narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird is Jean Louise 'Scout' Finch who
lives with her brother Jem and widowed father who is a lawyer in
the Alabama town of Maycomb. The story covers three consecutive
summers and at the start of the tale Scout is aged six.
During the first summer, a new boy named Dill moves into town and
he, Scout, and Jem become good friends. They play a lot together
acting out different stories and fantasies. One recurring theme
deals with a run-down, eerie looking house on their street owned
by Mr. Nathan Radley. Even though the Radley brothers live there,
they have not been maintaining the property and nobody in town has
ever seen either of them.
The reader learns that this was Scout's first year at school and
that she has been having problems. She would prefer to stay at home
and be taught by her father, but this is against the law. As time
goes by, Scout and Jem find some mysterious presents in the knothole
of an old tree on the Radley place, leading to fascination with
the mysterious Boo Radley.
Jem, Dill, and Scout venture out one night to try to see into Boo
Radley's back window - an adventure that leads to frightening results,
especially for Jem. As the summer comes to a close, Scout and Jem
find more presents in the Radley tree. Their treasures include small
sculptures and a watch. Unfortunately, Mr. Radley, who seals up
the hole in the tree, suddenly cuts off their bounty.
Winter comes quickly, bringing a rare snowstorm to Maycomb. Miss
Maudie's house is ruined in a fire, and Scout has a rare encounter
with Boo Radley without even knowing it.
Scout gets into a number of fisticuffs with both a classmate and
her cousin when the two boys taunt her about her father, whom they
insult by calling him a "nigger lover." Atticus explains to Scout
that he will be defending a black man named Tom Robinson on the
charge of rape.
That Christmas which is spent at Finch's Landing, the family farm,
they are given air rifles, but are told not to kill a mockingbird.
It is explained to them that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird as
they only given humans pleasure by singing their heart out.
Jem and Scout's Aunt Alexandra decides to come and stay with them
during the final summer of the story and initially it appears that
Scout will be on her own as her older brother has no time for her,
and Dill will stay with his mother and new stepfather. He, however,
runs away from home to stay with his aunt in Maycomb for the rest
of that summer.
The trial of Tom Robinson is scheduled to begin and when he is placed
in the local jail a mob gathers to lynch him. Atticus has taken
up a position outside the jail anticipating this development. The
mob seems determined to have their way and it is only Scout's intervention,
which brings about the dispersal of the mob through her innocence
When Tom Robinson's trial finally begins, evidence begins to show
that Robinson is obviously innocent. Heck Tate and Mr. Ewell take
the stand giving further evidence to prove Robinson's innocence.
Atticus points out that a left-handed man must have beaten Mayella
Ewell. He goes on to show that while Mr. Ewell is left-handed, Tom
Robinson's left arm is crippled due to a farming accident. When
Mayella Ewell takes the stand, it becomes obvious that her story
has many holes in it. However, she starts crying hysterically before
Atticus may point many of them out. When Tom Robinson takes the
stand, the obviously true story comes out. It becomes evident that
Mayella Ewell was a very lonely person who's only crime was to kiss
a black man. Her father, Bob Ewell, beat and raped her for this
crime. Mr. Ewell also forced her to say that Tom Robinson did it,
so that he wouldn't get in trouble.
Even though it is clear that Tom Robinson is innocent, the all-white
jury convicts him and he is later shot whilst trying to escape.
Months pass, Summer turns to Fall, the routine of school starts
for the children, but Bob Ewell holds on to his grudge against some
of Maycomb's citizens, including Judge Taylor, Helen Robinson and
Atticus. In October, the night of Halloween, Scout prepares for
a presentation at her school. She plans to wear a bulky pig costume,
one that severely limits her vision. While returning home from the
school pageant, Jem and Scout are attacked. Jem's arm is broken,
and a stranger carries him home. Scout cannot see what is happening
because of her constrictive costume.
Afterwards, a search of the area by the local officials turns up
Bob Ewell's dead body.
As Heck Tate and Atticus listen, Scout tells them what happened
to her and Jem, ending by pointing to the man who had carried Jem
home. It is then that Scout realizes that the stranger is Boo Radley
who had come to their rescue. Atticus assumes that it was Jem who
stabbed Bob Ewell, but the sheriff tells Atticus that he intends
to report that Ewell fell on his own knife. Atticus is sure that
the sheriff is trying to protect Jem, until it finally dawns on
him that it was actually Boo Radley who killed Ewell. Scout walks
Boo Radley home and then returns to her house.