She earned a law degree from the University of Alabama in and spent a year in Oxford, England, but moved to New York in to focus on writing. After , Lee retreated from public life to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Aside from a few essays, she published nothing else until At that point, her publisher released Go Set a Watchman , which Lee wrote initially as a first draft of Mockingbird. Lee died in her sleep in at age 89, having received numerous honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Medal of Arts.
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Her father, Atticus Finch , is a lawyer with high moral standards. Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill are intrigued by the local rumors about a man named Boo Radley , who lives in their neighborhood but never leaves his house. Legend has it that he once stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, and he is made out to be a kind of monster.
The children are curious to know more about Boo, and during one summer create a mini-drama they enact daily, which tells the events of his life as they know them. Slowly, the children begin moving closer to the Radley house, which is said to be haunted. Next, the children try sneaking over to the house at night and looking through its windows. The children run away, but Jem loses his pants in a fence. When he returns in the middle of the night to get them back, they have been neatly folded and the tear from the fence roughly sewn up.
Other mysterious things happen to the Finch children. A certain tree near the Radley house has a hole in which little presents are often left for them, such as pennies, chewing gum, and soap carved figures of a little boy and girl who bear a striking resemblance to Scout and Jem.
While Jem and Scout, shivering, watch the blaze from near the Radley house, someone puts a blanket around Scout without her realizing it. Not until she returns home and Atticus asks her where the blanket came from does she realize that Boo Radley must have put it around her while she was entranced by watching Miss Maudie, her favorite neighbor, and her burning house. Atticus decides to take on a case involving a black man named Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping a very poor white girl named Mayella Ewell , a member of the notorious Ewell family, who belong to the layer of Maycomb society that people refer to as "trash.
But, Atticus insists on going through with the case because his conscience could not let him do otherwise. He knows Tom is innocent, and also that he has almost no chance at being acquitted, because the white jury will never believe a black man over a white woman. Despite this, Atticus wants to reveal the truth to his fellow townspeople, expose their bigotry, and encourage them to imagine the possibility of racial equality.
Because Atticus is defending a black man, Scout and Jem find themselves whispered at and taunted, and have trouble keeping their tempers. At a family Christmas gathering, Scout beats up her cloying relative Francis when he accuses Atticus of ruining the family name by being a "nigger-lover". Jem does not realize until after she dies that he is helping her break her morphine addiction. The night before the trial, Tom is moved into the county jail, and Atticus, fearing a possible lynching, stands guard outside the jail door all night.
Jem is concerned about him, and the three children sneak into town to find him. A group of men arrive ready to cause some violence to Tom, and threaten Atticus in the process. At first Jem, Scout and Dill stand aside, but when she senses true danger, Scout runs out and begins to speak to one of the men, the father of one of her classmates in school.
Her innocence brings the crowd out of their mob mentality, and they leave. According to the Ewells, Mayella asked Tom to do some work for her while her father was out, and Tom came into their house and forcibly beat and raped Mayella until her father appeared and scared him away. Tom tried to push her away. When Bob Ewell arrived, he flew into a rage and beat her, while Tom ran away in fright.
Ewell leads with his left. Given the evidence of reasonable doubt, Tom should go free, but after hours of deliberation, the jury pronounces him guilty. Though the verdict is unfortunate, Atticus feels some satisfaction that the jury took so long deciding.
Atticus is hoping for an appeal, but unfortunately Tom tries to escape from his prison and is shot to death in the process. Jem has trouble handling the results of the trial, feeling that his trust in the goodness and rationality of humanity has been betrayed. Meanwhile, Mr. Ewell threatens Atticus and other people connected with the trial because he feels he was humiliated.
He gets his revenge one night while Jem and Scout are walking home from the Halloween play at their school. He follows them home in the dark, then runs at them and attempts to kill them with a large kitchen knife. Jem breaks his arm, and Scout, who is wearing a confining ham shaped wire costume and cannot see what is going on, is helpless throughout the attack.
The elusive Boo Radley stabs Mr. Ewell and saves the children. Finally, Scout has a chance to meet the shy and nervous Boo. At the end of this fateful night, the sheriff declares that Mr. Scout walks Boo home and imagines how he has viewed the town and observed her, Jem and Dill over the years from inside his home. Boo goes inside, closes the door, and she never sees him again.
LitCharts: To Kill a Mockingbird
The story covers a span of three years, during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, and every family has its social station depending on where they live, who their parents are, and how long their ancestors have lived in Maycomb. A widower, Atticus raises his children by himself, with the help of kindly neighbors and a black housekeeper named Calpurnia. Scout and Jem almost instinctively understand the complexities and machinations of their neighborhood and town. The only neighbor who puzzles them is the mysterious Arthur Radley, nicknamed Boo, who never comes outside.
To Kill a Mockingbird Summary
Summary Analysis Scout explains that when her brother, Jem, was 13, he broke his arm. Many years later, they argue about when everything that led to the accident truly began. Jem maintains that it began the year Dill arrived, while Scout insists that they take a broader view. The opening of the novel effectively establishes a foundation for many of its themes.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Summary Analysis Dill returns home to Mississippi in early September. Scout is miserable until she remembers that she starts school in a week. Scout learns that Jem is right almost immediately. Her teacher, Miss Caroline, is from Winston County, a peculiar place.