Examples of Foreshadowing in To Kill a Mockingbird

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  • 0:05 Hints in Literature
  • 0:32 The Title Explained
  • 1:24 Scout's Behavior
  • 2:06 Bob Ewell and Boo Radley
  • 3:29 Racial Issues
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

In 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, foreshadowing is used to provide clues about the story as it develops, giving the reader insights about themes and characters. This lesson will cover some examples.

Hints in Literature

Have you ever been in a scavenger hunt? Carefully placed clues can help you solve a mystery or find a prize. In literature, clues are similarly dropped along the way in a story to help you predict the outcome.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee uses foreshadowing, or hints of the future, to give readers insight into what will happen or into a character's true nature. Let's take a look at some examples.

The Title Explained

In chapter 10 we are witness to a conversation between Scout, a young girl, and her neighbor. Scout had heard her father Atticus Finch say it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, and the neighbor agrees, saying, 'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy...but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

The story of the mockingbird not only sets the stage for the town's unfair treatment of African Americans, but lets us know that probably some mockingbirds will be killed in the novel. These mockingbirds could be the characters like Tom Robinson who is literally killed, or aspects of characters like Boo Radley's dignity, which is killed by the mistrust and mistreatment of the community. Or even Scout's brother's innocence, which is killed by witnessing the trial and its outcome.

Scout's Behavior

When Atticus Finch agrees to take on a controversial case, many people in the town are upset because he'll be representing Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus tells Scout that she should not let it bother her. 'You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fightin' with your head for a change.' This tells us that Scout is quite the feisty, headstrong child.

She is able to maintain her composure for a little while, but eventually, she is unable to hold her frustration a bay. When her cousin calls Atticus racist names, Scout loses her temper and punches him.

Bob Ewell and Boo Radley

Early on in the novel and throughout the book, there are clues that let the reader know that Bob Ewell, the white father of the victim in the trial, is not a nice man.

Atticus explains to Scout that the Ewell children are always hungry. Bob is a drunk and Atticus tells Scout that, 'when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains.' Lee shows us that he is not someone we can trust. We should be cautious about believing what he says.

Bob Ewell holds a grudge, and after the trial he is determined to get back at Atticus for making him look bad. Scout says, 'Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he'd get him if it took the rest of his life.'

Later Atticus's sister adds to this warning, saying, 'His kind'd do anything to pay off a grudge.' Indeed, Ewell later harasses Tom's widow, and attacks Atticus's children.

Boo Radley is a reclusive man that the children make stories about. His goodness is foreshadowed when we understand that he is the one leaving the gifts in the tree, and his protective nature is evidenced when he places a blanket on Scout so she won't be cold.

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