents. Many rumours describe Arthur as a kind of monster who stabbed his father as a boy, eats cats, and haunts the neighbourhood at night. He turns out to be innocent, gentle, kind, protective of children, intensely shy, and one of the mockingbirds to which the title of To Kill a Mockingbird refers.
Calpurnia: The Finches’ black cook, she essentially raised Scout and Jem. Atticus considers her family. Calpurnia is strict but loving. As a child, Scout resents Calpurnia’s rules and restrictions, but as she grows she comes to recognize and respect Calpurnia for her strength, intelligence, and kindness.
Miss Maudie Atkinson: A widowed neighbour of the Finches’ and a childhood friend of Atticus, Alexandra, and Jack. Miss Maudie Atkinson is a friend and confidante to the Finch children. Her moral outlook is similar to Atticus’s. She loves flowers and nature.
Aunt Alexandra Atticus and Jack’s sister, and Scout and Jem’s aunt. Alexandra is stern and often haughty, and she believes in the importance of social class and gender roles.
Bob Ewell: Mayella’s father and the patriarch of the poor, vicious Ewell clan who lives in an old cabin near the town dump. Ewell is thoroughly awful, a man who buys alcohol while letting his children go hungry.
Mayella Ewell: Bob Ewell’s daughter and oldest child. Lonely, friendless, and the only woman in her family, Mayella accuses Tom Robinson of raping her.
Uncle Jack: Atticus and Alexandra’s younger brother. Scout and Jem’s uncle.
Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose: An old woman and neighbour of the Finch’s. She is an old and bitter woman, and a racist through and through, though Jem and Scout discover she has her own dignity and courage deserving of respect.
Nathan Radley: Boo Radley’s older brother. A cold and very religious man, he runs the Radley household.
Heck Tate: The sheriff of Maycomb.
Link Deas: Tom Robinson’s employer.
Mr Underwood: The writer, editor, and publisher of Maycomb’s newspaper.
Mr Dolphus Raymond: A wealthy white man who lives outside town with his black mistress and interracial children.
Mr Cunningham: One of the poor Cunningham farmers and the father of Walter Cunningham.
Walter Cunningham: Mr Cunningham’s son and Scout’s classmate.
Miss Rachel Haverford: Dill’s aunt and one of the Finch’s neighbours.
Mrs Grace Merriweather: A member of Aunt Alexandra’s social circle in Maycomb.
Miss Stephanie Crawford: A neighbour of the Finch’s and a big gossip.
Mr Avery: Another of the Finch’s neighbours.
Cecil Jacobs: One of Scout’s classmates.
Judge Taylor: The judge at the trial of Tom Robinson.
Mr Gilmer: The prosecutor at the trial of Tom Robinson.
Miss Caroline: Scout’s first-grade teacher.
Miss Gates: Scout’s third-grade teacher.
Reverend Sykes: The reverend at Calpurnia’s church.
Lula: A member of the congregation at Calpurnia’s church.
Burris Ewell: A son of Bob Ewell.
Simon Finch: The first member of the Finch family to come to America.
Plot summary of the Novel
The story is told by the tomboy Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, six years old at the start of her narrative. Scout lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, in a “tired old town” in southern Alabama. Their black housekeeper Calpurnia acts as surrogate mother for the children. Jem and Scout play with Dill Harris, who comes to stay with his aunt every summer.
The children are fascinated by their neighbour Arthur “Boo” Radley, who lives unseen with his father in a shuttered old house surrounded by live oaks. The children dare each other to approach the house. Using a fishing pole, Jem tries unsuccessfully to leave a note at Boo’s window. One moonlit night they crawl under a barbed wire fence, through the Radleys’ field of collard greens, in order to get a glimpse of Boo through his window. A shadow moves across the porch, someone shoots a shotgun in the air, the children scatter, and Jem tears his breeches on the wire, slipping out of them to escape. When he summons up courage to go back for them, he finds his trousers folded up over the fence, the rip sewn up.
On their way to and from school the children often find little gifts in a knothole in one of the big oaks outside the Radley house – trinkets like two Indian-head pennies, a ball of twine and two figurines carved out of soap.
Atticus is charged by the town judge to defend Tom Robinson, an African American accused of raping a white girl. He agrees reluctantly. Townspeople call him “nigger-lover”, puzzling and upsetting the children. On the eve of the trial a posse of country people arrives to lynch the defendant. Atticus sits in the jailhouse door reading a newspaper to bar their way. The children arrive to see what’s going on, refusing to leave when Atticus orders them to. Scout talks to one of the men, the father of a school friend, asking how he is and sending his boy her greetings.Embarrassed, the men leave the scene.
Next day the children, whom Atticus has forbidden from the trial, hide in the African American gallery overlooking the courtroom. The prosecution opens the trial by interviewing Tom Ewell, father of the alleged victim, Mayella. He describes hearing her scream, running to the window and looking in to see “that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella”. She had been beaten too, according to the Sheriff, who found her “bunged up” on the right side of her face, with “a black eye comin’” and bruises on her neck and right arm.
Through his adroit questioning of Mayella, her father, and the defendant, Atticus shows that Tom Robinson, whose left arm is paralysed, could never have committed the assault, but that instead Mayella had propositioned him, been caught in the act and beaten by her father. Atticus’s powerful concluding speech for the defence invokes the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal – if not in everyday life then at least in court. Despite the evidence and Atticus’s plea, the jury convicts by a unanimous vote.
Bob Ewell, humiliated by the revelations in court, spits tobacco juice in Atticus’s face as he is coming out of the post office. Though Atticus plans to appeal the verdict, Tom Robinson panics and tries to escape from the town jail. He is shot dead while trying to climb the outer fence.
Coming home from a school pageant, Scout and Jem are attacked in the dark. In the struggle Jem’s arm is broken, and only Scout’s costume saves her from a knife wound. A mysterious stranger interrupts the assault, carrying Jem home while Scout follows. This turns out to be Boo Radley, the source of all those little gifts in the tree, and the children’s hidden protector all along.
The town sheriff arrives to reveal that the assailant had been Bob Ewell, and that he has been stabbed – “Fell on his own knife,” he insists against Atticus’s protest that the law should be allowed to take its course. Scout agrees with the sheriff; otherwise, she says, “It’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
What is To Kill a Mockingbird about?
On one level To Kill a Mockingbird is about racial prejudice in the southern states of America. The climax of the plot, Tom Robinson’s trial and its aftermath, certainly reinforces this theme. And the novel’s appearance in the midst of the great civil rights campaign made that story reverberate for contemporary readers.
Early critics certainly experienced To Kill a Mockingbird as a shape-changing novel about race. “In the twentieth century,” wrote Joseph Crespino, “To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring image of fictional heroism.” For James Carville, reading the book was like St Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. As a schoolboy during the Civil Rights turmoil he remembered wishing “the blacks just didn’t push so damn hard to change” segregation. Then the woman who drove the mobile library round his neighbourhood suggested he read To Kill a Mockingbird.
I couldn’t put it down. I stuck it inside another book and read it under my desk during school. When I got to the last page, I closed it and said,
“They’re right and we’re wrong.” The issue was literally black and white, and we were positively on the wrong side.
Some support to the racial theme, not noticed by the critics, is the fact that almost every white character is slightly odd, and their relationships to others skewed. Scout is a tomboy (about which more later); Dill is “a curiosity”: childlike, looking far younger than his age, with snow-white hair, and light blue shorts that button to his shirt instead of the overalls worn by the other children. Boo Radley, whose arrested development has kept him secluded at home for 20 years, is the strangest of all.
Not only that, but there is hardly a conventional marriage or family in the book. Scout’s and Jem’s mother has died; they are looked after by their black housekeeper, Calpurnia, and see their father Atticus only when he gets home late from work. We don’t read of any family weekends spent together, let alone outings or holidays. Aunt Alexandra is married, but estranged from her husband. Across the street lives Miss Maudie, a spinster. Mrs Dubose, an ill and embittered widow addicted to morphine, is two doors down. Dill is only available to play with Scout and Jem because he has been offloaded by his parents, who live separately from each other pursuing their own affairs. Then there’s Tom Ewell, who beats his daughter and (it is hinted) sexually abuses her.
In fact the only “normal” nuclear family in the zbook, though it is only sketched in, not explored imaginatively, is Tom Robinson’s, at least until it is torn apart by his false accusation, trial and death.
Does this mean that the white townspeople are socially dysfunctional, while their despised black neighbours are comparatively well adjusted? Possibly, but all talk of themes becomes complicated by Scout’s first-person point of view. Everything is seen through her eyes, and although her language is sometimes that of the mature woman writing her, what the reader learns is restricted by the fact that Scout can’t be everywhere at once, and that she has the limited understanding of a child, albeit a precocious and likeable one. Scout sees, discovers and thinks so many things during the course of To Kill a Mockingbird that it’s difficult for a reader to take away a single theme from the book.
And there are so many other strands in the story beyond race and the trial of Tom Robinson. Boo Radley is clearly a crucial element. Boo stalks the narrative: at first a terror to the children, then in turn a mystery, a secret sharer, a hidden protector, finally their saviour. Scout’s changing relationships with her older brother, with Dill, with Calpurnia – above all with her father Atticus – form an important part of the story. So do her reactions to Aunt Alexandra and her missionary circle. Then there is the substantial subplot of the children and Mrs Dubose, when, after a particularly foul outburst from the old lady, Jem cuts off the heads of all her camellias, then is forced to read Walter Scott to her every afternoon after school for a month.
Having everything filtered through Scout’s consciousness makes us aware not only of what has happened but also of how we come to know it. The same goes for the values and judgments that the narrative assigns to people and events. These are Scout’s in the first instance. And this is where her own oddness comes in. As something of a loner, she is distant from the town’s social conventions, and also indifferent to its moral pieties.
This emotional distance on top of her natural childish naivety make Scout something of a satirist, an amusing observer of everything from her teacher Miss Caroline’s “new way they’re teaching the first grade”, the Dewey Decimal System (really a way of classifying books in a library), to the members of Aunt Alexandra’s missionary circle, those “ladies in bunches [who] always fill [Scout] with vague apprehension”, wearing their cool “pastel prints”, most of them “heavily powdered but unrouged”.
But when she expresses an opinion within the action – say, to Jem or Dill, Calpurnia or Atticus – rather than silently to the reader, her point of view is often challenged, if not corrected. When she ridicules Walter Cunningham for pouring syrup all over his meat and vegetables, a furious Calpurnia takes her into the kitchen and rebukes her for her bad manners: “anybody sets foot in this house’s yo’ company, and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so high and mighty!” (3). Stung by the taunts of Mrs Dubose, Scout asks her father: “You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?” Atticus answers: “I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody” (11). After Ewell spits on Atticus, threatening future revenge, Atticus advises them to “stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes for a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at the trial…The man had to have some kind of comeback”.
In other words, Scout is not just a narrative device providing a commentary on the action. She is also a character in the novel – its protagonist in fact – one who develops and grows. By the time of the trial, her charitable sensitivity has even developed to the point where she can feel spontaneous sympathy for Mayella Ewell’s loneliness. At the novel’s end, thinking back over the years and seasons of their fragmentary encounters with Boo Radley, Scout acknowledges that “Atticus was right… that you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”
The meaning of To Kill a Mockingbird¸ then, cannot be summed up in a single phrase or slogan. It is explored through a process, traced through a girl’s maturing through feeling, of becoming human through the development and exercise of her sympathetic imagination. Beyond that essential education, as Scout muses while walking home from having escorted Boo back to his house, “there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra”.
Summary of the novel
What exactly is going on in the novel? The summary of it is very simple. After their mother passes away Scout and Jem lived with their father Atticus in Alabama, Maycomb. Atticus is a renowned lawyer and the family is quite well-off and the family is actually better off than others in the society. Dill has come to spend his summer vacation at his relatives’ place that lives next to the Finches’ family. So you could be forgiven for thinking perhaps Dill is based on the writer Truman Capote. The three children Scout, Jem and Dill become friends. Dill is fascinated by the Radley place a spooky house owned by Mr Nathan Radley where his brother Arthur Boo has lived for many years but has never been seen outside of the house. Atticus Finch is appointed as a lawyer to Tom Robinson. Tom is charged with rape of a white woman called Mayella Ewell. No one in Maycomb wanted to offend Tom but Atticus takes up the challenge. For this, his children are teased and taunted by calling names like nigger lover. Nigger as you very well know is a pejorative word that is used in the context of African-Americans. Scout wants to stand by her father and fight for him but Atticus stops her from it. One day a group of men come with the intent of lynching Tom. Lynching basically means beating him publicly but the incident is averted by the children – Scout, Jem and Dill. Tom does not want his children to be present at the trial. However, they are invited by the Reverend and they see the whole trial from the coloured balcony. Atticus establishes the innocence of Tom but unfortunately, he is punished for the act that he never committed. It is also evident during the trial that it is Mayella who made sexual advances towards Tom and her father Bob Ewell finds that red-handed. However, one night Tom tries to escape from prison and is shot dead. Feeling humiliated despite the verdict Bob avenges against Atticus. He attacks Jem and Scout who were returning from a Halloween party but someone comes to rescue them. What is a Halloween party? A Halloween party is basically a gathering. It is a party that is held on the night of 31st of October which is celebrated in America as Halloweens night. However, in this scuffle, Bob dies and Jim breaks his arm. The stranger takes the children back to their house and Scout realizes that it is Boo who has rescued them.
Now, what are the major themes and issues discussed in the novel? If not discussed at least what are the major themes that are touched upon or dealt with in the novel.
First and the most important theme, the one that probably dominates all of the discussion of To Kill Mockingbird is racism. Racism, therefore, is one of the major themes in the novel. The novel is set in the early 1930s. This is also the time of the Great Depression. During this time Blacks were the highly subjugated people of the society. They were not allowed to move along with White’s share their spaces walk or sit with whites. This is seen throughout the novel. So what we are looking at in the novel is severe racial segregation. Racial segregation is that policy which basically means that there will be certain public spaces that will be only available to whites, and there will be certain public spaces that will be only available to non-whites more importantly to African Americans, for example, the separate place for the blacks in the court where Scout, Jem and Dill -children of white man but they were sitting in the coloured balcony to see the trial since there was no place and also because their father chose to defend a black man Tom Robinson. So this is something which I think we really need to talk about because this case stands as the fight against racism. Mr Atticus Finch defence Tom and all the pieces of evidence are very strongly supportive of Tom and they basically prove Tom’s innocence. The only factor that can go against tom and it does is his skin Tom is black and eventually it becomes reality once again tong is punished for the crime that he has not committed it happens so because he’s a black man and his accuser is a white woman. Atticus and a handful of people fight against the racial discrimination but they cannot ultimately succeed. However, Atticus explains to Scout that though they have lost the cause and though they have lost the case but it does help them stand against racism and it is proved through the juries long period of discussion before the decision is made. Otherwise, it does not take much time for them to decide.
The other important theme that one has to talk about is of course right there in the title mocking bird. What is a mocking bird? The Mockingbird represents all that is good in this world as they do not harm anyone. They are just busy themselves in singing. Thus it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. This is what is explained to the children and it is maintained throughout the novel too, for example, in the novel Tom becomes the symbol of mockingbird since the whites have sinned by killing an innocent man just because he’s black. Further Atticus Finch also explains to his children when he gives them a shooting gun for the first time he explains to them “When he gave us our air rifles Atticus wouldn’t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn’t interested in guns. Atticus said to Jim one day, I would rather shot at tin cans in the backyard but I know you will go after birds shoot all the blue gays if you want if you can hit him but remember it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.
So, from this, we can actually make a very important argument as well about violence in the novel. How is violence represented in the novel? Violence in the novel clearly represents the use of air rifles. The killing of the Mockingbird is regarded as a violent act. Further, before the decision is made by the jury members and it is declared that Tom is guilty there is a dense stillness that appears in the atmosphere even as the mockingbirds falls silent.
“….I shivered, though the night was hot. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning when the mockingbirds were still. Further, there is another example of Mockingbird in Boo Radley who lives his life silently and has never harmed anyone in his life”.
So can we, therefore, say that this novel is also an attempt at trying to make a case for non-violence? So we look at social inequality in the novel, we look at education, we look at courage we look at the law, we look at the tussle between good and evil, we look at violence and we look at non-violence and of course, there is also the element of racism.
Now what we really need to, therefore, concentrate on is the way in which the novel was being written at a time when America was in the throes of racial discrimination and this racial discrimination is something that many authors have articulated. This is a racial discrimination that is most clearly articulated of course in the speech by Martin Luther King I Have a Dream.
Harper Lee was widely used in various university syllabi. Her book To Kill a Mockingbird has consistently been read as a book that argues against racism but over here I think I would really have to mention that when the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird was published, it was revealed that shocked everybody that Atticus Finch- the man who so bravely defended and fought for the rights of a black man is exposed as somebody who secretly belonged to a racist organization. In fact, it is probably believed that Atticus Finch was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. So this is something which created a lot of controversies. A lot of people were very upset. Many people said that they will never be able to read To Kill a Mockingbird ever again knowing what they know now about what lay at the heart of Atticus Finch. But I think even when Harper Lee is revealing Atticus Finch to have secretly been a part of a racist white supremacist organization what she is basically trying to say is that perhaps Atticus Finch is a character who believes in what is true. He may have been racist in his private life but he still tries to take up the case of Tom Robinson because he believes that Tom Robinson was innocent and of course, all the evidence clearly proves that Tom Robinson was innocent. So here is a man who perhaps believed in a certain ideology which is harmful but professionally he was talking about and he was trying to fight for what he felt was the duty of his profession. When we look at Harper Lee we, therefore, have to understand that as a white woman living in the south she is writing a novel that argues against racism. In doing this she is also trying to make a bigger argument, a greater argument about the way in which you do not have to belong to a certain community to write about it. You can also write about that community from the outside. Remember Harper Lee is not black. So the fact that she is not an African-American itself many people would, therefore, say she may not be qualified to write a novel like this. She only proves them wrong because she writes a novel against racism even though she personally may not have suffered as a result of it.
So as we go through the novel we, therefore, come to understand that American literature is that much richer because we have a novel like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. What we really have to understand is that as we go through the novel we are going to also try and make a very important revelation to ourselves, that is, how to sensitize children to questions of right and wrong, how to sensitize children to questions of ways, how to sensitize children to the question of criminality, to questions of justice, to questions of the way in which violence works and the way in which non-violence works. I think it is rather significant that the novel is written in the voice of a very young girl because when she is writing as a young girl or at least she’s writing as a woman looking back on her childhood she is, therefore, making a very important case of the way in which children should be sensitized towards bigger questions of hatred of violence, of discrimination that they are going to find once they have grown up in an adult world. I think it is significant for us to remember that when they go towards the trial they are actually being sat in the coloured seats. Now remember that the coloured seats are meant for the African Americans, the coloured seats are meant for the black people. So why are the children’s being seated there? They are being seated there clearly because there is no space and the white section but that is not the simple point because there is another point. That another is that maybe these children represent a world that is beyond race, maybe these children are trying to think about a world which is not divided into black and white. So Harper Lee is constructing this tail of course which is in many ways autobiographical. This could very well have been inspired by her father’s career, this could very well have been inspired by the fact that she herself studied law but what we should always remember is that she is constructing a novel which raises very important questions about the way in which justice is delivered. Because if you remember Tom Robinson ultimately does not get to enjoy his freedom. He does not get to enjoy the verdict of his innocence and the only reason why he does not do that is simply because of his skin colour. So look at the way in which justice is ultimately not done and it is not done not because of lack of evidence it is not done simply because once this is a black man that has been accused of a crime, the public is, therefore, determined to prove that if the crime is said to have committed by a black man then the black man must be guilty. It is the assumption of guilt on the part of the black man by the white majority which is something that is being critiqued by Harper Lee.
To sum up I want to say that once you were reading the novel please be aware of the way in which this novel actually feeds into greater discourses, and about the way in which race functions in the American literary history. When we are talking about race I would want you to go all the way back to where the post started. I would want you to go all the way back to the 18th century even into the 17th century to look at slave narratives. So when you are looking at slave narratives look at the way in which their sufferings are done or communicated, look at the slave narratives then come to the 19th century and look at the way in which there are people like Walt Whitman who are actually already arguing against slavery, look at the history of the civil war which was clearly started because some people wanted to a polish slavery – people of the north and there were some who actually did not want slavery to be abolished – people of the south. Look at how as a result of the word slaves may have been freed but the racism that was created continues to inform the way in which Americans think about themselves. Look at the way in which the white-black binary continues to operate even though Americans may or may not believe it or may or may not acknowledge it. So the deep-seated racism in America that was there 300 years ago continues to be that today and on the racial front there seems to have been a certain cosmetic number of changes but deep down inside racial antagonisms are very much present and I think Harper Lee when she was writing this rather extraordinary novel she was trying to make a very simple case that sometimes justice that is supposed to be blind by which I mean that justice is supposed to be impartial ultimately is not impartial because it depends on who the accused is. If the accused is a white man chances are that he will be set free if the accused is a black man chances are he will be found guilty whether he has committed the crime or not. This extremely dark this extremely depressing message is something that happily is trying to communicate and I hope that when you are reading To Kill a Mockingbird he will also eventually read Go Set a Watchman because it would be interesting for you to compare how a narrative is shaped many decades ago and how that narrative has evolved many decades later. So do please read this novel so these two novels side-by-side and I think that is going to give you a greater impression, a greater understanding of the way in which race, justice, innocence, guilt non-violence and violence work in American literature in general and in this novel by Harper Lee in particular.
The ending of To Kill a Mockingbird is closed, settled one. There is nothing else to be resolved. All the conflicts are ended: Boo is a friend, Ewell is dead, Scout has given in to sleep, and for the moment the family is safe from society and its pressures.
The maturational motif is evident again when Scout says that “there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.” Scout has matured and has learned to stand in others’ shoes. The repetition of a statement by Atticus is important here: “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes.” This statement serves to weave Part One and Part Two together.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Questions and Answers
Chapter 1 Questions And Answers
1. Describe Calpurnia as Scout depicts her in Chapter 1.
A. Calpurnia has been the cook for the Finch family since Jem was born. Scout describes Calpurnia as allangles and bones, nearsighted, and owning a wide, hard hand which she used to discipline Scout. Scout says Calpurnia is “always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem,… and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come.”
2. What does Dill dare Jem to do?
A. Dill dares Jem to touch the Radley house.
3. What events led to Arthur’s being shut into the house?
A. Arthur and some other boys formed a group which was the nearest thing that Maycomb had ever had to agang. They hung around the barbershop, rode the bus on Sundays to go to the movies, attended dances at the “gambling hell,” and experimented with whiskey.
4. Pretend you are writing a description of Maycomb for a travel magazine of the 1930s. Describe the town indetail.
A. Maycomb is a small Southern town where the residents all know one another. The citizens are primarilylaw-abiding people. The class system is in effect and there is segregation evidenced by the statement that the sheriff hadn’t the heart to put Arthur in “jail alongside Negroes.”
5. The townspeople of Maycomb have some fears and superstitions about the Radley Place. Describe thesefears and superstitions.
A. The people of Maycomb say that Arthur goes out at night after the town is asleep. Many people fear theRadley Place and cross the street to avoid it. Any lost ball in the Radley’s yard remains there.
6. Whose idea was it to make Boo come out of the house?
A. It was Dill’s idea to make Boo come out of his house.
7. How important is bravery to Jem?
A. Scout says that Jem always takes a dare. Bravery is of great importance to him. It is because of his need tobe brave that Jem runs into the Radley yard and slaps the house.
8. Mr. Connor is described as “Maycomb’s ancient beadle.” What is a beadle?
A. A beadle is a crier or officer of the court. Mr. Connor is evidently a bailiff of the court.
9. What goal do the children plan to achieve before the end of the summer?
A. Before the end of the summer the children run out of ideas for play. Dill gives them the idea to make BooRadley come out of his house.
10. Describe some of the customs of the town of Maycomb.
A. On Sundays the people of Maycomb go visiting; the ladies wear their Sunday best for this event. The
Radleys do not participate, however; they keep their shades drawn to discourage visitors. The pace on Sundays in Maycomb is slow; the citizens scorn activities like picture shows on Sundays. When serious illness comes to a family, sawhorses are put up to cut down on traffic and noise. Straw is put in the street to cut down the noise of those who must use the street. The primary social events in the town are church-related activities.
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Who is Scout’s first grade teacher?
A. Miss Caroline is Scout’s first-grade teacher.
2. What is the Dewey Decimal System?
A.The Dewey Decimal System is a way of arranging library books and materials. It is not a way to teachreading, as Jem mistakenly explains.
3. What events lead to the conflict between Scout and Miss Caroline?
A.Scout finds disfavor with Miss Caroline, first of all, when she reads aloud from The Mobile Register and from My First Reader. Later, when Scout tries to explain the Cunningham philosophy, she angers Miss Caroline even more.
4. Why is Mrs. Blount, the sixth-grade teacher, angry with Miss Caroline?
A. Miss Blount says the sixth grade cannot concentrate on their study of the pyramids because of the noise inthe first-grade class. She is angry with Miss Caroline Fisher for allowing—and possibly contributing to—the chaos.
5. How does Scout learn to read?
A.Scout learns to read by climbing into Atticus’s lap and watching his finger move underneath the print ofwhatever he might be reading.
6. The students in the class show some prejudice against Miss Caroline when she tells the class she is fromWinston County, Alabama. Explain this prejudice.
A. Miss Caroline is from North Alabama, from Winston County. On January 11, 1861, when Alabama secededfrom the Union, Winston County did not condone this action; it seceded from Alabama. The rest of the state was still angry with Winston County 70 years later. In addition, the rest of the state believed that the county “was full of Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors, and other persons of no background.”
7. How does Miss Caroline contradict herself about the use of imagination?
A. Miss Caroline reads a very imaginative story to the students about chocolate malted mice and cats withclothes. The farm children are not at all impressed with the story. Later when Scout is telling about a change in her family name, Miss Caroline will not listen. Miss Caroline admonishes Scout; “Let’s not let our imaginations run away with us, dear. . . .”
8. How does Miss Caroline contradict herself in her views on teaching reading?
A. Miss Caroline says that Atticus “does not know how to teach”; yet Scout is reading well—even thestock-market quotations. She tells Scout that “It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind.” Scout, however, is not a beginning reader but a good one. Miss Caroline advocates the Language Experience Approach which uses sight words on cards; she does not advocate the phonics method which uses the alphabet and has the students sound out words. Scout seems to know the letters and is reading by that method, but Miss Caroline wants to change her way of reading.
9. How does Scout learn to write?
A. Scout learns to write at the kitchen table with Calpurnia setting her a writing task. Calpurnia would writethe alphabet across the top of a tablet and then copy a Bible chapter beneath. Scout’s task would be to copy the material satisfactorily. A reward of a bread, butter, and sugar sandwich would be doled out if Calpurnia considered the task well-done.
10. Describe the Cunningham family.
The Cunningham family is a poor family. They are so poor that Scout believes that Walter “had probablynever seen three quarters together at the same time in his life.” Despite the lack of material possessions, the Cunninghams have a reputation to uphold. They never take anything they cannot pay back. They even refuse church baskets and scrip stamps. The family does not have much, but they get along with what they have. When they use Atticus’ services, they pay him back with stovewood, hickory nuts, smilax, holly, and turnip greens. The Cunninghams have pride in their land and go hungry to keep it and to vote as they please.
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Describe Burris Ewell.
A. Burris was the filthiest human Scout had ever seen. His neck was dark grey and his nails were black intothe quick. He was rude to the teacher and said that she could not make him do anything he did not want to do.
A. Little Chuck Little tells the teacher that Mr. Ewell is “right contentious.” What does this mean?
A. He meant that Mr. Ewell was quarrelsome.
3. What events lead to Burris’s leaving school before the day is over?
A. First, Miss Caroline saw a “cootie” on him. Then she dismissed him for the rest of the day to go home andwash his hair in lye soap and kerosene; she also reminded him—in front of the class—to bathe before coming
back to school. After he tells her he will not be back, she asks him to sit down. Burris refuses and is confronted by Chuck. Miss Caroline tells him to go home or she will get the principal. Burris reminds her impolitely that she cannot make him do anything. He waits until he is sure she is crying, and then he shuffles off home. Burris always quits school the first day.
4. Why does Atticus say that Scout is not to mention the compromise they made when she goes to school?
A. Atticus says at first that the learned authorities would receive their activities with “considerabledisapprobation,” or disapproval. He translates it to mean that he does not want Miss Caroline after him.
5. What is a cootie?
A. A cootie is another name for a head or body louse.
6. Why does Walter think he almost died the first year in school?
A. Walter thinks he almost died from eating poisoned pecans.
7. Why does Atticus say Scout should ignore Jem in the tree house?
A. He tells her one should ignore some things. This is a type of behavior modification.
8. When Walter gets near the Finch house, Scout says he “had forgotten he was a Cunningham.” What doesshe mean?
A. Walter has quickly forgotten that the Cunninghams do not accept that which they cannot repay. He is eagerto eat!
9. Atticus is merely trying to get Scout to put herself in someone else’s position.
A. What does it mean to “climb into his skin and walk around in it?”
10. Tell what a compromise is and give an example.
A. A compromise is an agreement reached by two parties; often some concessions must be made by one orboth of the parties. An example from To Kill a Mockingbird is when Atticus and Scout decide to continue to read each night if Scout will go to school.
Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. What is the first present Scout finds in the tree?
A. Scout finds chewing gum in the tree first.
2. When Dill says that he helped engineer the train, Jem says, “In a pig’s ear you did, Dill.” What does thismean?
A. The idiomatic expression “In a pig’s ear” means “impossible.”
3. Why has “Calpurnia’s tyranny, unfairness, and meddling . . . faded to gentle grumblings of generaldisapproval,” according to Scout?
A. Scout’s attitude—rather than Calpurnia’s behavior—may be the reason for the statement. Scout is spendingless time with Calpurnia; possibly they miss each other. Scout is also growing and maturing; this is probably a principal reason for their improved relationship. Scout herself admits that she “went to much trouble, sometimes, not to provoke her.”
4. What does Jem call Miss Caroline’s teaching methods?
A. He calls it the Dewey Decimal System.
5. What is the second present found in the tree?
A. Indian-head pennies are the second gifts found in the tree.
6. Who is the “meanest old woman that ever lived”?
A. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is the “meanest old woman that ever lived.”
7. When Atticus asks the children if their game pertains to the Radleys, Jem says “No sir.” Atticus merelyresponds, “I hope it doesn’t.” Why does he stop the conversation at that point?
A. Atticus may have been following his own lesson: ignore the behavior and it will go away. Atticus did notusually forbid the children to do anything. Rather he posed things in such a way that they could make their own decision.
8. How do cowardice and bravery figure into Scout’s taking part in the dramas about the Radley family?
A. Scout is at first frightened to participate in the dramas. Jem and Dill accuse her of being afraid. After theincident with Atticus, Scout is hesitant about playing again. Jem accuses her of “being a girl.”
9. What is the meaning of the following: “Dill was a villain’s villain . . .”?
A. The statement “Dill was a villain’s villain” means that Dill is good in the role; he can play a villain to thedegree that even a real villain would be pleased with the performance.
10. What is a Hot Steam?
A. A Hot Steam can be detected if one is walking along a lonesome road at night and comes to a hot place.The Hot Steam is actually someone who cannot get into heaven and just stays in lonely places. If a person walks through the Hot Steam, the person will become Hot Steam after death and perhaps even suck the breath from people.
Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
1. When Scout begins to drift away from the boys, with whom does she spend much time?
A. Scout begins to spend time with Miss Maudie Atkinson.
2. Why does Miss Maudie hate her house?
A. She considers time spent indoors time wasted. She prefers to spend as much time as possible working in hergarden.
3. Why do the children have faith in Miss Maudie?
A. She has never told on them; she has always been honest with them; she does not pry.
4. How do the children try to send the message to Boo?
A. The children try to send a message by tying it on a fishing line.
5. What does Miss Maudie mean when she says Atticus is the same in his house as he is on the public streets?
A. She means that Atticus is a man of integrity; the face he presents in public does not differ from the face hepresents at home.
6. What does Uncle Jack yell at Miss Maudie each Christmas?
A. He yells for Miss Maudie to come out and marry him.
7. Atticus uses something like a threat when he finds the children trying to get a note to Boo Radley. What isthe threat?
A. He threatens Jem with the possibility that Jem may not become a lawyer.
8. Uncle Jack Finch says the “best defense to her [Miss Maudie] was spirited offense.” What does he meanby that?
A. Jack means that he would tease Miss Maudie before she could tease him.
9. What does Miss Maudie mean when she says that the things told about Arthur Radley are “three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford”?
A. She means that most of the things told about Arthur are superstition and gossip.
10. What gesture of friendship cements Miss Maudie’s and Scout’s relationship?
A. Miss Maudie pushes out her false teeth for Scout to see.
Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mr. Avery’s claim to fame?
A. He can urinate “ten feet” into the yard.
2. What is the children’s new plan in Chapter 6?
A. The children develop a plan to look in on Arthur Radley.
3. Where do the children sleep in the summer?
A. The children often sleep on the porch in the summer.
4. What are some of the nicknames that Jem gives Scout?
A. Jem calls Scout “Angel May” and “Little Three-Eyes.”
5. Why do the children spit on the gate?
A. The children spit on the hinge to prevent it from squeaking.
6. How do you know that Jem respects his father?
A. The reader knows that Jem respects his father when he braves the Radley Place at night to retrieve hispants. Atticus has never spanked him, and Jem prefers to keep it that way.
7. What does Jem lose when he goes to the Radley Place?
A. Jem loses his pants when he goes to the Radley Place.
8. What false story does Dill tell about the missing pants?
A. Dill says that the pants were lost in a game of strip poker.
Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
9. What promise/understanding exists between Scout and Dill?
A. They are engaged.
10. How does Atticus take care of the poker problem?
A. He tells the children to settle it themselves.
Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. What secret does Jem share with Scout?
A. He says that when he returned for his pants, he found them patched and folded on the fence.
2. Describe the typical seasons in South Alabama.
A. There is little change in the seasons. Winters are more like autumn than in other parts of the country.
3. What is the difference between carving and whittling?
A. Carving is to shape by cutting; whittling is just cutting without trying to make a shape.
4. What was unusual about Jem’s pants when he retrieved them from the fence?
A. When Jem retrieved the pants, they had been mended and folded.
5. What does Mr. Avery do with the stick of stovewood each week?
A. Mr. Avery whittles the stick of stovewood down to a toothpick.
6. Why doesn’t Miss Maudie chew gum?
A. Miss Maudie does not chew gum because it stuck (cleaved) to her palate (the roof of her mouth).
7. What do the children leave in the knothole in the tree?
A. Scout and Jem leave a thank-you note in the knothole in the tree.
8. Mr. Nathan fills the hole with cement.
A. What does Mr. Nathan Radley do to the tree where the gifts are placed?
9. Atticus says the tree is healthy. Mr. Nathan Radley says it is sick. When Atticus is told that Nathan had saidthe tree was sick, what does Atticus say?
A. He says that Nathan probably knows more about trees than he does.
10. How does Jem respond to the tree being plugged with cement?
A. Jem tells Scout not to cry, questions Mr. Nathan, goes to Atticus, and finally cries himself.
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. Who dies in Chapter 8?
A. Mrs. Radley dies in Chapter 8.
2. What is the Rosetta Stone? Why does Scout think Mr. Avery gets his information from it?
A. The Rosetta Stone is a tablet of black basalt found in 1799 at Rosetta, Egypt. Because it has inscriptions inGreek and in ancient Egyptian characters, it is a key to deciphering the ancient Egyptian writing. Scout thinks Mr. Avery gets his outdated information from this stone.
3. Why do Jem and Scout feel guilty when Mr. Avery tells them that children who disobey parents, smokecigarettes, and make war on each other can cause a change in the seasons?
A. Jem and Scout feel guilty because they were not perfect children and had at times disobeyed Atticus. Dillhad rolled cigarettes at an earlier point in the book, so there is a possibility that Jem had smoked. The children had waged their own wars against others during the past year.
4. Jem and Scout do not have enough snow to build a snow figure. What else do they use?
A. Scout and Jem combined the snow with mud from their own backyard.
5. What does Scout ask Atticus after he returns from the Radley Place after Mrs. Radley died?
A. When Atticus returns from the Radley Place, Scout asks if he had seen Arthur Radley.
6. Jem is able to make a snow person without enough snow to build one. What is Atticus’s first reaction? Hissecond reaction?
A. Atticus praises Jem for the snow figure, but when he sees that it looks like Mr. Avery, he makes thechildren disguise it.
7. How is Miss Maudie able to take an interest in Jem and Scout when her house has just burned?
A. Miss Maudie is able to take an interest in Jem and Scout after her house burns because she values themmore than her material possessions.
8. Before the children begin the snowman, what do they borrow from Miss Maudie?
A. Before the children begin their snow person they borrow snow from Miss Maudie.
9. Why does Jem not want Scout to walk in the snow or to eat it?
A. Jem does not want Scout to walk in the snow or eat it because he considers that a waste of the snow.
10. Why does Atticus take the children out of the house at 1:00 A.M.?
A. Miss Maudie’s house is on fire and Atticus thinks the children would be safer outside than in the house.He is afraid the fire might spread to their home.
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. Atticus is to defend a member of Calpurnia’s church. What is this person’s name?
1. Tom Robinson is the member of Calpurnia’s church whom Atticus has agreed to defend.
2. What does Scout mean when she says “I was worrying another bone”?
A. Scout is concerned with something else.
3. Why does Atticus take a case which is causing so much dissension in the neighborhood?
A. He is asked to take the case, but more importantly, he would be ashamed not to do so. He has respect forhimself and others.
4. How does Aunt Alexandra make Scout unhappy at meal time?
A. Aunt Alexandra makes Scout unhappy by making her eat at the small table instead of at the big table withJem and the adults.
5. Who is Rose Aylmer?
A. Uncle Jack’s cat has the name Rose Aylmer.
6. Proponents of behavior modification believe that a way to reduce an undesired behavior is to ignore it. Canyou think of an undesired behavior in Scout that Atticus sought to extinguish through ignoring it?
A. Atticus tries to eliminate Scout’s “cussing” by ignoring it. In fact he tells Jack not to pay any attention toher either.
7. What is “Maycomb’s usual disease” that Atticus hopes that Scout and Jem will not contract?
A. Maycomb’s usual disease is prejudice.
8. Why does Jack say that he will never marry?
A. He plans never to marry so he will never have children. Scout has been a trial to him over the holidays.
9. Compare and contrast the Christmas gifts that Jem receives and the gifts that Francis receives.
A. Jem receives a chemistry set and an air rifle. Both are things to play with. Francis receives clothes. He alsoreceives one thing to “play with”—a red book bag to carry his school work in. Francis’s gifts are more practical than Jem’s.
10. How does Jack punish Scout for fighting with Francis?
A. Jack spanks Scout.
To Kill a Mockingbird Quizzes
1. The narrator of the story is.
2. In what state and decade does this story take place?
A. Arkansas, 1920s
B. Alabama, 1930s
C. Mississippi, the 1940s
D. Georgia, 1950s
3. Which three characters are young (elementary school-aged)
A. Scout, Dill, and Jem
B. Scout, Atticus, and Calpurnia
C. Dill, Jem, and Boo
D. Calpurnia, Maudie, and Alexandra
4. Who is Calpurnia?
A. Atticus’s wife
B. Atticus’s girlfriend
C. the Finch family’s housekeeper/cook
D. Scout’s new teacher
5. Superstition causes the children to be afraid of which family’s
6. The school setting in Ch. 2 allows the author to show.
A. the general disrespect that children have for authority
B. blame the education system for what follows in the novel
C. introduce the reader to various families and the social
structure in Maycomb
D. denounce the segregation of blacks and whites
7. The Ewell family is.
A. highly respected in town
B. supportive of equal rights for all races
C. one of the poorest, least educated families in Maycomb
D. a mixed-race family
8. What does Miss Caroline see that horrifies her and shows her that Maycomb is not like the town she is from?
A. a dead mockingbird
B. a cootie (lice) in a child’s hair
C. the fact that none of her students can afford lunch
D. a black man
9. What did Boo Radley legendarily do to his father?
A. stabbed him in the leg with scissors
B. murdered him in his sleep
C. locked him in the basement for several weeks
D. turned him into the sheriff for child abuse
10. Miss Caroline disapproves of the fact that Scout can, but
Atticus tells Scout to keep doing it anyway.
A. do her multiplication tables
B. skip and chew gum at the same time
D. read and write
11. What do Scout and Jem discover in the oak tree at the corner of
the Radleys’ property?
A. chewing gum and pennies
B. a note begging for help
C. a mockingbird nest
D. a gun
12. Which of the following statements is true about Scout?
A. she means well when she tells Miss Caroline about the Cunninghams and Ewells, but still gets in trouble
B. she’s an obedient and level-tempered little girl
C. she is behind the other students at school because she only goes to school for a short time each year
D. she is eager to invite Walter Cunningham to dinner to try to make up for his humiliation at school
13. What is Finch’s Landing?
A. a small town near Boston, where Atticus’s brother Jack lives
B. the family’s farm on the Alabama River, founded by
Englishman Simon Finch and now run by Aunt Alexandra
C. the name of Atticus’s home in Maycomb
D. the family’s ancestral cotton plantation in Georgia
14. What is probably true about Dill?
A. he is a relative of Scout’s and Jem’s
B. he hates it in Maycomb
C. he doesn’t have a known father, and his mother doesn’t
take very good care of him
D. he is older than Jem by a few months
15. Which of the following is true about Atticus’s parenting style?
A. he treats them with respect and expects them to be moral and thoughtful
B. he is a strict disciplinarian who does not allow them to talk back or act out in any way
C. he is an “absentee father” who has no real interest in his children beyond their basic needs
D. he is well-meaning but overly emotional, which interferes with his ability to think rationally and fairly
16. Who is the author of this book?
A. Margaret Mitchell
B. Harper Lee
C. Truman Capote
D. William Shakespeare