Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Salem State University.
A Divided Town
How do you treat people who are different from you? This question lies at the heart of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
The book is narrated by Jean Louise Finch, also known as Scout. Scout is the daughter of the respected lawyer Atticus Finch. She lives with her father and her brother Jem in Maycomb, Alabama. Scout and Jem are white and have been raised by Calpurnia, a black woman, ever since their mother died.
In Maycomb, even though slavery has officially ended, white people still believe that they are superior to black people in every way. This prejudice is so deeply ingrained that most people think it is fact and not opinion. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout begins to learn about the injustice in her town.
The Mysterious Neighbor
Scout and Jem are fascinated by their neighbor, Boo Radley, who never leaves his house. Jem likes to invent stories about Boo, and they become obsessed with trying to see Boo Radley.
While the children don't succeed in seeing Boo, there is some evidence that he might be paying attention to them. Jem and Scout find small gifts in a hollow tree on the corner of the Radley's yard and are convinced the gifts are from Boo.
Atticus tells Jem and Scout to leave Boo Radley alone. He tells them to respect Boo's choice to hide. People who are different should be treated with kindness, not teased and mocked.
Scout's hardest lesson in the story comes as a result of her father's work. Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. The entire town is outraged by the trial.
Scout gets to hear both sides of the story. Most of the white community in the town is angry that Atticus would defend a black man, who they believe is obviously guilty. Then Scout goes to church with Calpurnia and sees the black community working to help Tom Robinson's family. They believe Tom is innocent.
On the day of the trial, the entire town is in the courthouse. As the testimony is given, it quickly becomes evident that Tom Robinson did nothing wrong. Bob Ewell, the father of victim, has invented the story of the rape and appears both foolish and cruel. Even though he is innocent, at the end of the trial,Tom Robinson is declared guilty.
After the Trial
Instead of waiting for an appeals trial, Tom tries to escape from prison. In the process, he is shot and killed. Meanwhile, Bob Ewell is angry about the way he was treated at the trial and threatens both the judge and Atticus.
A couple months later, Scout and Jem are on their way home in the dark when Bob Ewell attacks them. They are rescued by Boo Radley.
Through these events, Scout learns about injustice - because of people's prejudice, Tom Robinson does not have a fair trial. She learns about integrity - Atticus works hard to defend Tom because it is the right thing to do, even though he knows he won't win. And she learns to accept people for who they are. Boo Radley, with all his strange ways, shows her kindness and she keeps it a secret to respect his privacy.
To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by Scout Finch. Scout learns about prejudice and injustice through the trial of Tom Robinson, who is falsely convicted of rape because of his race. She also learns about kindness and respect through her mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley.
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