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To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 31 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

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

As ''To Kill a Mockingbird'' concludes, we are left with hopeful words from Atticus. In this brief, final chapter, Scout reflects on the events of the novel.

A Brief Review

In the previous two chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout meets Boo Radley, her hermit next-door-neighbor, for the first time. After Mr. Heck Tate and Atticus realize Boo killed Bob Ewell in order to save Jem and Scout's lives, all agree it would be kinder to say Bob fell on his own knife, thus allowing Boo to continue living out of the public eye. In chapter 31, the concluding chapter of the book, Scout says good night to Boo and thinks back on the events that led them here.

Boo Says Good Night to Jem

Boo and Scout have been sitting next to each other on the porch while Mr. Heck Tate and Atticus discuss Bob's death. When both men leave, Boo slowly gets to his feet. Scout notices all his movements are a little unsteady. He nods towards the front door, and Scout correctly understands this gesture to mean he would like to say good night to Jem. When they reach the bedroom, Aunt Alexandra explains Jem is still asleep because of the sedative the doctor gave him before leaving them alone to say good night.

Boo moves off to a corner of the room, where he stands watching Jem. Scout takes his hand and leads him closer to the bedside. When he lifts his hand for a moment before putting it back down, Scout lets him know it would be all right for him to pat Jem on the head. She explains Jem would not allow it if he were awake, but since he is asleep it will be fine. Boo lightly touches Jem's hair in an affectionate gesture. He then squeezes Scout's hand to let her know he is ready to go home.

Scout and Boo Walk Home

Scout leads Boo to the front porch, where he falters and does not let go of her hand. Softly, like a child, he asks Scout to take him home. She begins to go down the steps, but decides she 'would lead him through our house, but I would never lead him home.' Calling him Mr. Arthur, she asks him to bend his arm so she can slip her hand into the crook of his elbow. Though he has to stoop while they walk, Scout knows if Miss Stephanie Crawford, the town gossip, should happen to see them, she will see 'Arthur Radley escorting me down the sidewalk, as any gentleman would do.'

When they pass the street light on the corner, Scout thinks back to how many times she and Dill watched the Radley house from that spot, or how many times she and Jem walked past. This time, she enters the gate with Boo. When they reach the porch, he lets go of her hand and goes inside. Scout informs us she never sees him again.

Standing in Someone Else's Shoes

After Boo goes inside, Scout turns and surveys the street from his porch. She looks at the rows of houses before going to stand by the window they assumed Boo used to peep out on the town. From that spot, she finds she can see the post office.

As she stands there, Scout replays scenes from the rest of the novel in her mind, trying to envision them from Boo's point of view. She thinks back across the major events of the story, through the seasons. While she is thinking, she begins to refer to 'his children,' referring not to Atticus, but to Boo. This reference shows she understands that, despite having not met them in person, she and Jem have been important to Boo Radley. She realizes Atticus was right when he said 'you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.'

While walking home, Scout thinks about how upset Jem will be that he missed meeting Boo. She feels older, and thinks though she and Jem will grow up, 'there wasn't much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.'

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