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To Kill a Mockingbird Notes – Characters, Themes & Quotes

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    Ways to introduce points:

    * Harper Lee makes us aware…

    * Lee presents…

    * The author makes it clear that…

    * Harper Lee evidently sympthaises with…

    * Lee makes Scout say…

    * Lee tells us through Scout…

    * Harper Lee wants the reader to know that…


    * Harper Lee’s descriptions are vivid and cinematographic- one of the reasons. Perhaps why the novel translated so well into film.

    * Referring to the epigraph and what it tells the reader about key themes will help to show your awareness of authorial purpose.

    * Referring to any symbolism used by the author can be effective- for instance, the quiet, ominous feeling in the courtroom when the jury returns is like a old February morning, when mockingbirds were still. (ch21pg216)

    * TKAMB is a novel with a mixture of nostalgia and criticism

    * A microcosm of American society in the 1930s

    * Consider the ideal of Southern Womanhood an women as delicate, fragile creatures, and how this would of affected and influenced men’s feelings towards Mayella Ewell in the trial.

    * Scouts naivety is highlighted when the narrator understands

    * All of Scouts educational experiences and growing up takes place outside school

    * We see how entrenched the idealised view of women is when Atticus says he is ‘in favour of Southern womanhood as much as anybody, but not for preserving polite fiction at the expense of human life’

    * Real courage in Lee’s view is when you continue what you are doing even though you are fighting a losing battle. This is explained in depth in relation to Mrs. Dubose, who Atticus describes as the bravest person he had met.

    * Starting an essay: try link to a theme, show how language is presented, and how the chapter highlights themes. And does the narrator affect our response of the presentation of the theme.

    * Jem’s definition of entailment (ch2 page 26) is an example of malapropism, which is a common technique used by the author for creating humour.

    * Leitmotif of To kill a mockingbird?

    * Lee’s tools are to create atmosphere, to reveal character, create symbolic structure, support and enhance key themes, show authenticity, provide information, make a social comment, and provide humour and to reveal irony.

    * Juxtaposition of the mad dog incident and Mrs. Dubose’s death present strongly contrasting ideas of courage.

    * Through the less tense, and casual tone of Part one we get valuable details for Part two. (e.g. history of characters, description of Southern ways.) The children’s prejudices in part one reflect more destructive implications of adult prejudices in part two.

    * Lee’s epigraph flags to important elements- lawyers and children.

    * Lee’s frequency of simple sentences makes the writing direct and incisive.

    * In the court scene Lee doesnt tell people about the exclamtions to Tom’s allegations but instead says that Judge Taylor uses his gavel and that order is restored. This is a moment when Lee lets the reader use his own imagination.

    * Story told entirley by Scout as the narrator, this technique is called the first-person narrative

    * Lee uses metaphors, when Scout refers to Atticus in court, saying “he’d gone frog-sticking without a light” She’s trying to say Atticus is someone who tackles a task without the proper equipment. (Chapter 17)

    * TKAMB is a very carefully structured novel whose pace and tempo changes gradually throught the book. Part of the way it is structures is we learn, like Scout, as the novel proceeds.

    * Lee uses personification, when Scout refers to the fence as ” a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard” and the house as “droopy and sick”

    * Lee uses imagery to establish a charcter, when Scout describes Calpurnia “hand as wide as a bed slat and twice as hard” Implying discipline.

    * Imagery is linked to symbolism in TKAMB. For example the mockingbird of the title is a metaphor for innocence and vunerability. This is a theme woven throughout the novel.

    * Childrens language is more colloquial and contains a lot more ellision.

    * Lee uses language as a way of defining a character. For example Bob Ewell declares coarsley that ” I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin on my Mayella!” and “screamin like a stuck hog”

    * A book with two climaxes

    * Prejudice means pre-judgement or making up your mind about something because of a preconcevied view and without looking open mindidly at evidence.

    * Racial prejudice (Tom), Community Prejudice (Dolphus & Boo), Gender Prejudice (women), Class Prejudice (shown by Aunt Alexandra.

    * Lee explores prejudice from a range of angles. Maycomb is an insular society, a ” tired old town” steeped in racial prejudice and its ‘caste system’

    * School closes even though theres hardly any snow this suggests Maycomb overreacts to unfamilarity.

    * By making Scout inquistive Lee encourages the reader to question their own thoughts and feelings.

    * Lee satirises classroom learning with the help of Miss Caroline.

    * Unusual fire and snowfall creates a sense of foreboding at the end of Part One.

    Dolphus Raymond

    * Feigns to be drunk to give people something to criticise him for

    * Meet him in chapter 19 and 20

    * Scout shows prejudice against him when she comments saying he was ‘evidently taking delight in corupting a child’ when he offers Dill a drink from his paper bag.

    * Deflecting criticism away from his family by perpetrating ‘fraud against himself’


    * (a)Scout is the first-person narrator as well as a participant in the story. Events are recounted first-hand, through a child’s eyes. However, Scout is also describing events in retrospect; we see the story evolve not only from a child’s point of view but also from a mature, adult perspective, offering the benefit of hindsight. The two different views are years apart.

    * (a)The insightful narration by the adult Scout contrasts with the point of view, wit and humour expressed by the child Scout. As the novel deals with the main character growing up, it is a bildungsroman.

    * (a) The two perspectives give the story’s events some objectivity. However, even the narrator admits that it has its limitation, and that people will always have different perspectives on events ( a key message of the novel)

    * As Scout and Jem set off for the pageant, they begin their ‘longest journey together’ (ch27pg260)

    * Scouts words are poignant and show great maturity when she says that if the incident was exposed to the public ‘itd’ be sort of like shootin’ a mocking-bird (ch30pg282)

    * When Scout says “there wasn’t much else left for us to learn” (ch31pg285) We are reminded of the genre, bildungsroman.

    * Devices Lee uses to help the reader see ‘past’ Scout include having her overhear conversations, and what others tell her – being told by other characters such as Jem, Miss Maudie and Dill about events at which she was not present and discussions with Atticus and her own adult hindsight.

    * Scouts naivety provides an opportunity for humour and irony

    * Scouts sociable nature is why the reader encounters a variety of characters and situations.

    * Scout is an exact contemporary of her creator, Harper Lee.

    * Scout, who ends the novel thinking back to the child who once stopped at an oak tree “delighted, puzzled, apprehensive” feels “ver old” and assumes there isnt much for her and Jem to learn “except possibly algebra”. She is obviously wrong and this still shows Scouts innocence and naivety to life and its lessons.

    * The climax of Scouts learning is her ability to stand, with tolerance and understanding, in Boo’s shoes – or at least on his porch.

    The Robinsons

    * They show that poverty and race is no barrier to high values.

    Miss Stephanie Crawford

    * Gossipy judgmental character and represents whay makes Maycomb a “tired old town” and contributed to racism, intolerance and insularity which are threaded thematically through the novel.


    * Harper Lee is breaking down the stereotype of the Southern gentleman. When Atticus shoots the mad dog in Chapter 10, his children’s appreciation of him increases. This is a crucial time to have gained the children’s respect- just before the trial.

    * We need to consider the symbolism and irony of the mad dog incident. Atticus is protecting the community from something dangerous. Is he later able to protect something innocent from the madness of the community? With the dog called ‘Tim Johnson’, a name not dissimilar to ‘Tom Robinson’ we realise that Harper Lee want s us to draw parallels between this incident and the trial.

    * Atticus had managed to make a man from a prejudiced family stop and think for a moment and this was ‘the shadow of a beginning’ (ch23pg228)

    * Atticus is Lee’s spokesman, embodying the themes of justice, tolerance, goodness and courage. Yet despite his strong principles and idealism, he is trapped within the society in which he lives.

    * Lee does not admire physical courage. She leads the reader to share her view of the importance of the kind of moral courage shown by Atticus.

    * Atticus’s maxim

    * Has the same name as a roman nobleman and diplomat. Titus Atticus; who was known for his impartial wisdom and interest in books.

    * Whole life is built on telling the truth is it right to depart from that now, he ‘sat looking at the floor for a long time.’ (ch30) A flaw?

    * Atticus is presented as an emobodiment of everything Lee respects in a lawyer, citizen, Christian and father. He is the moral centre of TKAMB.

    * He was feeble, nearly fifty.

    * Scout says “I ran to Atticus for comfort.”

    * Miss Maudie: “We are so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us”. That respect and admirations is palpable too when he goes with Calpurnia to break the news of Tom’s death to Helen Robinson.

    * Reprimands Jem in a voice like “the winter wind”

    * A good father and normally a good judge of human behavior. Atticus is also human and capable of mistakes. His view on human behaviour was too accomadating in the case of Bob Ewell.

    * Because of the way the novel is structured and narrated he is the most fully devloped father and citizen in the novel, so our knowledge of him is deeper than any other fathers and citizens in the novel.

    * ” Let the dead bury the dead this time Mr.Finch”

    * Misjudges Bob Ewell “What on earth could Ewell do to me, sister?”

    * Respected by everyone: Mr Underwood had Atticus “covered” with his shotgun, during the mob scene.


    * As Scout and Jem set off for the pageant, they begin their ‘longest journey together’ (ch27pg260)

    * “In all his life, Jem had never declined a dare” (ch1p19?)

    * He is a natural leader, his creative and resourceful nature is brought out in games he plays with Dill and Scout.”

    * He is idealistic and thoughtful and in contrast to Scout takes very much to heart when Tom Robinson is declared guilty. Has a strong sense of justice.

    * Jem’s maturity is charted in the novel for instance when he tells Atticus that Dill has run away.

    * He is a mirror of Atticus, even his ambition to become a lawyer to bring about change.

    * In Jem, Lee implies that what has not been achieved by Atticus will be later achieved by Jem – reassuring us that there will still be Atticus-like figures in the future.

    * Scout: “He was difficult to live with, inconsistent and moody” (ch12pg121?)

    * Recognise Jem coming to adulthood when he is offered a slice of the big cake by Miss maudie (ch22) and when Calpurnia starts to call him Mister Jem (ch12), starts telling Scout to behave like a girl, tries to make Scout feel better after her mistake at the pageant.

    * ‘ a condition of having your tail in a crack’ (ch2) An example of one of Lee’s wry jokes and an instance of irony.

    * During compelled visits to Mrs dubose (ch11) Scout notices Jem “acquiring an alien set of values” He even tells her to be more respectful to her Aunt by “bein a girl and acting right” (ch12)

    * When he throws the camila box in the fire but keeps the flower it shows he still has mixed feeelings for Mrs. Dubose but is beginning to understand people complexity.


    * Boo bears resemblance to a mockingbird: “wide mouth grey eyes feathery hair” (chapter30pg279)

    * The grey Ghost a book referred to right at the start of the novel; its reappearance could be to achieve a sense of a completed circle and to remind us how the children felt about the ‘ghost’ Boo at the beginning.

    * Boo Radley emerges from the central event of Part Two like a coda (or tailpiece) of music.

    * Is not seen until the end of the novel by Scout both physically and metaphorically

    * Is described in Chapter 1 by Jem as “six and a half feet tall”, eating “raw squirrels and any cats he could catch”; his “hands were blood stained” and he had a “long jagged scar” and eyes that popped” (pg19?) Contrast to realistic description at the end of chapter 29. (Find description)

    * He stands for everything which is vunerable and misunderstoof yet harmless.

    * ” Boo’s children needed him” is a simple, four word statement, It is pignant because Boo is a cowed, timid indiviual, ill-treated by his family and misunderstood by the majority of Maycomb.


    * Originally came from the Finch’s landing and was from the slave stock but still regarded highly by Atticus.

    * Represents the bridge between white and black communities

    * Gives information to Atticus about the Robinson family

    * Takes the children to a black community church which gives them valuable information

    * Accompanies Atticus to tell Helen Robinson about Tom’s death.

    * Two speech styles and code-switches.

    * Lee uses her to show the children and the reader everyday life in the black community.

    * Example of a black person having equal status based on mutual respect.

    * Contrasts with Mrs Merewether’s ‘sulky, darky in the kitchen.

    * Used as a link between the white and black communities.

    * “She was always ordering me out the kitchen”

    * “We couldn’t operate a single day without Cal”

    * ” I seldom pleased her and she seldom rewarded me”

    Dill (Charles Baker Harris)

    * Mainly in first part, is in the second part only to present contrast in maturity.

    * In the trial, Lee contrasts Dill’s sensitive nature with the logical and rational Jem.

    * Whereas Jem wants to confront prejudice, Dill decides to accept things the way they are and make the best of them; consequently his choice of profession is a laughing clown.

    * Dwells in his own twilight world. (ch14 pg 149-150)

    * Is used by Lee to provide a contrasting, less stable, family background to the Finches.

    * Another brother to Scout

    Tom Robinson

    * His manners were as good as Aticus’s’ (ch19pg201?)

    * Atticus: ” I guess Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own’ (ch24pg242)

    * ” A black -velvet negro, not shiny, but soft black velvet” (ch19)

    * His tragedy is at the centre of the novel and presented as the ideal black man, whom we can measure against other characters,

    Aunt Alexandra

    * When Aunt Alexandra expresses sympathy for Atticus at the news of Tom Robinson’s death, detaching herself from the hypocritical Missionary Society meeting, Scout is suddenly able to appreciate the dignity of her aunt’s behaviour.

    * Scout: “Aunt Alexandra fitted into the world of Maycomb like hand into a glove, but never into the world of Jem and me” (ch13pg137?)

    * Lee uses her to show that conflict and tensions thorughout the book are not clear-cut. An example is when she senses the danger of Bob Ewell.

    * ” The longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was” but Scout thinks that “fine folks” are people who ” did the best they could with the sense they had”

    * Fits into Maycomb society “like a hand into a glove” Has “boarding-school manners”

    Miss Maudie

    * Her major role in the plot seems to be to reinforce Atticus’s philosophy, and to be a constant and reassuring model for the children when Atticus is busy elsewhere.

    * Scout: “She loved everything that grew on God’s earth”(ch5page48) with the exception of nut grass, which is hugely symbolic of prejudice that can sweep through a society.

    * Disapproval of “foot-washers” who think “women are a sin by definition” (ch5pg51)

    * Miss Maudie: “Why, one spring of nut-grass can ruin a whole yard…the wind blows it all over Maycomb county!” (ch5pg48)

    * Optimistic after her house burns down (ch8); theme of courage.

    * “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents” (ch10)

    * Miss Maudie quotes and notes on York page 15

    The Ewells

    * Through Bob Ewell’s death at the end, Lee seems to be saying that he is beyond hope, or perhaps that justice must be seen to be done. Perhaps his death represents hope for the future, as the fear he caused, which created a barrier to truth and understanding, has now been removed. Mayella’s flowers can now begin to flourish.

    * Attacks the children mainly because of Southern values, which is no matter how bad things are you must always defend your honour and pride. Ironically Bob Ewell is seen as having none of those by the Maycomb community.

    * Bob Ewell’s extreme laziness is shown by his being fired from the Work Progress Administration. This organisation was set up during the Depression in 1935 to give work to those who were unemployed. It was rare for anyone to be fired from the WPA.

    * Show that whites can be more culpable than poor blacks.

    * Bob Ewell is described as a “little red rooster” and a “bantam cock”. He’s compared to a chicken, a flightless bird that ‘crows’ rather than sings. He is selfish and is unable to ‘fly’ above his own prejudices.

    Mrs Dubose

    * Known as the “meanest old women who ever lived” (ch4page41)

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