Brief Character Summary – To Kill a Mockingbird May 9, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Analysis, Essay, Harper Lee, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird, Uncategorized.
Tags: Analysis, Arthur Radley, Atticus, Aunt Alexandra, bestseller, Bob Ewell, Boo Radley, book, Calpurnia, Charles Baker Harris, Cunningham, Dill, English Literature, Frncis, GCSE, History, Jem, Judge Taylor, KJ, lessons, Lula, Mayella Ewell, Miss Carolin, Miss Maudie, Miss Stephanie Crawford, Mr Dolphus Raymond, Mr Gilmer, Mrs Dubose, Racism, review, Scout, Sheriff Heck Tate, South America, theBookGirl, Themes, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, Uncle Jack, Zeebo
The following is a very short summary of the different characters (very useful for last minute revision notes):
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch- young girl and narrator of story. She learns many lessons throughout the novel, and grows up from a naive but perceptive child to a moral and strong young lady, acknowledging facts many adults failed to grasp.
Jeremy Atticus Finch – Scout’s older brother and friend. Jem is maturer than Scout and look out for her. He is very much like his Father, and teaches Scout when Atticus is absent. Jem is much quicker than Scout and has a role of authority and knowledge. She looks up to him, although likes to feel his equal.
Atticus Finch – Jem and Scout’s father. Atticus is a lawyer for the people of Maycomb and works very hard for justice and equality. He accepts people the way they are and has a very advanced set of morals for a resident in Maycomb at this time. Atticus is one of the few characters who is not racist, as shown by his defending Robinson.
Calpurnia – Maid and cook in the Finch household, Cal is really a surrogate mother to Jem and Scout, and holds joint authority with Atticus in that respect. She is loyal, kind and strong, having a great amount of respect for Atticus and affection for the children she keeps the family together through tough times.
Charles Baker “Dill” Harris – A companion of Jem and Scout, he becomes a very firm friend at the beginning of the novel. Dill has a huge imagination and the children spend much of their time playing games together. He also matures with Jem and excludes Scout when she sees the “right” thing to do instead of what they want to do. Dill is Scout’s fiancee at this young age.
Miss Maudie – Atticus’ friendly neighbour is another moral character who does as she likes and sees as right. She is very fond of the children and looks after them, and spoils them a little. Scout can always rely on her for help, advice and something to do.
Mrs Dubose – This is another neighbour of the Finch’s’ but she is constantly nasty to the children, and shouts at them from her porch. She is recovering from a heroine addiction, and this makes her nasty.
Aunt Alexandra – Aunt of Scout and Jem, sister of Atticus. Aunt Al believes in society, class and therefore is prejudiced and stereotypes.She interferes a lot in the upbringing of Jem and Scout, when she decides they aren’t being brought up well enough.
Tom Robinson – a chivalrous, honest black man who lives in the black community in Maycomb. He is accused of raping Mayella Ewell by Bob Ewell, despite evidence against this. Robinson is a mockingbird in the novel, and a victim of racism, discrimination and prejudice.
Bob Ewell – a white man in Maycomb, who spends all his money on drink, is a single father with many children, and who treats everyone badly.
Mayella Ewell – the white eldest daughter of Bob Ewell. She is lonely and desperate, unhappy with her life as a poor and disregarded woman, and in this loneliness turns to Tom Robinson, whom she tries to have a relationship with. Needless to say, Robinson does not tolerate this and refuses; but when she is faced with this she accuses him of rape, with encouragement of her father.
Arthur “Boo” Radley – a neighbour of Scout’s who lives in a house in which the occupants very rarely come out of, especially not Boo. At the beginning of the novel he is regarded as the local “bogeyman”; someone to be feared with the tales of his insanity and violence. However, as the story develops it becomes clear that he is just lonely, and not allowed to communicate with society which makes him awkward and unused to people. He eventually turns out to be a hero and kind hearted man, who loves the children.
Miss. Caroline – Scout’s school teacher who does not understand the ways of Maycomb and ends up being taught by her pupils. Miss Caroline does not get on well with Scout as they had a bad start.
The Cunninghams – this is a family which is well known in Maycomb, they are self respecting and kind, but very poor.
Mr. Dolphus Raymond – a white man who spends his time with a black girl and their children. He pretends to be drunk constantly by drinking out of a bottle hidden in a paper bag, but it turns out that it is simply Coca Cola, and he just wants to live with the black girl without any hassle from the society.
Lula – a black woman who lives in Maycomb, and doesn’t want Scout and Jem to go to the black church one week because she is so bitter about the racism. She wants segregation but where black people have at least as many rights as whites.
Zeebo – a kind and well loved member of the black community who is both the minister in the black church and the garbage collector for the white community.
Uncle Jack – Scout and Jem’s uncle. He is a doctor and loves the children dearly, although he doesn’t understand children nor how to treat them. he uis usually a very good friend to Scout and Jem.
Francis – Scout and Jem’s cousin. Francis has a narrow mind and cruelly torments Scout. He is filled with the prejudice and discrimination that Atticus has taught his children not to have.
Judge Taylor – a just and fair judge of Maycomb, who must be the judge in the Robinson case. He is assertive and attentive, whilst giving a relaxed and laid back impression which results in getting the truth whilst being in total command of the court.
Miss Stephanie Crawford – a busybody neighbour who makes it her business to know everything and pass it on. She is the town’s gossip.
Mr. Gilmer – Bob Ewell’s lawyer. He is clever and twists words, and plays off the fear Mayella has of Atticus to his advantage.
Sheriff Heck Tate – the sheriff of Maycomb. He is a good friend of Atticus and has command of the town. He is generally a good guy.
Tags: Analysis, Atticus, Aunt Alexandra, bestseller, book, English Literature, Family, GCSE, History, Jem, KJ, lessons, Maycomb, review, Revision, South America, theBookGirl, Themes, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird
Throughout the novel we see that some families never change – for example every generation of Ewells so far have been pitiful excuses for people, living in a dirty environment and uncaring about education or getting a better life. Comparitively, many generation of Cunningham have been hoonest and worked hard to make the most of their land, despite their lack of money.
Other families have changed, mainly the Finch’s. Atticus broke free from the stereotype of his family when he moved to Maycomb, away from Finch Landing, and he got a respectable well paid job as a lawyer, paid for his brother to learn medicine, and then brought his children up with a black servant as their surrogate mother.
Aunt Al is the main character who highlights the stereotypes of the various families, and when she comes to live with Atticus, Scout, Jem and Cal, all of this is brought to the notice of Scout.
“There was indeed a caste system in Maycomb, but to my mind it worked this way: the older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another: they took forgranted attitudes, character shading, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined in time. Thus the dicta No Crawford Minds His Own Business, Every Third Merriwater Is Morbid, The Truth Is Not in the Delafields, All Bufords Walk Like That, were simply guides to daily living”
The way that this society is set so strongly in stone means that it isnt moving forward as the rest of the world is; it is set in old superstitions and stereotypes without thinking of moving on to a more open minded way.
This is a very strong factor when it comes to the Tom Robinson case – he is instantly guilty because he is black and therefore a lower class citizen. It also means that the Ewells are known for all their disgraceful behaviour and unlawful habits, but this isn’t even taken into account because that is just how they are.
This also shows how the society never seems to be able to move forward, and is demonstrated in the children’s initial and irrational fear and curiosity of Boo Radley, which is encouraged by the older generation (such as when Miss Stephenie Crawford tells the tale of Boo’s father’s death to the children).
However, hope still remains where the younger generations are concerned – Scout and Jem rebel against these prejudices as the story continues, and they learn throughout the course of the novel that these prejudices are unfounded, especially where the black community is concerned.
In conclusion, much of the story is based around family, but this is mostly just stereotyping by the judgmental people of Maycomb.
Tags: advantages and disadvantages, Analysis, bestseller, book, English Literature, GCSE, Harper Lee, History, Jem, KJ, Plot, Racism, review, Revision, Scout, South America, Style, TAKMB, theBookGirl, To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is written from the point of view of Scout, sometimes this is an “older” Scout, who is looking back on the events and can give a lot more detail or understanding upon a certain event. Usually, however, it is a “young” Scout, who is the age that she is during that event.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to the narration of the young Scout, and either way, Harper Lee has managed to overcome to disadvantages and work with the advantages extremely well, as shown in the popularity of the novel.
A clear advantage is that we understand things as Scout understands them, and things are explained to us when they are to Scout. For example, Atticus and Jem have to teach her the rules and customs of Maycomb regularly, which a reader who isn’t from this small town in Alabama may not know (such as, screen doors only shut when there is illness, the Radley tree having “poison” fruit, the boundaries where Scout and Jem can play, the white society’s views on the black community).
Also when Scout experiences things for the first time, the reader does too, and gets a full description, such as in chapter 12 when Jem and Scout have to go to Cal’s church and they learn about how only 4 of the congregation can read, and that Zeebo, the garbage collector is the vicar. They also experience the bitterness some members of the black community have for the white community such as Lula.
Another advantage is that because the story is told when Scout IS that age, the reader can really get into the story and understand how Scout perceives everything, whilst appreciating how perceptive she is and also noticing the things she is ignorant of, which can explain many attitudes people had to the black community.
A further advantage is how so often Scout can be juxtar posed with other characters who are stereotypical, racist or otherwise less moral than Scout. These characters are usually older than Scout and have much more power and influence, showing the reader the general problems with the older generations being biased and prejudiced and therefore harming the “Mockingbirds”.
Scout is also a fairly neutral character as she doesn’t have any of this prejudice and this means the reader is able to see the events as they truly happened, as young Scout does not prejudice about the things that happen in her thoughts as she is still learning and hasn’t had enough experience to even think about discriminating as the main influence she has is of her father who is also a very moral man.
Also, the use of foreboding and metaphor through Scout’s childhood games and minor experiences means that the more significant events (such as the verdict of the court case) can be seen as it really is, and Scout can learnt to see it from an easier way of understanding it.
The only disadvantages I can see are that Scout can become confused and her loss at what is going on can possibly confuse the reader as it isn’t that clear compared to how it could be if a maturer narrator was used.
Also there isn’t so much force or power of emotion during the discrimination during as an older narrator has. Personally, I prefer to really feel how the characters feel, but Scout doesn’t always understand fully and therefore feel fully the consequences of the prejudices.
In conclusion there are far more advantages in this case of having a young narrator, but these are only applicable because Harper Lee has managed to portray it well; in a very high quality narration.
Tags: Analysis, Atticus, bestseller, book, English Literature, GCSE, History, Jem, KJ, Lessons learnt, Plot, Racism, review, Revision, Scout, Shoes, South America, theBookGirl, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is arguably the journey that Scout Finch makes growing up, which is essentially her journey of learning new values, morals and compassion through experience and practice.
Standing in a person’s shoes is one of the first things Atticus explains to Scout in the novel, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” This is said in chapter three. Atticus is explaining how the things that went wrong on her first day of school (Miss Caroline finding Scout impertinent for correcting her, speaking bluntly about the pupils and being able to read, as well as the episode with Walter Cunningham) could have been avoided or at least made better.
Despite the early introduction to this lesson, Scout doesn’t fully understand it, or at least learn it, until the very last chapter when she finally meets Boo Radley, and stands on his porch thinking about the compilation of events which make up the book, from Boo’s point of view, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” This shows the understanding Scout has finally had of the way people are perceived and the way they actually are. It shows that she has learnt what many people in their life never learn – to have empathy for others. This then puts Scout, still a child really, in a position where she is much wiser than many of the residents of Maycomb who did not put themselves in any of the “Mockingbirds’” shoes during the course of events of the story. If, for example, the white community had honestly put themselves in Tom Robinson’s shoes he would have been found not guilty (or at least he may have had more hope for the appeal and not tried to escape from the jail). If they had stepped in Mayella’s shoes they may have found that Bob Ewell was really the guilty one, or that her evidence really can’t be used at all against Robinson.
A significant character, who is prejudged by the children before they stepped in her shoes, is Mrs. Dubose. As a recovering drug addict she is most definitely nasty, malicious, harsh and opinionated to say the least, but the children only observe this without understanding why. During chapter eleven (the last chapter before Jem has significantly started to grow up, and possibly the catalyst for this) Jem gets fed up of the taunts Mrs. Dubose makes at him about Atticus defending Tom Robinson, amongst other things. He loses sight of his noble aim to “hold hid head high and be a gentleman” and reacts by breaking the stems of all the flowers in Mrs. Dubose’s garden. Clearly this action has its consequences and in this we see how courageous Mrs Dubose is being, trying to give up the drug straight off. If Jem had understood and thought about this before reacting to her, he would have not have been forced to read to her for this reason, and he would have felt more compassion towards her than he did.
Another case of Atticus reiterating his point about seeing things from someone else’s perspective is when Jem makes a snowman to look like Mr Avery in chapter 8. Jem is very proud with his creation, “‘It’s lovely Jem,’ I said… ‘It is, ain’t it?’ he said shyly” this shows how Jem is very pleased with the likeness of the snowman, and is looking at it from the perspective of himself, as an artist. However, when Atticus sees it he says, “‘You can’t go around making caricatures of the neighbours’” and when Jem disagrees that it is a caricature, Atticus replies, “‘Mr Avery might not think so.” Showing that Atticus always sees it from everyone’s point of view. He is tactful, complimenting Jem first, but he makes sure that Jem does sort it out before it can actually hurt Mr Avery. This shows the consistency of Atticus’ morals and of the lessons which Scout and Jem need to learn as they grow up. It also shows how Atticus is always considerate and understanding of everyone, perhaps an aspect to him which makes him such a great lawyer.
An interesting example of standing in someone’s shoes is when Boo stands in Scout’s shoes. His care and concern for her (and Jem) is evident throughout the novel, such as in chapter 8 when Boo puts a blanket around Scout, “Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you” This shows that Boo looks after the children, and this could be interpreted as standing in Scout’s shoes as the reader can see that he is thinking what it must be like from her point of view, and then doing what he can to help her, which people who talk to her and live with her don’t think of doing. This is especially prominent in the last chapter when Scout stands on his porch and she realises how he has watched “his children” – Jem and Scout – over the course of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, Scout and Jem don’t stand in Boo’s shoes, automatically believing the gossip surrounding the Radley’s place.
Another example of standing in someone’s shoes is in chapter 12 when Jem and Scout are at Calpurnia’s church. They have the opportunity to actually stand where Cal does each week and experience a part of her life away from the white community. In this chapter they learn a lot about how the black community lives and this helps them understand the importance of Tom Robinson being found not guilty. “You all know of Brother Tom Robinson’s trouble…the collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go to Helen – his wife, to help her out at home.” This shows that the black community are thinking about Tom and Helen’s predicament and are stepping in their shoes and working out the best way to help them. The white community do not do this and only see Robinson as a member of the black community instead of an innocent husband and father. Here Jem and Scout also experience this community spirit and united support which is unusual to them as they are used to the white community’s gossip and scandals. This builds upon the lesson Atticus teaches them.
The white community already assume Tom Robinson is guilty, as he is black, and Helen is guilty by association, as she will not be able to get work and look after her children. If the white community were to stand in Helen’s shoes they would realise that it is not her fault even if Tom Robinson were guilty. Likewise, if the white community stood in the black community’s shoes like Jem and Scout did for the morning, they would probably have far less prejudices than they actually have.
Mayella’s shoes are never stepped in by the community. Her lies are half-swallowed even when all evidence contradicts them, but she is never pitied by anyone apart from the most compassionate characters, such as Tom Robinson, and this only angers the white community further, “You felt sorry for her? You felt sorry for her?” This shows how incredulously the statement is considered and how unexpected it is for a member of the black community (no matter who it is) to pity a member of the white community. This could be seen as Tom Robinson recognising another Mockingbird and wanting to help her, but is more likely just that Robinson is a kind and innocent character who wants to help people no matter what the risk, much like Atticus. Ironically it is partially this which finally causes Robinson’s guilty verdict.
Mayella is thought of as just “white trash” but when her shoes are actually stepped in, it can be seen that she is actually a lonely, unloved young girl who wants company and to be wanted herself. If someone had recognized this and actually acted upon it, helping her to become a distinguished lady, such as Scout will have the opportunity to become, it may have ultimately saved Tom Robinson’s life as she would not have introduced the whole problem with the “love” between the black man and white girl.
Hope this was useful