"To Kill a Mockingbird" Summary

Learn about the iconic book by Harper Lee in this summary of To Kill a Mockingbird
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To Kill a Mockingbird
"To Kill a Mockingbird" Summary

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most beloved and important works of fiction of the 20th century. Published in 1960, it became an instant classic and is widely read in schools around the world until today. It addresses serious issues like racism, rape, and ethics in a humorous and relatable way. One of the earliest coming-of-age stories, it has influenced people, fiction, and media for generations. Let's dive into the summary of To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary Part 1

Chapter 1

Jean Louise Finch or Scout as she is known in the book starts by telling the story of how her brother Jem broke his arm when he was 13. She gives a quick introduction of how her family came to Maycomb, Alabama from Cornwall a few generations ago. She goes on to describe her father Atticus Finch as satisfactory, their black housemaid Calpurnia as strict, and the nephew of their neighbor Charles Baker Harris, or Dill, with whom the brother and sister become good friends. The children are fascinated by the house of Boo Radley, a man who has not been seen for years, and the rumors about him saying that he stabbed his father and is a dangerous man. 

Chapter 2

The summer ends and Dill goes back to his home in Meriden, Mississippi. Scout is excited about her first day at school but it does not go well. Her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher Is surprised to find out that Scout can already read and write and tells her that she should not learn from her father. Miss Fisher is new to town and does not understand the intricacies of the social structure. She offers to buy lunch for Walter Cunningham, which he refuses, and Scout explains to her that this was a mistake because Walter’s family was too poor to pay her back. Annoyed, Miss Fisher makes Scout stand in the corner. 

Chapter 3

Later in the day, Scout confronts Walter about embarrassing her which Jem quickly puts to a stop. He invites Walter to have lunch at their house where Scout further bullies him, saying that he is “just a Cunningham”. Calpurnia punishes Scout by making her eat alone in the kitchen. Scout complains to Atticus about Calpurnia and asks him to fire her but he refuses. Later, back at school, Miss Fisher finds lice on the head of Burris Ewell. She asked him to go home and take care of it, to which he laughs saying that he's never coming back to school. The children explain to her that all the Ewell children only attend the first day. Burris starts swearing at the teacher, driving her to tears. In the evening Scout asks Atticus if like Burris she can skip school as well, but he explains that people feel sorry for the Ewell children because of the way their father raises them and that she must continue going to school.

Chapter 4

The rest of the school year goes no better than the first day for Scout. She always runs past Boo Radley's house on the way back home but towards the end of the year sees two pieces of gum in a knothole on a tree at the edge of his property. At the end of the year, she and Jem find pennies in the knothole and decide to keep them. Dill returns for the summer and the three children start playing a game where they reenact the gruesome stories they have heard about Boo Radley. When Atticus finds out he disapproves and asks them to stop. 

Chapter 5

Jim and Dill become closer making Scout feel left out. She ends up spending more time with their widowed neighbor Maudie Atkinson. Maudie tells Scout more about the Radley family and for the first time Scout thinks of Boo Radley not as a monster but as a lonely person. She reluctantly agrees to help Jem and Dill deliver a note to Boo Radley but Atticus catches them and tells them to leave Boo alone. 

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Chapter 6

The night before Dill goes back home, he and Jem make a plan to peek inside Boo Radley's house. Scout disapproves but after Jem makes fun of her for acting like a girl she reluctantly comes along. As they try to peek in, a gunshot fires, and they run away but Jem’s pants get stuck and he has to leave them behind. A crowd gathers in response to the gunshot and they believe that Boo’s brother Nathan shot at a black man who was trying to steal some vegetables.  When somebody points out that Jem is not wearing pants Dill comes up with a story about winning them from him in a game of poker. Later that night Jem retrieves his pants.

Chapter 7

Jem admits that when he returned for his pants he found them stitched and folded. For the first week of school, the children notice more items waiting for them in the tree. They become convinced that someone is leaving the presents specifically for them and leave a thank you note in return, only to find the hole cemented over the next day.

Chapter 8

Surprisingly, the weather turns cold in Maycomb and the children see snow for the first time. That night Maudie’s home catches fire and the children watch from the road outside Boo Radley's property. On the way home, they notice a blanket around Scout’s shoulders that must have been put there by Boo Radley. 

Chapter 9

Close to Christmas, Atticus takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. He tells the children that it is the right thing to do but they will face backlash from the community and that they should just ignore it. At Christmas one of the children call Atticus a “nigger lover” and Scout loses her temper and fights him. Later that night she hears Atticus talking to his brother Jack about being worried about the children. 

Chapter 10

The children wonder why the townspeople are so critical of Atticus and don't think it's fair. They receive air rifles for Christmas and Atticus tells them to never kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie explains to them that Mockingbirds only sing to create joy for people around them which is why killing them is wrong. 

Chapter 11

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose constantly makes fun of Atticus defending Tom Robinson and in response, Jem destroys some of her flowers. Atticus makes him apologize and as punishment Mrs. Dubose makes Jem read to her every night for a month. Scout and Jem read to her for a month and soon after, she dies. Atticus tells them that she had been battling an addiction and her behavior was due to withdrawal symptoms and that they should be impressed by her courage even if she was mean at times.

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To Kill a Mockingbird Summary Part 2

Chapter 12

In the summer Jem almost turns 12 and after years of telling Scout not to act like a girl now starts telling her to act more like a lady which frustrates her. Her hopes for a fun summer vanish when Dill informs them that he won't be coming and Atticus has to travel away for work. Calpurnia takes the children to her black church where they are treated kindly but face prejudice for the first time. 

Chapter 13

Their aunt Alexandra comes to help take care of the children in Atticus’s absence. She tells the children that they have to behave better to live up to the Finch family name. Atticus supports his sister but the children are confused so Atticus later takes back his words, telling them to behave however they want to.

Chapter 14

Aunt Alexandra finds out that the children went to Calpurnia’s church and asks Atticus to fire her but he refuses. One night Scout discovers Dill in her room and he tells her that his stepfather isn't really interested in having him around, so he ran away. Atticus talks to his parents and Dill spends the rest of the summer in Maycomb.

Chapter 15

One day during the summer a group of men come to the Finch residence and tell Atticus that Tim Robinson is being moved to the county jail because they are worried something bad might happen to him if he stays in the town jail. The next evening Atticus goes to the jail and the children secretly follow. A mob appears at the jail and Atticus tries to diffuse the situation. The crowd gets angry but Scouts manages to calm things down.

Chapter 16

The Finch household is worried after the events outside the jail and when the jury selection for the trial starts Atticus tells the children to stay at home. The children disobey though and make their way to the court finding seats in “the colored balcony”.

Chapter 17

The trial begins with the testimony of sheriff Tate who says that Bob Ewell had come to his office saying that a black man had raped and beaten his daughter. When he arrived at their house Mayella Ewell told him that Tom Robinson was the attacker. During the cross-examination, Atticus confirms that no doctor had been called and that it was the right side of Mayella's face that was injured implying that the attacker was left-handed. Bob Ewell takes the stand and confirms Sheriff Tate’s story but Atticus pokes holes in his testimony and shows that Bob is left-handed. 

Chapter 18

Mayella takes the stand and confirms her father’s and Sheriff Tate’s story but behaves poorly.  She identifies Tom Robinson in the audience but later Atticus asks him to stand up and shows the jury and judge that his left hand Is deformed because of a childhood trauma. Atticus continues poking holes in Mayella's testimony.

Chapter 19

Atticus calls his only witness, Tom Robinson to the stand. Tom Robinson tells everyone that it was Mayella who kissed him and made advances towards him and when Bob saw them he got angry. During the cross-examination, the other lawyer tries to rattle Tom Robinson but he remains gentle, polite, and convincing. Dill starts crying and he and Scout step outside. 

Chapter 20

In the courtyard, Dill and Scout bump into Dolphus Raymond, a white man with a black girlfriend and mixed-race children. He offers Dill a sip from his brown paper bag and the children discover