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One of the major masterpieces of American literature, To Kill A Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee originally as a love story, was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It also won an Academy Award when it was later made into a film starring Gregory Peck. The story is set in imaginary Maycomb County in southern Alabama. The time frame for the story is the early 1930 's during the great depression. Poverty was common and times were extremely tough. This book is loaded with interesting characters.
Here is an outline and description of some of the most important characters. The story revolves around the Finch family, led by Atticus Finch, a lawyer. Atticus has two children: Jem, short for Jeremy, his eldest son and Scout, nickname for Jean Louise, his younger and only daughter. Scout is a bit of a tomboy and enjoys hanging out with her brother and their friend Dill. Dill is a young boy who comes to stay in Maycomb every summer with his aunt, Miss Rachel.
Aunt Alexandra is Atticus's item and the family has a maid named Calpurnia. The children spend a great deal of time at the house of Arthur "Boo" Radley. Bob Ewell who lives with his daughter Mayella Ewell is the man who accuses Tom Robinson, a black man, of raping Mayella. Law enforcement in Maycomb consists of Heck Tate, county law official and Judge Taylor.
The story begins when Jem and Scout meet a new friend, Dill, who has come to spend yet another summer with his aunt, Miss Rachel. The town is full of gossip about Boo Radley, which fascinates the three friends. Dill, Jem and Scout try to think up creative ways to lure Boo out of his house with no success. The next summer Dill returns and is even more curious and becomes more daring in his attempt to see Boo. On the last evening of Dill's stay in Maycomb the children decide to sneak up on Boo's porch to see what they can see. Just as Jem reaches the window, Nathan Radley, Boo's son, fires his shotgun and scares them off.
One night during the following winter one of the Finch's neighbor Miss Maudie's house burns to the ground. As Scout was standing and watching the efforts of the town in fighting the fire, someone placed a blanket over her shoulders. Jem later realizes that it must have been Boo who tried to warm Scout with the blanket because everyone else in town was fighting Miss Maudie's fire. The children now see Boo in a new light and realize that he must be a nice person. Their interest in the Radley house fades. Meanwhile the children find out that their father has accepted the task of defending Tom Robinson who is charged with the rape of Mayella Ewell.
As the trial date grows nearer the children see the way it has aroused the townspeople of Maycomb. The town is full of racism and the residents don't hesitate to point out to the children that their father is defending a black man. A couple of nights before the start of the trial some men come to the Finch house to tell Atticus about how some people are threatening Tom Robinson's life. To defend Mr.
Robinson from these people Atticus decides to spend the night in jail with him. A group of men show up at the jail to kill Tom and at the same time as they arrive, so do Jem, Dill and Scout. Scout is friendly to the men, one of which she recognizes. Her display of kindness causes the men to feel embarrassment and leave without harming Tom. At the trial the following morning Atticus proves that Mr. Ewell and Mayella are lying about the rape charges.
Since the Ewell's are white and Tom is black and the town is prejudiced, the jury sides with the Ewell's. Tom, who has given up hope, tries to escape prison but is caught and shot. Atticus' defense of Tom makes him a hero among the black community in Maycomb. Bob Ewell is furious that Atticus made him look like a liar in front of the entire town and vows revenge. Around Halloween Scout is chosen to play a ham in an upcoming pageant. When the pageant is over Jem and Scout walk home.
Scout is still in her cumbersome costume. Bob Ewell who has not forgotten his vow of revenge sees the children and follows them down a dark street. Bob attacks the children and tries to kill them. Boo having seen everything from his window, runs to save Jem and Scout.
He kills Mr. Ewell by stabbing him repeatedly then carries Jem who has been badly injured to his home. To keep Boo from receiving massive amounts of publicity and public ridicule the sheriff files a report stating that Bob fell on the knife and died. Boo and Scout's paths never cross again but she now had no doubt that Boo is a kind man. Scout is shown justice and understanding through the sheriff's actions, a lesson that she will never forget. The book's title is important in some parts of the novel.
In chapter 10 the children each receive an air rifle for Christmas. Their father tells the children that killing a mockingbird is a sin. Later in the novel their neighbor Miss Maudie elaborates saying that mockingbirds sing for enjoyment and that they are harmless creatures. Tom Robinson is a victim of racial prejudice and is accused of doing wrong when he is really innocent.
Clearly he is the harmless "mockingbird" of the story. The only thing that Tom is guilty of is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The townspeople live in a system of segregation and cannot go against that system. This is why Tom is found guilty. Because he is a black man living in a white man's world. Bibliography:
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