Chapters 1 - 6: Summary
The story is told by Scout, who was a girl of almost six years old at the time that the novel begins.
The first thing the reader is told about is Jem's broken arm. We find out how it happened at the very end of the book.
The Finch family originated in Cornwall and came to America to escape religious persecution.
The story takes place in Maycomb, a small town in the Southern United States, during the Depression era.
Jem and Scout Finch play with a boy called Dill who lives next door during the summer holidays.
When they run out of things to do, Dill suggests that they make Boo Radley come out. He dares Jem to run up and touch the Radley Place.
Jem is already at school but on Scout's first day she gets into trouble.
Walter Cunningham, one of the boys in her class, has no food.
Scout explains to the teacher that this is because he is a Cunningham.
Another boy in the class called Burris Ewell only comes to school one day a year. He leaves shouting insults at the teacher.
Scout's father, Atticus, explains that the boy's family were the disgrace of Maycomb.
At school Scout is frustrated by the slow pace.
However, on the way home past the Radley Place one day she notices some tin foil in a hole in a tree. As time goes by she and Jem find more presents or treasure there.
Dill returns for the summer holidays with tales of exciting things he has done.
The children act out a play about Boo Radley.
Although Atticus tells them to stop this nonsense, they sneak into the Radley garden.
They see a shadow and when they flee, Jem's pants get caught on the fence and he has to leave them.
A while later Jem finds them folded and mended on the fence.
The structure of the novel is circular.
The events at the end bring us back to where the story started.
The narrative voice is that of Scout (Jean Louise Finch).
Sometimes the voice is that of Scout as a girl; at others, it is as a mature woman looking back at things as they were in her childhood.
The whole story is in flashback.
The opening chapters foreshadow major events and themes that emerge later in the novel.
People's attitudes towards the Radleys and Boo in particular prepare the reader for the town's treatment of Tom Robinson.
Burris Ewell's brief appearance and behaviour towards his teacher also sets the scene for the significant role his father plays in later events.
Chapters 1 - 6: Important Quotations
"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it."
"Calpurnia was something else again."
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
"It was a melancholy little drama, woven from bits and scraps of gossip."
Depending on the question that you will be given in the exam, you might have to use one or more of these quotations.
Chapters 7 - 11: Summary
Jem tells Scout that his pants had been mended and folded.
They continue to find presents left for them in the hole in the tree.
One day they find that Nathan Radley has filled in the hole.
When winter arrives Mr Avery blames the bad weather on the children.
They build a snowman that looks like him.
That night Miss Maudie's house burns down.
Scout falls asleep and someone puts a blanket around her shoulders.
Atticus and Jem realise that it must have been Boo Radley.
Scout nearly has a fight with a boy at school because he says that her father "defended n**gers."
She does not really understand what this means, so she asks Atticus.
He tells her that he is representing a black man in court.
He is doing this, he tells her, because every lawyer gets one case that affects him personally.
At Christmas they visit family members at Finch's Landing.
Aunt Alexandra expects Scout to become more ladylike.
However, Francis says Atticus is a "n**ger-lover".
Scout waits for her opportunity and smacks him in the mouth.
Back in Maycomb, Scout is able to tell Uncle Jack what had really happened.
Atticus tells his brother that things couldn't get much worse.
He says that the case is about a black man's word against the Ewells'.
Atticus believes it would be impossible for the jury to acquit Tom Robinson.
He says he hopes Jem and Scout will trust him enough.
In later years Scout realises that this was said for her benefit.
Scout is mildly ashamed of Atticus because she believed he was feeble.
It was Uncle Jack who taught them to shoot air rifles.
Atticus says that it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.
One day a mad dog came into the street.
Calpurnia sends for Atticus.
He arrives with Heck Tate, the sheriff.
Because he was a better shot Atticus kills the rabid dog.
Scout wants to tell everyone but Jem tells her not to.
One day Mrs Dubose says horrible things to Jem and Scout about their father.
In a rage Jem destroys her camellia bushes.
Atticus says that although she was a racist, he admired her for her courage.
The mockingbird, first mentioned in Chapter Ten, acts throughout the novel as a symbol for the innocent.
The rabid dog acts in the same way to represent the collective madness that is gripping Maycomb and is threatening them all.
The town relies on Atticus to defend it from the mad dog, just as it will depend on him in the forthcoming trial.
The camellia Jem is given represents the lesson Atticus wants the children to learn: that beneath the ignorance and bigotry, there is good in each individual.
Chapters 7 - 11: Important Quotations
"Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you."
"I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb's usual disease."
"Atticus said to Jem one day, 'I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. 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."