About the Book

Book Protagonist: "Scout" Atticus Finch
Publication Date: 1960
Genre: Classic, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction


To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

'To Kill A Mockingbird' is a coming of age story where a child discovers that white and black belong to two unfairly different worlds in her society.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee tells the story of a child whose carefree relish of her childhood is given a rude awakening by the realization that she lives in an unjust and racist society when she witnesses the unfair conviction of a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

’Spoiler Free’ Summary of To Kill a Mockingbird

The novel begins with the character of Scout describing her brother Jem’s arm injury that happened years earlier. Jem and Scout have several theories about what led to the injury and argue about it, then to settle the argument, they seek their father’s opinion, and their father tells them that they are both right.

Scout then begins to narrate the events of the years before Jem’s injury. They live in a nice residential area of a town called Maycomb County. It is a small town where everyone knows everyone else down to their ancestry, and the people are accustomed to social interactions with each other. However, there is a house in Scout’s neighborhood that is of interest to the people of the town because the house is always shut and the inhabitants of the house never socialize with neighbors.

The inhabitants of this house are the Radleys and their youngest son Arthur Radley who is never seen outside is nicknamed Boo Radley and described as an awkward monster in children’s imagination.

One summer, Scout and Dill meet a new boy in the neighborhood called Dill. Dill lives in another city but would be coming to Maycomb County every summer to stay with his relative. Scout and Jem become friends with Dill who is fascinated with the legend of the never-seen Boo Radley. Dill begins to formulate dares and plots to get them all to go to the Radley house in the hope of seeing Boo Radley. But they never succeed in seeing him.

Scout’s father is a lawyer called Atticus. One time in school, other pupils begin to taunt Scout for having a dad who is a ‘’nigger lover’’. Scout tells her father about it, and her father tells her about a client he has been assigned to defend in court. The client’s name is Tom Robinson and he has been falsely accused of raping a white girl named Mayella Ewell. Atticus tells Scout that the case is not until the next summer but that she must stay strong and be prepared to resist such taunting with grace.

Summer comes, and Tom Robinson is tried in court with Atticus as his defense attorney. Scout and the other kids have high hopes that Tom Robinson would be freed. But the outcome was not as expected.

Events take a turn for the worse as lives are lost and endangered by some people who nurse racism and hatred in their hearts.

Complete Plot Summary of To Kill a Mockingbird

Part One

Scout is a girl of six who lives in a nice neighborhood with her brother Jem, her father Atticus, and their cook Calpurnia. Scout and Jem play together and later make friends with a boy named Dill, who visits the neighborhood every summer.

A house close to them is always shut, and no one ever visits it. The occupants of the House are the Radleys, who do not socialize in the town. The youngest son of the Radleys had never been seen since years ago when he was a teenage boy, and he is rumored to be a monster and nicknamed Boo.

Dill is fascinated with Boo and devices various plots to get himself, Scout, and Jem close enough to the Radley House for them to get a glimpse of Boo. But all their childish plots fail, and they content themselves with enacting drama about their imagination of Boo’s life.

Scout begins school and their teacher Miss Caroline Fisher, an inexperienced young teacher, asks everyone to bring out their food in class. Seeing that one of the pupils does not have any food, Miss Fisher offers to lend him money to buy something to eat. Scout volunteers to explain to the teacher that the boy cannot afford to borrow money from her because they are poor but this gets her on the wrong footing with Miss Fisher and she gets whipped.

The boy concerned is Walter Cunningham whose father was once a client of Scout’s father Atticus. Scout fights with Walter at break time for being the cause of her getting whipped but later as a peace offering invites him to lunch with her at home.

Scout and Jem begin to be mocked by people because their father chose to defend a black man in a court case. Atticus explains to them that they must hold their heads high and ignore the taunts because the case of the black man is one he must defend if he wants to live well with his conscience. The case is that of a black young man who was accused of rape by a white girl and her father.

Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose, a mean old lady that lives two houses away from Atticus’s house sees Jem and Scout and begins to taunt them for their father’s legal defense of a black man. In a fit of rage, Jem destroys the flowers in her front yard. Atticus finds out and instructs Jem to go and apologize to Mrs Dubose. Jem does as instructed and Mrs Dubose insists that Jem must come read to her every day for one month and Jem grudgingly obeys.

Mrs Dubose later dies and Atticus uses her as an example to teach Jem that people have both good and bad in them. Mrs Dubose was a mean old lady but she was courageous and chose to withdraw from her medically prescribed morphine addiction even though it caused her great pain.

Part Two

Atticus travels for work for some days and their cook Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to her church. There, the children discover that the black community is very different from their own white community. The cook, Calpurnia who speaks and writes good grammar speaks vernacular when around fellow black folks. Scout also witnesses Reverend Sykes organize a collection to help Tom Robinson’s wife and children who are left without support as his wife was finding it hard to get employment following her husband’s imprisonment.

Atticus’ sister, Alexandra moves in with Atticus. In her opinion, Atticus is not raising his children well and she has to help him teach them to behave like people from a respectable family.

Dill runs away from home and sneaks into Scout’s room. He is discovered by Scout and Jem and Scout plans to keep his presence a secret but Jem reports the incident to Atticus. After a stern warning, Dill is allowed to live with them.

The date of Tom Robinson’s trial draws near and the entire town is filled with tension. Atticus goes to stand guard at the jail where Tom is locked up. Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak out of the house and go in search of Atticus. They find him sitting at the jailhouse and shortly after, a group of men arrive asking Atticus to allow them access to Tom. Scout senses that they may harm Atticus and emerges from her hiding place. She recognizes Mr. Cunningham, her father’s former client, and the father of her classmate Walter Cunningham, among the group and begins to engage him in conversation.

After a while, Mr. Cunningham begins to feel awkward about their intention to lynch a prisoner and requests that his band leaves the scene. And so, Scout saves Tom Robinson from getting lynched without even knowing it.

The day of Tom Robinson’s trial comes and the entire Maycomb County, where nothing exciting ever happens, converges at the local court to witness the trial. The trial begins, and after a hard-fought case with a strong defense, Tom Robinson is still pronounced guilty by the jury. Bob Ewell, the father of the girl who claimed Tom Robinson raped her, threatens to hurt Atticus for humiliating him in court during cross-examination at the witness box.

Atticus assures Tom Robinson that there is still hope as they would appeal the case in a higher court. But Tom Robinson does not believe that there is any hope for a man in his position. He attempts to escape from prison but is shot dead by guards.

Months go by and the Tom Robinson tragedy is forgotten. The people of Maycomb County organise a Halloween party where children would perform on stage in various costumes. Scout is given the costume of a ham. Scout’s father and her aunt excuse themselves from attending the party and Jem is asked to accompany Scout as it is a night party. Scout makes an embarrassing flop in her performance at the party.

After the party, Scout decides to walk home in her heavy costume. As she walks home with Jem, Bob Ewell attacks them. He slices his knife at Scout but her costume protects her from getting harmed. Jem tries to fight him off but is shoved aside so violently that he breaks his arm and becomes unconscious. Boo Radley hears their screams and rushes to their defense. Boo Radley stabs Bob Ewell and carries Jem to Atticus.

Heck Tate, the sheriff of the county, is summoned. He finds Bod Ewell stabbed to death and after gathering information about the incident, he deduces that Bob Ewell was stabbed by Boo Radley. But in a bid to protect the shy Boo Radley’s privacy from public attention, he lies in his report, claiming that Bob Ewell died by stumbling upon his knife.

Scout finally sees Boo Radley in person and exchanges a few polite words with him. She walks Boo Radley to his front porch and he retires inside, never to be seen again.


Who comes and threatens Atticus?

It is Bob Ewell that threatens Atticus. Bob Ewell is a nasty man who accused Tom Robinson of raping his daughter. He hates Atticus for humiliating him in court and for choosing to defend a black man.

Why won’t Jem go home when Atticus tells him to?

Jem refuses to go home when Atticus tells him to because he is afraid that Atticus would get hurt. Atticus was facing a mob that was trying to lynch his client in jail.

How did the Radley house acquire its reputation?

The Radley house acquired its reputation because its windows and doors were always shut, the occupants of the house never visited anyone and never received any visitors. All these were unusual behavior in a small town where everyone socialized with everyone else, and for this, the house acquired the reputation of being a strange, spooky place.

Why did Scout fight Walter Cunningham?

Scout fought Walter Cunningham because their teacher whipped her in class for trying to explain his situation to her. And so, Scout felt it was Walter Cunningham’s fault that she got whipped.

Onyekachi Osuji
About Onyekachi Osuji
Onyekachi is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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