To Kill A Mockingbird GCSE English


Complete summary of To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Note by naomisargent, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by naomisargent over 9 years ago

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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Key Points:-set in mid 1930's, Maycomb, Alabama, USA - a small secluded, friendly town-narrator = Scout Finch - looking back at her childhood & growing up-Scout lives with older brother Jem and father Atticus-looked after by Calpurnia, a negro woman,(stern but affectionate) because Scout's mother died when she was very young-Harper Lee would herself have been Scouts age at the same time, so is perhaps referring to her own childhood

Plot outline1. Scouts first day and long established boundaries in society are explained to the reader2. Dill arrives3. try to get Boo Radley out4. Boo leaves presents for Scout and Jem in a hole in a tree5. Miss Maudie Atkinsons' house burns down in a cold winter night and, without her realising, Boo puts a blanket on Scouts' shoulders to keep her warm6. Atticus is called to defend Tom Robinson, a Negro man, accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman - this sparks tension with some townspeople who are racist and prejudiced7. Atticus shoots a mad dog, the children learn respect for him as he was known as "Ol' One-Shot" due to his expertise with a rifle8.Jem destroys Mrs Duboses camellias and as a punishment must read to her every day for a month; she then dies and Atticus tells the children she was a brave woman, as despite only having a few months left to live, she fights her morphine addiction9. The children go to Calpurnias' Church (whilst their father is away), and learn more about Tom Robinson10. Aunt Alexandra comes to stay- she tries to make the children behave properly and seeks to get Atticus to fire Calpurnia11.The trial of Tom Robinson- Atticus demonstrates that Tom is probably innocent by questioning Mayella Ewell- she has lied about rape. Despite this, the jury (after much deliberation), find Tom Robinson guilty.12. Bob Ewell (Mayellas' father), spits at and threatens Atticus13. News is heard that Tom Robinson tried to escape from prison, and gets shot 17 times, despite Atticus having confidence that the appeal for release would have worked. 13. On the way home from a Halloween pageant in the dark, Scout and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell and Jem is badly hurt. Boo Radley comes to their rescue and Bob Ewell dies.14. Heck Tate persuades Atticus to accept that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife.15. Scout walks Boo Radley home and looks at the neighbourhood from his perspective.

summary by Naomi Sargent

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

summary by Naomi Sargent


role: narratorage: 6-9characteristics: lively, intelligent, astute, boyish, strong-willed, hot tempered, gets in trouble, innocentother:-close with Atticus- he tries to make her fight with her head rather than her fists-taunted by the children for Atticus defending a Negro- instinctively she would fight but she refuses to retaliate-Aunt Alexandra is offended by her wild behaviour and frank speech and believes she should be more 'ladylike'- Scout resists this and prefers male company to her aunt's friendschange:Scout begins to adhere to her fathers previous analysis of life: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."-begins to understand Aunt Alexandra's view point-sympathises with Boo Radley-accepts Jem is growing up-has sympathy for Mayella -Has no prejudice "Just one kind of folks. Folks"


role: brother of Scoutage: 10-13 (4 years older than Scout)characteristics: milder tempered than Scout, sensitiveother:Scout tries to occasionally guess what Jem is thinkingonly once exploded with anger- Mrs Duboses camellias-learns about personal courage by Atticus- "Its when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what"change:Tom Robinsons trial causes Jem to be devastated by the unjust verdict and he realises there is imperfections of people.approaches adolescenceoriginally begins with normal childhood pursuits like football, games and having funstory unfolds and Jem becomes more moody and is less willing to join in games with Scout and Dillhe then prefers to be on his ownhe begins to understand Boo stays inside because he wants to beDevelops responsibility e.g. informs Atticus of Dill being at the houseBecomes more protective of ScoutDevelops a way with words that is reminiscent of Atticus


role: father of Scout, widowage: 50characteristics: a man of reason, courage, morals, believed in using your head than your fists, bravery, driven by equality, reliable"before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience"other: his children are disappointed that he doesn't play football, poker, drink or smokehe is described as old and short sightedhe is highly regarded by those who matter in Maycombsubjected to criticism from his brother and sister for bringing up Scout and Jem incorrectlyhe lets the children have freedom yet ensures they are polite, courteous and honest he is fair and listens to both sides of an argumentrepresents the voice of truth and fairness in the community; they 'trust him to do it rightAtticus is not perfect and underestimates Bob Ewell, with almost fatal consequences


role: figure of fear at first, a 'haint'he is much different to what they imagine. he's not a monster as the children present him, but actually a very kind gentleman who is very shywas locked in the house by his father for stealing a vehicle and then resisting arrest 15 years before


role: family cook and replacement motherhas firm control over the children so Scout resents her at firstAtticus supports her completelyshe is intelligent and can writeleads a double life- white life v. negro life^shown when the children go to church with her (CHAPTER 12)


role: the childrens favourite neighbourpopular with the children, she treats them with kindness and respectenjoys their company, bakes them cakes and doesn't talk down to themshe is individual and shows couragewhen the baptists criticise her for growing flowers she is witty and uses biblical quotations from the same sourceshe is philosophical about losing her house in the fire and is still cheerfulshe is optimisticexplains to the children even though that the outcome of the trial was unfair, it was a step towards justice


role: falsely accused of raping a white womanmarried with children age: 25 years oldis hardworking honestheld in high esteem by his employerrespected (as respected as a black man could have been)found guilty (falsely)in an attempt to escape prison, he is shot dead with 17 bullet holeshe could have escaped if he had of had the use of both armsAtticus says: 'I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own.'

COURAGE-courage used to overcome childish fears like running past the Radley place-Atticus' physical courage in facing the mad dog-Scout shows courage when not retaliating to the taunts of her friends when they call Atticus names-Atticus has the courage to defend Tom Robinson, which he knows will end in failure-Mrs Dubose attempts to rid herself of her drug addiction even though she knows she will die, Atticus calls her "the bravest person" he knows.-Bob Ewell shows no courage, he chooses to strike in the dark, rather than face them in daylight-Boo Radley shows courage rescuing the children

FAMILY-same families have lived in Maycomb for nearly 200 years-this means people believe certain families hold certain characteristics-e.g. a Cunningham can always be trusted or a Ewell is always dishonest-this leads to social division-people are taught to mix with the 'right' kind of people- Aunt Alexandra believes this particularly-Atticus despises social classification and prefers to judge people on their own personal merit-the Cunninghams contrast the Ewells-Mr Cunningham makes the lynch mob leave the jail -Cunninghams never borrow what they cannot return-Scout makes Mr Cunningham realise that she is treating him as an individual and this breaks up the lynch mob-thanks to another Cunnigham, the jury is delayed at trial and Miss Maudie and Atticus believe this gives optimism for the future of society-Atticus has a close relationship with both Jem and Scout-he and Calpurnia both instill good values into them-this contrasts with the Ewells

JUSTICE-theoretically, American Negroes have had equal rights lawfully since 1865 (end of the Civil War)-however they do not necessarily receive equal justice-the courts verdict against Tom Robinson displays this-Atticus believes the law is satisfactory and it can function, however justice cannot exist until attitudes change and people apply the law justfully.

PREJUDICE AND HATRED-there is deep hatred and fear between Whites and Negroes-the lynch mob is ready to kill and almost succeeds-Bob Ewell's hatred of Atticus nearly results in the death of Jem and Scout-Atticus does not want Jem and Scout to admire violence, despite having to use his gun once-Dolphus Raymond describes 'the simple hell people give other people'-not just racial prejudice but the rigid codes of behaviour that people impose on one another-this behaviour is depicted as normality-non conformers are persecuted e.g. Boo Radley, Dolphus Raymond, Maudie Atkinson-Tom Robinson is found guilty although his prosecuters lied, because he felt sorry for a white girl. This was unacceptable behaviour of a Negro-townspeople do not realise their own hypocrisy-Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle tea depicts this. The group sympathises with the poor Mruna tribe in Africa, yet condemns the Negroes in their own town-Dolphus Raymond is seen as an oddity in the town as he is white yet chooses to live amongst Negroes. He is sensitive and loathes a segragational society-the only representative of black prejudice is Lula, but the church tells her to control her behaviour (seen as not normal)-the blacks resent Tom's conviction, yet expect is as they have been brought up as second class citizens.BIGOTRY=ANOTHER WORD FOR PREJUDICE 

THE MOCKINGBIRD-children are warned that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird as it does nothing to harm anyone, only sings-Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are both gentle people who have done no harm to anyone else, yet are condemned. They should be looked after, yet people with false courage and shallow pride try and shoot them down, like children do with mockingbirds-Tom and Boo are both persecuted-links to justice and childhood- justice is killed when peoples personal prejudices are followed without accounting for the real evidence presented-childhood innocence dies as Scout, Jem and Dill realise the adult world is a cruel, unjust place to live.

CHILDHOOD INNOCENCEthe story is narrated through Scouts eyesJem grasps things long before she doesthe reader can piece together bits of the novel before Scout does, adding depthScouts incomprehension adds an element of humourChildrens minds are unprejudiced at firstchilds mind & approach to the telling of the novel- adults are not always right - unprejudiced-devlop a mind of your own

Key Points and Plot Outline



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