To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 30 Summary

Instructor: Abigail Walker

Abigail has taught writing and literature at various universities. She has an M.A. In literature from American University and an M.F.A. in English from The University of Iowa.

As ''To Kill a Mockingbird'' approaches its conclusion, we are reminded of how ethics determine the course of Atticus's life. Fearful that Jem was involved in Bob Ewell's death, Atticus argues with Sheriff Tate about revealing details of the assault.

Meeting Boo Radley

In Jem's bedroom, Atticus introduces Scout to Boo by referring to him as 'Arthur.' After imagining this moment for so long, Scout is embarrassed to be face to face with Boo. She does not speak, but rather goes to Jem's bedside. Dr. Reynolds enters and greets Boo. Scout is surprised; it has never occurred to her that Boo knows Dr. Reynolds or that Boo occasionally needs medical treatment just like everyone else. Dr. Reynolds then explains to Scout that her brother is indeed alive and adds, 'When I tried to examine him he kicked me. Had to put him out good and proper to touch him.'

Atticus then suggests going out to the front porch. Scout escorts Boo to the porch, recalling how in the past she has imagined herself perched beside Boo and chatting with him about the weather. Now, though, he says nothing, as Scout finds two seats for them in a poorly lit area of the porch, where she imagines he will be more at ease than he would be in the brightly lit area where Atticus and Sheriff Tate sit.

Determining Who Killed Bob Ewell

Atticus seems disturbed. He starts speaking about self-defense but Sheriff Tate, startled, cuts him off. He asks Atticus if he thinks Jem was responsible for Bob Ewell's death. Atticus tells Heck that he does by saying, 'You heard what Scout said, there's no doubt about it. She said Jem got up and yanked him off her--he probably got hold of Ewell's knife somehow in the dark...we'll find out tomorrow.'

Although Tate tells him that Jem is not responsible, Atticus thinks Heck is just trying to protect Jem from being accused of stabbing Bob Ewell. Atticus warns Sheriff Tate that '...nobody's hushing this up. I don't live that way.' When Heck told him he was not trying to cover anything up, Atticus insists, 'I don't want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don't want anybody saying, 'Jem Finch...his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that.' Sooner we get this over with the better.'

When Heck tries again to reassure Atticus that his son is innocent, Atticus continues to argue with him. Finally Sheriff Tate says, 'Bob Ewell fell on his knife. I can prove it.' Heck tells Atticus that Bob Ewell tripped and fell as he threw Jem to the ground. Then Heck pulls out the knife that killed Bob Ewell. Heck informs Atticus that Scout--a little girl in a very frightening situation--could not be expected to know exactly what happened. Incredibly, Atticus continues to protest Heck's version of Bob Ewell's death. Unwilling to argue any longer, Heck exclaims, 'God damn it, I'm not thinking of Jem!'

Now Atticus suddenly understands. Heck is not trying to save Jem; he is trying to save Boo Radley. Boo is the one who stabbed Bob Ewell--to save Scout and Jem. With a new understanding of what happened to Bob Ewell, Atticus listens to Sheriff Tate relate what he believes should be done:

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