To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 28 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Maycomb celebrates Halloween with an evening of activities and games at the high school. However, the evening brings more than fun and games. In chapter 28, Jem and Scout survive a dangerous attack with a little help from an unknown friend.

An Evening of Halloween Festivities

Despite earlier claims that he was too old for such things, Jem escorts Scout to the Halloween activities at Maycomb County's high school, even carrying her ham costume. It is already dark as they make their way. Though they chat about not being scared of ghosts as they pass the Radley home, both are startled when someone jumps out at them. This someone turns out to be Cecil Jacobs, one of Scout's classmates, playing a prank on them.

The Finch children must admit Cecil got them, and together they walk the rest of the way. Once there, Scout stays with Cecil, leaving Jem free to find his own companions. Most of Maycomb County is enjoying the evening activity. Cecil and Scout happily explore the booths until the pageant.

While listening to Mrs. Merriweather recount the history of Maycomb, Scout discovers a way to sit down while still keeping her costume on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the combination of warmth, Mrs. Merriweather's 'drone,' and a steady drum beat lulls Scout to sleep. Unfortunately, her nap causes her to miss her cue. She wakes up during the final number and decides to make her entrance. Although Mrs. Merriweather insists Scout ruined her pageant, the audience laughs and cheers.

Jem and Scout's Dangerous Walk Home

Despite Jem's sympathy - Scout comments he 'was becoming almost as good as Atticus at making you feel right when things went wrong' - Scout is embarrassed, and wants to wait until the audience is gone before they leave. Her costume provides a place to hide her mortification, so she keeps it on during their walk home. By this point in the evening, it is pitch black outside. They make it across the schoolyard when Scout realizes she forgot her shoes. They turn back, but the lights go out.

As they begin their journey home, Jem thinks he hears a noise, but only when they are walking. Scout believes it is just her costume, and that Jem is only spooked because of Halloween. Jem decides it must be Cecil trying to prank them again. He and Scout slow their pace so Cecil will know they aren't scared. After a few minutes, they realize Cecil would have jumped at them already.

Jem tells Scout he is not afraid, but to keep as quiet as possible. They continue moving slowly, knowing it is difficult enough to walk fast in the dark, and even harder when barefoot like Scout. She tries to convince herself she is hearing wind rustling through the trees, but doesn't feel the wind blowing and knows there is only the big oak tree nearby. Whoever is following them wears pants that make a swishing sound with every step.

They reach the big oak tree and stop to listen. This time, though, the person behind them does not stop. Instead, he begins to run, and they realize the steps are too big to be a child's. Jem screams for Scout to run, but she is stuck in her ham costume. She feels something squeeze the costume's chicken wire into her before she falls and rolls as far away as she can. Jem knocks into her, but quickly jumps up and pulls Scout with him. Together, they run.

The children are almost to the road when Jem is yanked away from Scout. She hears 'scuffling, and there came a dull crunching sound and Jem screamed.' Scout runs towards that scream and collides with a man's stomach. Though she knocks into him, he captures her and begins squeezing her hard. She is trapped, until she feels him wrenched away from her.

The fighting noises begin to quiet down, and Scout can now only hear a man breathing heavily. Calling Jem's name, she gets no answer. The man moves around the base of the tree, and seems to lift something heavy. The man does not answer when she says Atticus's name, but instead begins to walk 'heavily and unsteadily toward the road.' When Scout feels with her feet along the ground under the tree, she finds a body. She knows it is not Jem when she smells alcohol.

Scout finally finds her way to the street, and in the light from the streetlamp she is able to see the man carrying an unconscious Jem, whose arm is 'dangling crazily,' home. Scout makes it to the corner as Atticus opens the door and helps the man carry Jem inside.

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