To Kill a Mockingbird

A Critical Thinking Analysis
Overall Themes
 Innocence
 Evil
 Adolescence
 Prejudice
 Compassion
 Ignorance
Which Characters Display These
 Scout
 Atticus
 Mayella Ewell
 Heck Tate
 “Boo” Radley
Scout’s Definitive Qualities
 Confidence—Scout has high self-esteem, and sees nothing wrong with her
outlook on life, or her tomboyish mannerisms. She often says exactly what
she happens to be thinking, and is not bashful about seeking answers on
matters she doesn’t understand.
“ You’re shamin’ him, Miss Caroline. Walter hasn’t got a quarter at home to
bring you, and you can’t use any stovewood.” (p. 26, regarding Walter
Cunningham’s lack of lunch and Miss Caroline’s lack of understanding)
 Although Scout’s naivety sometimes hinders her from understanding some
situations, she does her best to be polite and cogent.
“Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You
brought us some hickory nuts one time, remember?...I go to school with
Walter. He’s your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he, sir?” (p.156, regarding the mob of
men outside the cell where Tom Robinson is being held overnight. Scout does not
realize the gravity of the situation, nor how she single-handedly manages to avert
potential harm from both her father and Mr. Robinson.)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities
 Tenacity—This sums up Scout’s persistent and stubborn behavior,
particularly surrounding her social interactions status of
tomboyishness. Although she is constantly reminded of how she should
behave according to most of the female figures in her life, she shows
resolve to act as a lady does within her own standards.
“…by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in
being a girl.” (p.118, on watching Calpurnia working in the kitchen)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities
 Honesty—Scout has the common trait of a person with
honesty in that she answers truthfully to others, and always
so to Atticus. She speaks her mind plainly, and when
seeking an answer she hardly ever beats fails to come to a
concise point.
 “What’s rape?” (p.137, suddenly remembering to ask Atticus a question
Calpurnia had shied from)
Scout’s Definitive Qualities
 Optimistic— Though Scout is young, she does understand
the issues surrounding Maycomb, and she holds the belief
that no matter what separates the groups of people, they
are, essentially, just people .
 “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” (p.230, speaking
with Jem about the groups of people in Maycomb, and what defines them)
Scout’s Devices
Personification—In Scout’s narration, terms that encompass the town,
a family, or a group as a whole are often personified to show an action
or state of being that characterizes said group.
“…that year, the school buzzed with talk about him defending Tom
Robinson, none of which was complimentary.” (p. 94, on gossip in
Scout’s Speech Patterns
While most of the Maycomb Community adopts a southern, slang-tinged
manner of speaking, Scout has an in-between way that isn’t incredibly
country like Walter Cunningham, nor is it in the realm of Atticus’s more
refined southern lilt. Scout uses slang terms such as, “Shoot”, “Heck”, and
“Ain’t”. She uses other phrases that she hears from Jem or schoolmates,
like, “God Almighty” and “Aw, hell”.
“What in the sam holy hill did you wait till tonight?” (p.56, regarding Dill and
Jem’s late-night escapades)
Scout’s verbal expressions are based around what happens to be the
heaviest influence in her life at that point, like in chapter 9 when she and
Jem share a phase of cursing, or in the several chapters where she finds
herself in the middle of an altercation. During those moments, her speech
becomes abbreviated and rapid, much like Calpurnia when she is angry
with one or both of the Finch children.
“Pass the damn ham, please.”(p. 83, narration by Scout of phrase leading up to
her chat with Uncle Jack about language use)
How Scout Relates to
 Innocence—Being a child for the duration of the novel, save for
the narration, we watch as Scout faces the growing period
between childhood and early adulthood. At this time, she is
learning about life and what it entails, as well as what she must
do to become what her father and her morals expect of her. We
see her firsthand experience with evil and human nature, as well
as pure human compassion.
“The world’s endin’, Atticus! Please do somethin’—!” (p.68, regarding
Scout’s first encounter with snow.)
“Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and
chain, a pair of good-luck pennies and our lives. But neighbors give
in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we
had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” (p.281, on what Boo
had done for them while not really knowing them, and even though
they hadn’t returned the favor)
How Scout Relates to
 Prejudice—Contrary to the majority of the white community of
Maycomb, Scout shows a natural aversion to racial prejudice, and
despite her lack of knowledge in that area. Atticus nurtures her
opinion that race makes no attribute to what kind of person
someone is. Scout lives in a world of both races, learning from both
her father and Calpurnia, the only mother figure she has. This
advantage gives her a small insight into both worlds, and she comes
up with a logical conclusion.
“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Definitive Qualities
 Patient—Atticus shows incredible patience in all of his
endeavors, most notably with his curious and at times,
troublesome children. He exhibits a level of calm continually
that most cannot achieve on their best days, and he strives for
understanding and compassion when dealing with matters
that are stressful.
 “That’ll do, Scout…Don’t kick folks.” (p. 155, before Scout’s
short but powerful one-sided conversation, she kicks a mob
member after he grabs at Jem. Atticus calmly and respectfully
reprimands her in order to stave off any further violence)
 Atticus’s talent for staying calm in situations like the mob
scene in chapter 15 add to the powerful contrast he sets
against most of the Maycomb community.
Atticus’s Definitive
 Ethical—Atticus uses logic, education, and personal observations to
base his standard of behavior. His ethics are different from many
inhabitants of Maycomb, and this causes him and his family to endure
an amount of ridicule from the white community during his
representation of Tom Robinson.
 “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” –Mrs.
Dubose (p. 106, to Scout about her father)
 Realistic—While applying good ethical conventions to his public and
personal life, Atticus does not have any disillusions about the social
expectations in Maycomb. He is well aware of how his ethics clash with
the white community, as well as the amount of change necessary to
influence the population enough to create racial equality.
“'It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway
and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes
you do.'" (p. 116, on the reality of his case.)
Atticus’s Definitive
 Leniency—Atticus uses a hands-off approach to raise his
children, allowing them ample freedoms while still
maintaining parental authority. He uses leniency not only in
disciplining his children, but in his career as the go-to
attorney for most of Maycomb. As a reasonably well-off
business man during the Depression Era, he realizes the
financial strain of his fellow townspeople, and bargains with
them on the payment for his services.
 An example of this is Walter Cunningham paying in hickory
nuts instead of cash.
Atticus’s Devices
 Symbolism—By using the mockingbird as a literal and
figurative example of innocence, Atticus is using
symbolism to convey a point.
 “'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to
enjoy…don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”(p.94, on why not to
shoot mockingbirds.)
Atticus’s Speech
 Atticus’s speech reflects his education—he rarely
abbreviates words like his children, and he rarely uses
improper grammar.
 “So Judge Taylor excuses him. Sometimes he excuses him
wrathfully.”(p.224, regarding Jem’s query about juries.)
How Atticus Relates to
Evil—Atticus represents the aversion of evil, the “good”. He
works for equality, for justice, for respect, and displays an
example for the rest of Maycomb to follow.
“As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men
every day of your life, but let me tell you something and
don't you forget it-whenever a white man does that to a
black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine
a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” (p.233, to
Jem about racial equality)
How Atticus relates to
 Innocence— The theme of “mockingbirds” represents
innocence, and how people, indirectly or not, mar it. The
literal usage of mockingbirds by Atticus shows the
innocent bird, who does nothing but make music, nothing
but sing his heart out. In this respect, he also represents
perseverance against evil , and the strive for good to
“Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save
Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts
Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute
Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed." (p.244,
Narrator Scout on the case against T. Robinson)
Mayella’s Definitive
 Weakness—Mayella’s upbringing has imprinted a permanent
fear of her father, and men in general. The one man she thought
she could exert power over was Tom Robinson, being that she
perceived herself to be his superior. The scorn and dismay on her
part of his rejection, mixed with the anger and abuse of her
father forced her to make a decision, and her fear of Mr. Ewell
influenced her to take the weaker route, and simply blame it on
 “What was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson. Tom
Robinson was a daily reminder of what she did…No code
mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down
on her afterwards.” (p. 206, Atticus on Mayella’s reasoning)
Mayella’s Definitive
 Racist—If Mayella had grown up under different
circumstances, she may not have had the same assumptions
about race that her family and most of Maycomb have
adopted. Racism is a defining quality for this particular
character, as it is the primary reason for the conflict of her
legal action against Tom Robinson. Had she not felt Tom
her subordinate, Mayella would most likely not have made
her advances, thus eliminating the case entirely.
Mayella’s Definitive
 Impressionable—Due to her lack of education, her lack of
parental guidance, as well as her lack of culture, Mayella has not
developed her own set of moral standards. This hinders her
judgment, and she adopts the path of a cliff-bound lemming,
simply following the leader, who is in this case, her father, whose
racist and uneducated ways are forced upon Mayella and her
siblings. She seems to accept that she is basically not allowed to
think for herself, or perhaps she chooses not to in order to
simplify her life. Whatever the case may be, Mayella’s lack of
personal will is part of the essence of her character.
 “I guess if she hadn’t been poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor
would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had
shown everybody in the courtroom.” (p. 190, Narrator on Mayella in
Mayella’s Speech Patterns
 Mayella uses heavy country slang and heavy abbreviation;
she also has limited understanding of grammatical usage.
She has limited vocabulary, and has had very little if
nonexistent formal education.
 “ That’n yonder.” (p.182, regarding Tom Robinson in court)
“Seb’n.” (p. 185, on the number of siblings she has)
Mayella’s Devices
 Mayella did not appear to use any literary device I could
find, however, one put forth by Scout’s narration seemed
an apropos simile for its use to describe Mayella in court.
 “Apparently Mayella’s recital had given her confidence,
but it was not her father’s brash kind: there was something
stealthy about hers, like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy
tail.” (p.188, Scout’s narration of Mayella’s testimony)
How Mayella Relates to
 Evil—The combination of ignorance and malice in Mayella
promotes the theme of evil, as the character Mayella is one
who “kills a mockingbird”, in the figurative sense that she
doomed Tom Robinson to save herself from shame.
 “That nigger yonder took advantage of me an’ if you fine
fancy gentlemen don’t wanta do nothing about it then
you’re all yellow stinking cowards…” (p. 190, Mayella’s final
statement to the court)
How Mayella Relates to
 Ignorance—While a number of factors are involved in the
development of Mayella’s brand of thought, her main
problem lies in the lack of social and formal education
about the world outside Maycomb and beyond the
garbage dump. Her ignorance mixed with her shame
influenced her (aside from her father) to allege rape
against an innocent man. Her ignorance not only plays a
role in Tom’s conviction, but as a part of the image cast
upon the entire Ewell family.
 “…if she hadn’t been so poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor
would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had
shown everybody in the courtroom.” (p. 190, Scout’s reflection on
Mayella’s behavior in court)
Heck Tate’s Definitive
 Forthright—Heck is a hardworking, honest man, and he
does his best as the sheriff to fulfill his duties to the
innocent and help convict offenders. Heck believes in
equality, making his unusual for most in Maycomb(not to
mention most of the general white community up until the
period of integration in the late sixties and seventies).
During Tom’s trial, Heck gives his account of the events
with little to no bias. In any case, it might seem that he
picks up on Atticus’s train of thought during the
examination, and tries to aid in disproving the Ewells’
 “The right side, Mr. Finch, but she had more bruises—you
wanta hear about ‘em?” (p. 171, during his testimony)
Heck Tate’s Definitive
 Fairness—Heck gives equal standing to both the black and
white inhabitants of Maycomb, and does not often use
ethnic slurs. He uses simple color references in indicating
 “There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man
responsible for it is dead.”(p. 278, on Bob Ewell’s death)
Heck Tate’s Definitive
 Helpful—Heck’s job necessities include a certain amount
of people skills, but regardless he holds a good disposition
amongst the regular townspeople. An example of this is
that rather than making his job and social life easier, he is
impartial (if not slightly partial to Tom) during Tom
Robinson’s trial.
 “Yes, sir she had a small throat, anyone could’ve reached
around it…”(p.171, in court testimony)
Heck Tate’s Speech Patterns
 Heck has a similar speech pattern to Miss Maudie; not too
country with some abbreviation and southern phrasing.
 “ I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to
do his utmost to prevent a crime from being
committed…”(p. 278, regarding Boo Radley)
Heck Tate’s Devices
 Heck Tate uses a metaphor at the end of the novel,
regarding Bob Ewell’s death and the death of Tom
Robinson, both unexpected, both avoidable. His metaphor
translates to mean that in the end, Robinson and Ewell
were even.
 “Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch.” (p. 278,
Heck’s metaphor about justice, and perhaps, irony)
How Heck Tate Relates to
 Innocence—In Heck’s profession, protection for the public
comes with a certain degree of responsibility to the sheriff,
and the personal cost of his job renders no apparent
phasing for him. His job is to protect the innocent, and he
does so.
 “Mister Finch, hold on. Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell.”(p.
275, after Ewell’s death)
How Heck Tate Relates to
 Compassion—Heck represents compassion for others in
the stand-off between good and evil. His character is kind,
good-natured, and above all, fair. Equality and educated
thinking are two things lacking in Maycomb, and even if
Heck has not had formal education, he naturally seems to
realize that the differences between people lie not in their
skin colors, but in their actions.
Boo Radley’s Definitive
 Unobtrusive—Boo prefers his life inside his house, and
reaches out to others on his own terms. He keeps his
privacy, and allows others the very same. An example of
this is in chapter 8 during Miss Maudie’s house fire, when
Boo leaves Scout with a blanket to keep warm in the harsh
cold. He does so unnoticed, and never takes credit for it.
He uses the same method when returning Jem’s pants in
chapter 6—by simply leaving them repaired and folded on
the fence. He prefers to stay at a distance, but he remains
helpful nonetheless.
Boo Radley’s Definitive
 Simple—Boo’s interaction with Jem and Scout is usually
very simple, with no complexity. Though he is mysterious to
them, that simply adds to his simplicity, in that he removes
the personal element. Essentially, neither party knows
anything about the other, giving their interactions a
certain “Secret Santa” quality.
 “When I went back they were folded across the fence…like
they was expectin’ me.” (p. 63, on Jem retrieving his pants)
Boo Radley’s Definitive
 Good-natured—Boo has no outside human contact, his
brother is the only contact he knows, and even Mr. Radley
seems standoffish and introverted, yet he has a developed
sense of natural selflessness.
Boo Radley’s Speech Patterns
 Boo only speaks once, but when he does it is simple and
moving. Scout realizes there is something unusual about
Boo once she meets him (she’s known he is unusual for
some time, but meeting him shows a different strange
quality), and she does what she can in the midst of the
dilemma with Atticus and Sheriff Tate. When Boo speaks
to her, it’s like the voice of a frightened child, and without
further conversation, Scout walks him home. To me, this is
a powerful example of how simple human needs can be,
and how sometimes speaking isn’t really necessary. Boo
and Scout understood each other without words, and were
able to give a strange sort of human contact as well as
maintain a comfortable distance.
 “Will you take me home?”(p. 281, Boo’s only sentence)
Boo Radley’s Devices
 Symbolism—Boo uses the soap dolls as representations of
Scout and Jem, the only tangible friends he has ever
known. Boo not only uses symbolism—Boo is a symbol used
by the author to show innocence, and how ignorance
damages it.

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