To Kill a Mockingbird Discussion Questions

How are Atticus and Alexandra different? How do their differences impact Jem and Scout? Atticus wants Jem and Scout to grow up to be kind and respectable people, while Alexandra is more concerned with upholding social customs. The difference from Atticus to Alexandra is upsetting to the children because she forces them to behave a different way then they are used to.
What has Alexandra so concerned about Scout and Jem that she moves in with them? With the upcoming trial, Atticus won’t have as much time to take care of the kids, so ALexandra came to help out. Also, she believes that Scout needs a “feminine influence” in her life.
What are the circumstances surrounding Dill’s return to Maycomb? What can we infer about DIll when he tells us in chapter 14 that “Oh they ain’t mean. They kiss you and hug you good night and mornin’ and goodbye and tell you they love you— Scout, let’s get us a baby.” What does his pause, his shift tell us? Dill ran away from his foster parents because he didn’t feel needed there so he came to Maycomb. DIll’s pause tells us that he is still a child even though he is dealing with adult problems.
What was the “nightmare” upon the Finch family? It started when Mr. Heck Tate warned Atticus that Tom Robinson was going to be harmed later. The nightmare continues when Scout, Jem, and DIll follow Atticus to the courthouse and Scout saves Atticus and Tom from a mob.
How does Atticus demonstrate his heroism in chapter 15? Who is the real hero of this chapter? Atticus goes to the courthouse to keep an eye on Tom Robinson and make sure he is not taken by a mob and killed. Scout is the real hero of the chapter because she caused the mob to disband by humbling Mr. Cunningham and bringing him down to Earth.
What does Atticus teach his children (and subsequently, us) about a “Mob”? “Every mob in every little Southern town is always made of people you know— doesn’t say much for them, does it?” Atticus means that mobs are not some unstoppable group of wild animals, they are just everyday people.
Who is Dolphus Raymond, according the rumor? He is a terrible drunk, who prefers to be around black people. He was rumored to have almost married a white woman, but she found out that he really likes black women and she killed herself.
Why Harper Lee tell us that a “Mixed Child” is “real sad” They don’t fit in with any race. White people don’t want them because they are part black, and black people don’t want them because they are part white.
What was the news that put a “different light on things” for Scout? Atticus had to defend Tom Robinson even if he didn’t want to .
What does the lynch mob in To Kill a Mockingbird have in common with the mob that killed Farkhunda Malikzada? They both didn’t like what was happening in their communities. The TKAMB mob didn’t like that a black person was being defended after being accused of rape, and the Malikzada mob didn’t like that a woman was doing well and they were not.
What social/cultural values do the kids learn from the story of Dolphus Raymond? White people who prefer to be around black people are almost as low as it gets on the caste system in Maycomb, followed by “mixed children”.
What is the significance of the conversation Scout overhears as she enters the courthouse? Atticus did not choose to defend Tom, he was appointed by the court to defend him.
What is the significance of where the kids sit in the courtroom? What can you infer about the black community and the kids based on where they sit. The kids are only accepted into the black balcony because Atticus is defending a black man. We can infer that the kids do not care about skin color because they do not care that the are sitting with the black community. We can also infer that the black community is thankful for what Atticus is doing by letting the kids sit with them and giving them seats.
What does Harper Lee mean when she writes, “Every town the size of Maycomb had families like the Ewells. No economic fluctuations changed their status— people like the Ewells lived as guest of the county in prosperity as well as in the depths of the depression.”? Lee means that even if people like the Ewells were to be rich in an economic sense, they will always be dirt poor in their character.
What kind of language does Bob Ewell use to describe what had been done to his daughter, Mayella? What does that language suggest about him? He does not use formal language and uses vulgar language instead. This suggests that Bob is not used to ever having to use appropriate language because even in a courtroom, he lacks the proper etiquette.
What is the irony in Bob Ewell’s description of the house that his black neighbors live in? Bob believes that his black neighbors are “devaluin'” his property, even though his house is an absolute mess
Why does Atticus ask Bob Ewell if he can read? Despite Scout’s concerns about his line of questioning, Atticus seems to know what he is doing. What is he doing when asking Mr. Ewell this question? What does Mr. Ewell’s answer inevitably reveal? He is trying to reveal what handiness Bob Ewell is because he knew someone left handed would have had to do the damage to the right side of Mayella’s face. He also is trying to discredit Bob. Bob reveals he is left handed and he causes people in the court to loose respect for him with his answer of, “How do you think I sign my relief checks?”
What can you infer about Bob Ewell when he proclaims to the judge that “… he didn’t see what his being left-handed had to do with it, that he was a Christ-fearing man and Atticus Finch was taking advantage of him. Tricking lawyers like Atticus FInch took advantage of him all the time with their tricking ways.”? It reveals that Bob is being defensive because he is guilty.
Where do you see evidence in chapter 18 that Harper Lee wants us to feel sorry for Mayella Ewell? When Scout tells us that Mayella must be the loneliest girl in the world, because she always calls Tom Robinson to do odd jobs for her because he is the only one who is nice to her and keeps her company. Also when we find out that Bob rapes her, the reader feels bad for her.
What can you infer about Mayella based on the things she DOES and DOES NOT say in the courtroom. She is not used to being in formal situations because she does not understand many words Atticus says to her, so he had to dumb his words down. Also when Atticus asks her a rapid series of questions important to the case she does not give any answers. This reveals that she does not have her stories straight and is not telling the truth.
What can you infer about Mayella after reading that she “… took offense to routine courtesy.”? Mayella had never been cordially addressed before so she thinks that Atticus is mocking her and making fun of her.
What really happened between Tom and Mayella? What is the one word question that stumps Mayella Tom did not rape or beat up Mayella. He came in and she tried to get on top of him and make him kiss her when Bob saw what was happening, Tom ran away. Mayella says that Tom beat her up and raped her, but Atticus asks “how?” and stumped her after Tom Robinson stood up and revealed his withered, and weak left arm.
What does Mayella really reveal to the court when she proclaims, “I got somethin’ to say!”? She reveals that Tom has to be found guilty, because if he is not, her father will be going to jail and she will have no other place to go.
What is a chiffarobe? A type of dresser that has drawers and room to hang clothes in it, too
What does Tom Reveal to us about Mayella? What is Tom’s version of the story? Mayella wants Tom to keep her company by always asking Tom to help do chores around her house whenever he walks by the Ewell house. Tom was going to fix a door, and then she wrapped her arms around Tom’s waist and took him down. She then started to kiss Tom and told him to “kiss me back, ngger”. Then Bob saw what was going on and said “I’ll kill you, you goddamn wh*re!” revealing that he is jealous that Mayella wants another man. Tom then runs away.
Why is Mr. Link Deas important to the reader? What does he reveal to us about Tom? He shows that progress is being made. He stands up for Tom, saying that he is a good man who never caused him trouble while Tom has worked for him.
What word does Mr. Gilmer use to remind Tom of his place in the courtroom, and in life? “Boy”
What critical mistake does Tom make in his testimony, during cross examination? He says he “felt right sorry for her [Mayella]”. This is a mistake because a black man can not feel sorry for any white person because that implies that he is better than her.
When asked, “Scared of arrest, scared you’d have to face up to what you did?” How does Tom respond, and what can you conclude about Maycomb based on that response? Tom answered, “No suh, I was scared I’d hafta face up to what I didn’t do.” Maycomb is a racist town that believes every black person is guilty for any crime they are accused of.
What can you infer about DIll at the concluston of chapter 19? He is a kind person because he cries after he realizes how Mr. Gilmer talked to Tom was disgusting, and plain wrong.
Why does Mr. Raymond pretend to be a drunk? What does that reveal to us about the reality of the South during this time period? To give people a reason to help people in the town understand why Dolphus prefers to be around black people. This reveals that the South found it so inconceivable for a person to prefer to be around black people, there had to be a reason for them to understand.
How is Mayella a victim according to Atticus Mayella is a victim of “cruel poverty and ignorance”
What “unspeakable” thing did Mayella do? She kissed a black man
What are the “evil assumptions” that Atticus points out in the courtroom? What does he ask the jury to do at the conclusion of his closing statement? The evil assumption is that “all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women.” Atticus asks the jury to “do your duty” at the conclusion of his closing statement.
What is the significance of the following passage: “I looked around. They were standing. All around us in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was as distant as Judge Taylor’s: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” What can we infer from that passage? We can infer that even though Atticus lost the case, he gained an immense amount of respect from the black community.
Where do you witness the evaporation of the cultural color line between black and white in chapter 22? When a bunch of thankful members of the black community sent lots of goods and foods to the Finch house to express their gratitude for Atticus doing his best to defend Tom.
How do we know that Judge Taylor was a good man during the trial? He made Atticus defend Tom. This means he chose to have a well experienced and good lawyer defend Tom, not some new and inexperienced lawyer like they usually do to defend black people.
What is the “danger a comin'”? Bob Ewell spitting in Atticus’ face and telling him he would get Atticus if it took the rest of his life.
How does Atticus explain the verdict to his son? He said that Tom has a good chance of walking away free because he is getting an appeal for his case.
What can you infer about Aunt Alexandra by reading the line, “… there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks. But they’re not out kind of folks.”? Aunt Alexandra is very focused on upholding the Finch family name by not letting Scout have over Walter Cunningham, a very poverty stricken child.
Jem draws a conclusion about Boo Radley at the conclusion of this chapter. What is it? What does that tell us about Jem? Boo Radley wants to stay inside. This reveals that Jem is starting to feel like he does not like the community in Maycomb because of their prejudices just like he believes Boo Radley does.
What does Boo Radley come to represent here? A progressive person who does not like how racist the town is.
What is the purpose of the story of J. Grimes Everett? What is this character revealing to us? He is a missionary who goes to Africa to help the Mruna tribe from sin and squalor. He reveals that Mrs. Merriwether, and most likely the rest of town support the help of the black population in Africa, but do not help the black people living in their own town.
What was Tom’s fate? He was shot 17 times after trying to escape from prison and killed.
How does Alexandra evolve in this chapter.? How does Scout evolve? Alexandra shows how she cares and loves her brother. She says that the whole Tom Robinson situation is tearing him apart and she can’t take it anymore. Scout forms an appreciation for Aunt Alexandra and decides to act like a lady in these tough times for her.
How does the town of Maycomb respond to Tom’s death? The first thing they do is blame Tom. In chapter 25 it says, “To Maycomb, Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a ni—- to cut and run. Typical of a n—‘s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw…You know how they are.”
Where do you see evidence of growth, progress, change? Progress is seen in Mr. Underwood’s editorial that likened the killing of a “cripple” to the “senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.” Although Mr. Underwood was a racist himself, his editorial showed progress
Why does the town re-elect Atticus to the state legislature? What can you infer about the people of Maycomb based on the fact? The town respects him and what he does and believes he is a good lawyer. This suggests progress because the town did not immediately replace a lawyer who defended a black man.
What does Scout learn about democracy in her class? What is the irony presented in the conversation among the students in Miss Gates’ class? They say that America is a democracy and they do not believe in persecuting any body and that persecution comes from prejudice. The irony is that black people are persecuted almost everyday in their own town, and Maycomb has very prejudiced beliefs.
Scout asks Jem a question at the conclusion of this chapter. What does that question say about her? Scout asks how Miss Gates can “hate Hitler so bad an’ the turn around and be ugly about folks right at home.” This reveals that Scout realizes Miss Gates hypocrisy and doesn’t share beliefs with her teacher.
What can you infer about Jem based on his response? Jem becomes furious and tells Scout to never bring up the courthouse again. We can infer that Jem is still not over the Tom Robinson case.
What does Link Deas hiring Helen Robinson suggest about Maycomb post trial? They are starting to become more tolerant and sympathetic to the black community even if it is just a little.
Why, according to Atticus, is Bob Ewell so angry about the trial, and at Atticus? Because he lost what little respect and credibility he had in the town and he was a joke.
What is eccentricity and how does it relate to this book? Who is the eccentric character? Eccentricity is being unconventional. It relates to the book because on p.335, Scout says “our classmates mercifully let us forget our father’s eccentricities.” Atticus is the eccentric character
What can you infer about Bob Ewell in chapter 28? Why? He is a coward. He would rather attack Atticus’ kids because it would be easier, rather than going after Atticus.
How does Mr.Heck Tate define Bob Ewell in chapter 29? He was a low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children. He’d never meet Atticus face to face.
“Bob Ewell fell on his knife.” There is a lot to that sentence. Ultimately, what does it mean? What conclusion can you draw from Heck Tate insisting that “Bob Ewell fell on his knife”? He doesn’t want Boo or Jem to be accused of murdering Bob because he knew Boo didn’t want to be seen as a hero, and Jem should not have that charge hanging over his head for the rest of his life. Heck Tate is a good man.
What does Scout mean when she says, “Mr. Tate was right… it’d be sort of like shorting a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” If they were to say the truth that Boo saved the kids from Bob, he would be given cakes and goods from all the ladies in town and Boo would not like that. So, it is like killing a mockingbird because it is causing discomfort to a man who has done no wrong and has only helped.
How does Scout apply Atticus’ “simple trick” in chapter 31, and how does it change her perspective? She uses it when standing in Boo Radley’s house. She realizes all Boo needed was in that house. He was able to see everything and everyone from where he sat and she realized that he never had the need to come outside.

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