To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter Summaries Part 1 Chapters 1-4

Summaries, some quotations and comments with regards to Part 1 and the first four chapters. More to follow.

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  • Created on: 18-04-13 23:11

Chapter 1 General Introduction & Boo the Bogeyman

First person narrative from the POV (point of view) of Jean Louise Finch (Scout).

Historical context drawing upon General Andrew Jackson and Battle of Hastings (shows the importance of lineage and ancestory in relation to social standing of the Deep South).

Introduction to the Finch family.

First hear about the Radley Place and its "unknown entity" and meet Charles "I'm little but I'm old" Baker Harris.

"When [Scout]  was almost six and Jem nearly ten, [their] summertime boundaries (within calling distance of Calpurnia) were Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose's house two doors down to the north of us, and the Radley Place three doors to the south." 

"Folks call [him] Dill.. [is] "goin' on seven." (Charles Baker Harris

Thanks to Crazy Addie's mutilation of animals, the bogeyman myth of the Radley Place is established by the children as the story of Boo Radley unfolds.

Dill dares Jem to "make Boo come out".                                      

 MMCH Year 10 Lit Unit 1

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Chapter 2 - Scout Starts School

Dill retruns home to Meridian.

Scout starts school and meets Miss Stephanie Fisher for the first time. She hails from Winston County and, as the class humorously   mutter, there are concerns that she may have "pecularities indigenous to that region" (she may be odd because she comes from there.)     

Dewey Decimal System - this is what librarians use to catlogue the books! Why has Lee made Scout refer to it?

Scout defends Walter Cunnigham by trying to explain Maycomb's ways and how they Cunnigham's have a code of honour.

Miss Stephanie tells Scout (and Atticus) off for having the audacity for being literate. In other words, Atticus should not have taught Scout to read or write at home.

Scout says "I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers." Scouts mediation on her literacy adds a wry humour to the text as we see the glaring fault with Miss Stephanie's thought process and by extension, the theory behind modern teaching methods of the era (juxtapose this with the Dewey Decimal System and you have a scathing critique of a system which treats children as objects rather than individuals of merit and ability).                    MMCH Year 10 Lit Unit 1

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Chapter 3 - Walter Cunningham visits and Miss Step

Having invited Walter Cunningham to lunch in order to placate him after being embarrassed by Miss Stephanie's charitable offer, the trio eat at the Finch's house.

Calpurnia reprimands Scout for her impolite observation regarding Walter's table manners when she asked what the "sam hill" he was doing pouring molasses (syrup) on his roast dinner.

Here we see Scout's limitations as a child, as she says that "[Walter] ain't company, Cal, he's just a Cunningham". However, Scout's narration is not limited as we have the perspective of her father and Calpurnia to enlighten both us as the reader and Scout as a child with regards to polite behaviour when having a guest over in the house.

Miss Stephanie has a fracas with Burris Ewell who brags that he has "been comin' to the first day o' the first grade fer three year now...Reckon if I'm smart this year, they'll promote me to the second..."

The class offers other perspectives on the Ewell family and Little Chuck Little is the gentlemanly defender of Miss Stephanie, who despite his small stature, is more than a match for Ewell "Watch your step, Burris...I'd soon's kill you as look at you."

Scout feigns illness in order to stop going to school and Atticus explains that drawing a comparison between Burris' truancy and her own desire to become a truant would be more than "bending the law" as "the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations."

Scout is of the "common folk" and the Ewells get away with truancy because they are "members of a society made up of Ewells" so the same rules do not apply to them.

"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."  This is Atticus' advice to Scout when trying to fathom others people's actions and motives.

 MMCH Year 10 Lit Unit 1

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Chapter four - Presents in the tree and Hot Steams

Scout dislikes school even more. The "remainder of [her] school days were no more auspicious than the first."

Scout finds the chewing-gum in the knot hole and later on both of the children find the old and polished coins placed there too.

Dill returns to Maycomb two days after school breaks up - it is the summer holidays and they are bored milling around the place telling stories to each other.

One of the stories is a folktale of Maycomb, the Hot Steams, which Jem informs us a person who "can't get to heaven, [and] just wallows around on lonesome roads" and who will kill anyone who walks through the hot-spot. Scout dismisses this as, according to Calpurnia, it is "******-talk".

Scout doesn't realise that she has offended Jem, so when she gets in the tyre, he rolls it a little too forcefully and it spins out of control crashing into the Radley Place.

The children start to play games about the Radleys, re-enacting the Boo's life as they see it and take special delight in the stabbing of Mr Radley, as played by Dill. "We polished and perfected [the game], added dialogue and plot until we manufactured a small play..."

Education versus natural talent and ability:

Again, there is a scathing attack on the education system as the first page of this chapter demonstrates the failure of "what Jem called the Dewey Decimal System [which] was school-wide by the end of [Scout's] first year."

"Jem, educated on half-Decimal half-Dunce-cap basis seemed to function efffectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books."  Lee's irony here allows us to laugh at the superiority of those in authoriy and celebrate Jem's inate abiltiy to devour knowledge; however, the implications that other children will be let down by this system is sobering and worrying.

Scout questions herself and humorously negotiates her way around her talent whilst drawing attention to the inadequacies of the system itself.

 MMCH Year 10 Lit Unit 1

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