To Kill A Mockingbird Characters

Summary info of the main characters.

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Atticus Finch

  • The single widowed parent of Jem and Scout.
  • Maycomb's lawyer and conscience who defends Tom Robinson.
  • He teaches his children important lessons - e.g. Understanding other peoples viewpoints. (Chapter 3)
  • Shoots a mad dog 'Tim Johnson' to protect the community. (Chapter 10)
  • Sits outside Maycomb County Jail to protect Tom Robinson from a lynch mob. (Chapter 15)
  • Defends Tom Robinson - a black man accused of ****** a white woman (Mayella Ewell). (Chapter 17 - 21)
  • Agrees to keep quite about the incident with Bob Ewell and Jem. (Chapter 30)
  • 'We to interrupt Atticus for a translation' - Uses formal language but is patient and happy to explain things. Believes in being honest, respectful and straightforward with his children.
  • 'is the same in his house as he is on the public streets' - Consistent and courteous, usually a good thing but his ideals and principles can put him at risk in society.
  • 'He sat in the living-room and read' - A studious lawyer, not young/active. Doesn't conform to society's view of a Southern gentleman. Something of a loner.
  • 'he's the only person in these parts who can keep a jury out so long' - A persuasive lawyer, determined to get Tom a fair trial even if he cannot win.
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Scout (Jean Louise) Finch

  • The narrator of the novel giving her perspective of the events.
  • Starts school for the first time (Chapter 2)
  • Discovers gifts hidden in a tree near the Radley house. (Chapter 4)
  • Helps bring an end to the dangerous situation at the jail. (Chapter 15)
  • Present at the trial of Tom Robinson. (Chapter 17 - 21)
  • Attends a Missionary Society Meeting. (Chapter 24)
  • Performs in the Halloween Pageant and is attacked on the way home. (Chapter 28 - 29)
  • 'she discorvered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste' - Miss Caroline doesn't approve of Scouts reading skill, but she's a bright, unconventional child,has grown up around books and newspapers.
  • 'You're also growing out of your pants a little' - Uncle Jack is referring to her cheeky nature and tomboy nature. Rarely wears dresses which gets in the way of being a lady.
  • 'when you...are grown, maybe you'll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn't let you down.' - She idealises Atticus despite his limitations.
  • 'there wasn't much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra' - Her words are an indication of her precociousness and of how much shes been through. Her character has been strengthened by her recent experiences.
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Jem (Jeremy Atticus) Finch

  • Scouts brother and companion. He is four years older and is her role model. ('In all his life Jem had never declined a dare.' -Chapter 1, p19)
  • Sensible, rational and intelligent. When he behaves out of character towards Mrs Dubose (Chapter 11) he learns his biggest lesson about courage.
  • His mood and behavior reflects him going through a period of physical and mental change.
  • A natural leader, his creative and resourceful nature brought out in the games he plays with Scout and Dill.
  • He is idealistic and thoughtful, in contrast to Scout he takes is to heart when Tom is convicted as he has a strong sense of Justice.
  • His maturity is chartered in the novel, for instance when he tells Atticus that Dill has run away.
  • He is a mirror of Atticus, even in his ambition to become a lawyer to bring about change.
  • In Jem, Harper Lee seems to imply that what has not been achieved by Atticus may later be achieved by Jem - reassuring us that there will be people like Atticus in the future.
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  • The cook for the Finch's, who partly brings up and educates Scout and Jem. She has gained Atticus's respect as a 'faithful member' (Chapter 14, p142) of the family. Although she is strict to the children she also has a sense of compassion and is kind to them when they are finding life difficult.
  • She represents the bridge between the white and black communities.
  • Gives Atticus and the children information about the Robinson family.
  • Takes Scout and Jem to 'First Purchase' the black community church, providing them with valuable information that will inform that during the trial.
  • Atticus uses Calpurnia to thank the black community for their gifts to him after the trial, but they mustn't do so again as life is hard.
  • Atticus chooses her to accompany him to tell Helen of Toms death.
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Dill (Charles Baker) Harris

  • Comes from Mississippi every summer to stay with his Aunt Rachel Haverford, and to play with Jem and Scout. (Her next door neighbors).
  • He features largely in the first part of the novel where he is fascinated by Boo Radley, and goads Jem and Scout into seeing him. 
  • In the second part of the book Dill is only present as a contrast to Jem and Scout  - we do not see him mature as the others do.
  • As he only lives there during the summer, he can be used to provide information to the reader at key moments when Jem and Scout fill him in.
  • His family background is very different from that of the Finches. His father has had little contact with him and the rest of the family have little concern for his well-being.
  • At the trail Harper 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. So his choice of profession will be a laughing clown!
  • He has a curious and quick-thinking nature.
  • He dwells on his 'own twilight world' (Chapter 14, p149-150) and gives the impression that his wild imaginations is simulated by unhappiness in his life.
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Tom Robinson

  • His character - similarly to Boo - is not deeply explored, but most of part two is concerned with him. And he is crucial in developing the overall themes and symbols of the novel. Both he and Boo are the mockingbirds.
  • We see from the scenes such as the one with the Missionary Society that at the time when this novel was set, black people were not always seen as fully rounded. Any negative traits like the anger of the black community following the trial for instance are seized upon by the white community. Perhaps Lee was aware of such attitudes in wider society and so made a conscious effort to focus on the good in the black characters in her novel.
  • Tom is married to Helen and they have three children. The family is part of a respectable church going community. 
  • Tom is revealed as polite and honourable in court, where he was shown to be happy to help Mayella for no payment. His manners, according to Scout, 'were as good as Atticus's' (Chapter 19, p201)
  • But his perception of Mayella's loneliness and need get him into trouble.
  • Atticus proves Tom's innocence by drawing attention to his weakened left arm. However as a symbol of the black community (Prejudice theme) he is found guilty.
  • In despair, Tom tries to escape from jail and is shot in cold blood.
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Boo (Arthur) Radley

  • Boo Radley is a mysterious figure who is mocked by the wider community, as well as by Jem, Scout and Dill as they become fascinated by the man who never leaves his house. His character gradually emerges and it is not until the end of the novel that he is 'seen' by Scout, both physically and metaphorically, when he heroically rescues Jem from Bob Ewell. His childhood misdemeanors have led to a lifetimes imprisonment by Mr and Mrs Radley along with his older brother Nathan.
  • He becomes the focus of Scout, Jem and Dill's childhood games, as they try to catch a glimpse of him.
  • He leaves gifts for the children in the hole of a tree near his house. These include; chewing gum, figurines of themselves, an Indian head coin and a broken watch.
  • He also wraps a blanket around Scout during the fire without her knowing.
  • Boo emerges as a lonely, kind figure, harmlessly watching over Scout and Jem's lives.
  • After she is rescued by him, Scout recognises that exposing Boo to the public would be 'sort of like shootin' a mocking-bird' (Chapter 30, p282)
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Aunt Alexandra

  • Atticus and Uncle Jack's sister, Scout and Jem's Aunt and Francis's grandmother. She lives at Finch's Landing which is assosiated with a past of Cotton growing and slave owning. Unlike her brothers, she has not made a new life for herself and perhaps consequently, as Scout discovers, holds onto traditional views and is obsessed with family heredity. Although Aunt Alexandra is not favourably portrayed by Scout, she has serveral redeeming moments, and these give a more rounded picture than if her character had remained the same throughout.
  • She first features in the story when Atticus, Jem and Scout go to spend Christmas at Finch's Landing. 
  • She disapproves of Scouts tomboy ways and is very concerned with making her a lady providing a contrast to other adult characters - Miss Maudie and Atticus.
  • She becomes a major charcter in the plot when she invites herself to saty at the Finch home to help Atticus with the children during the difficult trial period.
  • Aunt Alexandra and Atticus have fundamentally different attitudes to child rearing and servant supervision, Aunt Alexandra displaying prejudiced behavior and applying strict rules of conduct.
  • When she expresses sympathy for Atticus at Tom's death, detaching herself from the Missionarys, Scout is suddenly able to appreciate the dignity of her behavior.
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Miss Maudie Atkinson

  • As Scout and Jem's neighbour who is always working on her garden, Miss Maudie is a source of information and company for the children. As with Calpurnia, the reader feels positive towards this character because Scout and Atticus like and value her. Her major role in the plot seems to be to reinforce Atticus's philosophy, and to be a consistent and reassuring role model for the children when Atticus is busy elsewhere.
  • Miss Maudie may be a mouthpiece for Harper Lee's views, as at certain times are Atticus and Scout. For instance, Miss Maudie shows her disapproval of 'foot-washers' who 'think women are a sin by definition' (Chapter 5, p51). She despises prejudice of any kind. This is shown by Scout's first description of her - she 'loved everything that grew in God's earth' (Chapter 5, p48) with the exception of nut grass, which is hugely symbolic of prejudice that can sweep through a society.
  • She is an especially important female role model for Scout.
  • After major stressful events in the novel, Miss Maudie is always there for the children to provide sensible human philosophy.
  • When her house burns down her reaction - doesn't care too much - has a big impact upon the children.
  • She disapproves of neighbourhood gossip. And dislikes how the town comes out to watch 'a poor devil on trial for his life' (Chapter 16, p165), and silences Mrs Merriweather over her hypocrisy at Aunt Alexandra's tea party.
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The Ewells

  • They are a poor, ill-educated family, who represent the prejudice element of the community. The comments about Burris Ewell at school help to build an impression of a dysfunctional and uncared for family, and Mayella Ewell accused Tom of ****.
  • Mayella has no mother and has to help in bringing up a large family. She is shown to be lonely and neglected. This lack of love, warmth and human contact leads Mayella to grab Tom, as she wants to be kissed by a man. She is a pathetic figure at the trial.
  • Robert Ewell, the father, has his major scene at the trial, where he is rude, bigoted and foul mouthed. There is a strong indication that he abused Mayella and that it was he who beat her up. His vicious acts of revenge against Tom, Atticus and Judge Taylor are the driving force of the final chapters.
  • Through Robert 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 been removed. Mayella's flowers at the Ewell residence can now begin to flourish.
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The Cunninghams

  • The Cunningham family is also poor, but, in contrast to the Ewells who are from the city, they are country folk, whose pride is evident from the outset, when Walter refuses to accept something he cannot repay on his first day of school. Mr Cunningham also shows the family trait by paying Atticus for his law work in ways other than money. He shows a basic goodness by dispersing the racist mob once his eyes are 'opened' by Scout.
  • A different member of the family, one of the juror, has great difficulty finding Tom guilty. Harper Lee is showing that if groups of people like these can, if only for a moment, stand in other peoples shoe's and see their viewpoint, then there has to be some hope for the future.
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Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose

  • Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose is another Finch neighbour who is known as the 'meanest old woman who ever lived' (Chapter 4, p41). She is an important character as Jem has to read to her after he beheads her camellia bushes, and when she dies the children learn that she was struggling to combat a morphine addiction. Atticus uses this episode to teach them a lesson on courage as he tells the children that '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' (Chapter 11, p118), this is because both Scout and Jem seem in awe of their father after he shoots the mad dog.
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