In the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch, live in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the early 1930s. They spend their days happily playing games with each other and spying on Arthur “Boo” Radley , who has not been seen for many years by anybody as a result of never leaving his house. Their widowed father, Atticus , is a town lawyer and has a strong belief that all people are to be treated fairly, to turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. Early in To Kill A Mockingbird, the children see their father accept hickory nuts, and other produce, from Mr. Cunningham for legal work because he has no money. Through their father’s work as a lawyer, Scout and Jem begin to learn of the racism and evil in their town, aggravated by poverty.
In To Kill a Mockingbird a local judge appoints Atticus to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, against an accusation of rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell . Later, as Atticus is sitting in front of the local jail to safeguard Tom Robinson, he faces the arrival of a lynch mob. Scout, unaware of the mob’s purpose, recognizes Cunningham as the man who paid her father in hickory nuts and tells him to say hello to his son, who is her schoolmate. Cunningham becomes embarrassed and the mob disperses.
At the trial it is undisputed that Tom came to Mayella’s home at her request to help with the chopping up of a chifforobe, and that Mayella showed signs of having been beaten around that time. Atticus points out that Tom is crippled in his left arm, and that the supposed rapist would have had to make extensive use of his left hand in assaulting Mayella before raping her. Atticus then demonstrates that Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, is left handed, implying that he – rather than Tom – was the one who beat Mayella. Atticus also states that the girl had not been examined by a doctor to check for signs of rape after the supposed assault. In his closing argument Atticus asks the all white, male jury to cast aside their prejudices and instead focus on Tom’s obvious innocence. In taking the stand in his own defense, Tom denies he attacked Mayella, but states she kissed him. He testifies he voluntarily assisted Mayella because “I felt sorry for her because . . . “. He didn’t finish the sentence but the prosecutor hammered home the point that he was a black man feeling sorry for a white woman. Tom’s sympathy for Mayella dooms his case, and he’s found guilty.
Atticus arrives home to discover from Sheriff Heck Tate that Tom has been killed by a deputy during his transfer to prison. The sheriff states that according to this deputy, Tom was trying to escape. The deputy reported that Tom ran like a “crazy” man before he was shot. Atticus and Jem go to the Robinson family home to advise them of Tom’s death. Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, appears and spits in Atticus’ face while Jem waits in the car. Atticus wipes his face and leaves.
Scout and Jem attend a nighttime Halloween pageant at their school. At some point during the pageant, Scout’s dress and shoes are misplaced. She’s forced to walk home without shoes and wearing her ham costume. While cutting through the woods, Scout and Jem are attacked by an unidentified man who has been following them. Their attacker is thwarted and overcome by another unidentified man. Jem is knocked unconscious and Scout escapes unharmed in a brief but violent struggle. Scout escapes her costume in time to see a man carrying Jem to their home. Scout follows and once inside runs into the arms of a concerned Atticus. Doc Reynolds arrives and treats Jem’s broken arm.
When Sheriff Tate asks Scout what happened, Atticus formally introduces Scout to Arthur Radley, whom she has known as Boo, the man who came to their aid against Bob Ewell in the woods, and carried Jem to his home. The sheriff reports that Ewell was discovered dead at the scene of the attack with a knife in his ribs. Atticus assumes that Jem killed Ewell in self-defense. Sheriff Tate, however, believes that Boo killed Ewell in defense of the children, and he tells Atticus that to drag the shy and reserved Boo into the spotlight for his heroism would be “a sin”. To protect Boo, Sheriff Tate suggests that Ewell “fell on his knife”. Scout draws a startlingly precocious analogy to an earlier lesson from the film (hence its title) when she likens unwelcome public attention to Boo to the killing of a mockingbird. The film ends with Scout considering events from Boo’s point of view and with Atticus watching over the unconscious Jem.
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