- Country: United States
- Published: July 11, 1960
- Author: Harper Lee
- Genre: southern gothic, bildungsroman
The novel is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression
(1929-39). The story is centered on Jean Lousie Finch, an unusually intelligent girl who ages from six to nine years old during the novel.
The narrator and protagonist of the story. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch lives with her father, Atticus, her brother, Jem, and their black cook, Calpurnia, in Maycomb. She is intelligent and, by the standards of her time and place, a tomboy. Scout has a combative streak and a basic faith in the
goodness of the people in her community. As the novel progresses, this faith is tested by the hatred and prejudice that emerge during Tom Robinson’s trial. Scout eventually develops a more grown-up perspective that enables her to appreciate human goodness without ignoring human evil.
Scout and Jem’s father, a lawyer in Maycomb descended from an old local family. A widower with a dry sense of humor, Atticus has instilled in his children his strong sense of morality and justice. He is one of the few residents of Maycomb committed to racial equality. When he agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man charged with raping a white woman, he exposes himself and his family to the anger of the white community. With his strongly held convictions, wisdom, and empathy, Atticus functions as the novel’s moral backbone.
Scout’s brother and constant playmate at the beginning of the story. Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch is something of a typical American boy, refusing to back down from dares and fantasizing about playing football. Four years older than Scout, he gradually separates himself from her games, but he remains her close companion and protector throughout the novel. Jem moves into adolescence during the story, and his ideals are shaken badly by the evil and injustice that he perceives during the trial of Tom Robinson.
Arthur “Boo” Radley
A recluse who never sets foot outside his house, Boo dominates the imaginations of Jem, Scout, and Dill. He is a powerful symbol of goodness swathed in an initial shroud of creepiness, leaving little presents for Scout and Jem and emerging at an opportune moment to save the children. An intelligent child emotionally damaged by his cruel father, Boo provides an example of the threat that evil poses to innocence and goodness. He is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” a good person injured by the evil of mankind.
A drunken, mostly unemployed member of Maycomb’s poorest family. In his knowingly wrongful accusation that Tom Robinson raped his daughter, Ewell represents the dark side of the South: ignorance, poverty, squalor, and hate-filled racial prejudice.
Charles Baker “Dill” Harris
Jem and Scout’s summer neighbor and friend. Dill is a diminutive, confident boy with an active imagination. He becomes fascinated with Boo Radley and represents the perspective of childhood innocence throughout the novel.
Miss Maudie Atkinson
The Finches’ neighbor, a sharp-tongued widow, and an old friend of the family. Miss Maudie is almost the same age as Atticus’s younger brother, Jack. She shares Atticus’s passion for justice and is the children’s best friend among Maycomb’s adults.
The Finches’ black cook. Calpurnia is a stern disciplinarian and the children’s bridge between the white world and her own black community.
Atticus’s sister, a strong-willed woman with a fierce devotion to her family. Alexandra is the perfect Southern lady, and her commitment to propriety and tradition often leads her to clash with Scout.
Bob Ewell’s abused, lonely, unhappy daughter. Though one can pity Mayella because of her overbearing father, one cannot pardon her for her shameful indictment of Tom Robinson.
The black field hand accused of rape. Tom is one of the novel’s “mockingbirds,” an important symbol of innocence destroyed by evil.
Tom Robinson’s employer. In his willingness to look past race and praise the integrity of Tom’s character, Deas epitomizes the opposite of prejudice.
Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
An elderly, ill tempered racist woman who lives near the finches. Although jem believes that Mrs. Dubose is thoroughly a bad woman, Atticus admires her for her courage with which she battles her morphine addiction.
Boo Radley’s older brother. Scout thought that Nathan is similar to the deceased Mr. Radley, Boo and Nathan’s father. Nathan cruelly cuts off an important element of Boo’s relationship with Jem and Scout when he plugs up the knothole in which Boo leaves presents for the children.
The sheriff of Maycomb and a major witness at Tom Robinson’s trial.
The publisher of Maycomb’s newspaper.
Mr. Dolphus Raymond
A wealthy white man who lives with his black mistress and mulatto children.
Mr. Walter Cunningham
A poor farmer and part of the mob that seeks to lynch Tom Robbinson at the jail.
Son of Mr. Cunningham and classmate of Scout.
Scout Finch lives with her father, a lawyer and widower by the name of Atticus, and her brother, a young boy named Jem. The first part of To Kill a Mockingbird tells of one summer. Jem and Scout play, make new friends, and first learn of a shadowy figure by the name of Boo Radley, who lives in a neighboring house yet is never seen.
A young black man named Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white woman. Atticus takes on the case, despite the vitriol this arouses in the largely white, racist townsfolk. When the time of the trial comes around, Atticus proves that the girl that Tom Robinson is accused of raping actually seduced him, and that the injuries to her face were caused by her father, angry that she had tried to sleep with a black man. The all-white jury nevertheless convicts Robinson and he is later killed by a mob while trying to escape from jail.