Essential Questions:
  1. How does To Kill A Mockingbird frame issues of courage and cowardice against the backdrop of the American South in the 1930s?
  2. How can citizens, particularly ourselves, break through barriers of prejudice to promote tolerance?
  3. What makes a good work of historical fiction?
  4. Why is Harper Lee's theme of social injustice still relevant today and, in particular, in your community?
  5. What does it mean to be an individual in society? Does society force its citizens to take unpopular, but moral, stances in order to promote change?
  6. What does it mean to "come of age"?

This website will help you with vocabulary, idioms, and provide a better understanding of the novel.


Chapter 1
• What do you learn in this chapter about Maycomb, Atticus Finch and his family?
• What do you learn about Dill's character?
• What, briefly, has happened to Arthur “Boo” Radley.
• Why does the Radley place fascinate Scout, Jem and Dill?
• What do you notice about the narrative voice and viewpoint in the novel?
Chapter 2
• Why is Scout so looking forward to starting school?
• Why does Jem not want anything to do with Scout at school? Is his behaviour typical of an older
• What do you think of Miss Caroline Fisher as a teacher? Can you find qualities which would make
her good or not so good at her job?
Chapter 3
• Who is Calpurnia? What is her place in the Finch household?
• What is Walter Cunningham like? What does his behaviour during lunch suggest about his home
• What do you think of the way Atticus treats Walter?
• Does Scout learn anything from Walter's visit? What do you think this is?
• Atticus says that you never really understand a person “until you climb into his skin and walk
around in it”. What does this mean? Is it an easy thing for Scout to learn? (In the last chapter of
the novel, Scout repeats this, but she changes “skin” to “shoes” - this is probably not a mistake:
Harper Lee suggests that Scout cannot clearly recall exactly what Atticus said and when, but the
reader can check this!)
• What do you learn in this chapter about the Ewells?
Chapter 4
• What does Scout think of current fashions in education?
• What superstitions do the children have in connection with the Radley house?
• Why do the children make Boo's story into a game?
• What do they do in this game? Do you think the game is an accurate version of what happens in
the Radleys' home?
• What might be the cause of the laughter from inside the house?

Chapter 5
• Describe Miss Maudie Atkinson? How typical is she of Maycomb's women? What do the children
think of her?
• What does Miss Maudie tell Scout about Boo? How does this compare with what Scout already
• Scout claims that “Dill could tell the biggest ones ” (lies) she ever heard. Why might Dill have told
such lies?
• What reasons does Atticus give for the children not to play the Boo Radley game? Do you think
he is right? Why?
Chapter 6
• Why does Scout disapprove of Jem's and Dill's plan of looking in at one of the Radleys' windows?
• What does Mr. Nathan Radley know about the intruders in his garden? Why does Miss Stephanie
refer to a “negro” over whose head Mr. Nathan has fired?
• Why does Dill's explanation of Jem's state of dress almost land him in trouble?
Chapter 7
• When Jem tells Scout about getting his trousers back, he tells her of something strange. What is
• Can you find any evidence that Jem is beginning to understand more than Scout about Boo
Radley? What do you think this is?
• Does Jem still fear the gifts in the tree? Give reasons for your answer.
• When the children plan to send a letter to the person who leaves the gifts, they are prevented.
How does this happen? Who does it, and why might he do so?
Chapter 8
• Why does Scout quiz Atticus about his visit to the Radley house? How much does Atticus tell
• What is the “near libel” which Jem puts in the front yard? How do Miss Maudie and Atticus react
to it?
• Why does Atticus save Miss Maudie's oak rocking chair?
• When Atticus asks Scout about the blanket around her shoulders, what does Jem realize?
• Explain what Atticus means by telling Jem not to let his discovery “inspire ” him to “further glory”?
Is there any reason why Jem might now do as his father says?
Chapter 9
• How well does Atticus feel he should defend Tom Robinson? Is it usual for (white) lawyers to do
their best for black clients in Alabama at this time?
• Scout and Jem have “mixed feelings” about Christmas? What are these feelings and why?
• Uncle Jack Finch tells Scout that she is growing out of her pants. What does this mean and why
might he say it?
• When Francis talks to Scout he reveals an unpleasant feature of Aunt Alexandra. What is this?
• Does Scout learn anything from overhearing Atticus's conversation with Uncle Jack? What might
this be?
• Read the final sentence of this chapter. Explain in your own words what it means and why it might
be important in the story.

Chapter 10
• Scout says that “Atticus was feeble”. Do you think that this is her view as she tells the story or her
view when she was younger? Does she still think this after the events recorded in this chapter?
• In this chapter Atticus tells his children that “it's a sin to kill a mockingbird”. What reason does he
give for saying this?
• Why does Heck Tate not want to shoot Tim Johnson?
• Near the end of this chapter Atticus cuts off Heck Tate as he is speaking to Jem. What might
Heck have been about to say, and why would Atticus want to stop him from saying it?
• Jem and Scout have different views about telling people at school how well Atticus can shoot.
Explain this difference. Which view is closer to your own?
Chapter 11
• How does Atticus advise Jem to react to Mrs. Dubose's taunts?
• What does Mrs. Dubose say about the children's mother? How does Jem feel about this?
• What request does Mrs. Dubose make of Jem? Is this a fair punishment for his “crime”?
• Explain in your own words what Atticus thinks of insults like “nigger-lover”. How far do you agree
with him?
• Why, in Atticus's view, was Mrs. Dubose “a great lady”?
• Atticus says that Mrs. Dubose is a model of real courage rather than “a man with a gun in his
hand”. What does he mean? Do you think he is right?
• Chapters ten and eleven are the last two chapters in the first part of the book. Explain why Harper
Lee chooses to end the first part here.
Chapter 12
• Comment on Jem's and Scout's visit to First Purchase church.
• What new things does Scout learn here about how the black people live?
• What does Scout learn from Calpurnia's account of Zeebo's education?
• Explain why Calpurnia speaks differently in the Finch household, and among her neighbours at
Chapter 13
• Why does Aunt Alexandra come to stay with Atticus and his family? What is she like?
• Read the first two things Alexandra says when she comes to the Finch house. Are these typical of
her or not?
• Alexandra thinks Scout is “dull” (not clever). Why does she think this, and is she right? Are all
adults good at knowing how clever young people are?
• How does Aunt Alexandra involve herself in Maycomb's social life?
• Comment on Aunt Alexandra's ideas about breeding and family. Why does Atticus tell them to
forget it? Who is right, do you think?

Chapter 14
• Comment on Atticus's explanation of rape. How suitable is this as an answer to Scout.
• Why does Alexandra think Atticus should dismiss Calpurnia? How does Atticus respond to the
• Why is Scout pleased when Jem fights her back? Why is she less pleased when he tells Atticus
about Dill?
• What do we learn from Dill's account of his running away?
Chapter 15
• What is the “nightmare” that now descends upon the children?
• What was (and is) the Ku Klux Klan? What do you think of Atticus’s comment about it?
• How does Jem react when Atticus tells him to go home, and why?
• What persuades the lynching-party to give up their attempt on Tom's life?
• Comment on the way Scout affects events without realizing it at the time.
Chapter 16
• What “subtle change” does Scout notice in her father?
• What sort of person is Dolphus Raymond?
• How does Reverend Sykes help the children see and hear the trial? Is he right to do?
• Comment on Judge Taylor's attitude to his job. Does he take the trial seriously or not?
Chapter 17
• What are the main points in Heck Tate's evidence? What does Atticus show in his crossexamination
of Sheriff Tate?
• What do we learn indirectly of the home life of the Ewell family in this chapter?
• What do you learn from Bob Ewell's evidence?
• Why does Atticus ask Bob Ewell to write out his name? What does the jury see when he does
Chapter 18
• Is Mayella like her father or different from him? In what ways?
• What might be the reason for Mayella's crying in the court?
• How does Mayella react to Atticus's politeness? Is she used to people being polite?
• How well does Mr. Gilmer prove Tom's guilt in the eyes of the reader (you) and in the eyes of the
jury? Can you suggest why these might be different?

Chapter 19
• What made Tom visit the Ewell's house in the first place?
• Why does Scout think that Mayella Ewell was “the loneliest person in the world”?
• In your own words explain Mayella's relationship with her father.
• How does Dill react to this part of the trial? Why is this, in your opinion?

Chapter 20
• Scout says that “Mr. Dolphus Raymond was an evil man”. Is she right?
• In most states of the USA people who drink alcohol in public places are required to hide their
bottle in a paper bag. Why does Dolphus Raymond hide Coca-Cola in a bag?
• What, according to Atticus, is the thing that Mayella has done wrong?
• Explain, in your own words, Atticus's views on people's being equal.
Chapter 21
• What does Jem expect the verdict to be? Does Atticus think the same?
• What is unusual about how long it takes the jury to reach a verdict? Is the verdict predictable or
• As Scout waits for the verdict, she thinks of earlier events. What are these and how do they
remind us of the novel's central themes?
Chapter 22
• Although Atticus did not want his children in court, he defends Jem's right to know what has
happened. Explain, in your own words, Atticus's reasons for this. (Look at the speech beginning,
“This is their home, sister”.
• Miss Maudie tells Jem that “things are never as bad as they seem”. What reasons does she give
for this view?
• Why does Dill say that he will be a clown when he grows up? Do you think he would keep this
ambition for long?
• This story is set in the 1930s but was published in 1960. Have attitudes to racism remained the
same (in the USA and the UK) or have there been any changes (for the better or worse) since
then, in your view?
• Why does Bob Ewell feel so angry with Atticus? Do you think his threat is a real one, and how
might he try to “get” Atticus?
Chapter 23
• What do you think of Atticus's reaction to Bob Ewell's challenge? Should he have ignored Bob,
retaliated or done something else?
• What is “circumstantial evidence”? What has it got to do with Tom's conviction?
• What does Atticus tell Scout about why the jury took so long to convict Tom?
• Why does Aunt Alexandra accept that the Cunninghams may be good but are not “our kind of
folks”? Do you think that people should mix only with others of the same social class? Are classdivisions
good or bad for societies?
• At the end of this chapter, Jem forms a new theory about why Boo Radley has never left his
house in years. What is this? How likely is it to be true, in your opinion?

Chapter 24
• Do you think the missionary ladies are sincere in worrying about the “Mrunas” (a tribe in Africa)?
Give reasons for your answer.
• Compare the reactions of Miss Maudie and the other ladies when Scout says she is wearing her
“britches” under her dress.
• What is your opinion of the Maycomb ladies, as depicted in this chapter?
• Explain briefly how Tom was killed. What is Atticus's explanation for Tom's attempted escape. Do
you think agree with Atticus?
• How, in this chapter, do we see Aunt Alexandra in a new light? How does Miss Maudie support
Chapter 25
• How does Maycomb react to the news of Tom's death?
• Comment on the idea that Tom's death was “typical”?
• Explain the contrast Scout draws between the court where Tom was tried and “the secret courts
of men's hearts”. In what way are hearts like courts?
• Why did Jem not want Scout to tell Atticus about Bob Ewell's comment? Was this a wise thing to
ask her to do?
Chapter 26
• In her lesson on Hitler, Miss Gates says that “we (American people) don't believe in persecuting
anyone”. What seems odd to the reader about this claim?
• Why is Scout puzzled by Miss Gates' disapproval of Hitler?
• Why does Scout's question upset Jem? Is there a simple answer, or any answer, to the question
(“How can you hate Hitler an’ then turn around an be ugly about folks right at home?”
Chapter 27
• What three things does Bob Ewell do that alarm Aunt Alexandra?
• Why, according to Atticus, does Bob Ewell bear a grudge? Which people does Ewell see as his
enemies, and why?
• What was the purpose of the Halloween pageant? What practical joke had persuaded the grown
ups to have an organized event?

Chapter 28
• Comment on the way this chapter reminds the reader of earlier events in the novel.
• Why does Jem say that Boo Radley must not be at home? What is ironic about this? (Is it true?
Does he really mean it? Why might it be important for him and Scout that Boo should not be at
• Scout decides to keep her costume on while walking home. How does this affect her
understanding of what happens on the way?
• Why had Atticus not brought a chair for the man in the corner? Who might this stranger be?

Chapter 29
• What causes the “shiny clean line” on the otherwise “dull wire” of Scout's costume?
• What explanation does Atticus give for Bob Ewell's attack?
• What does Heck Tate give as the reason for the attack?
• Do you think the sheriff's explanation or Atticus's is the more likely to be true?

Chapter 30
• Who does Atticus think caused Bob Ewell's death?
• Why does Heck Tate insist that Bob Ewell's death was self-inflicted? In what way is this partly
• Is Heck Tate right to spare Boo then publicity of an inquest? Give reasons for your answer.
• How does the writer handle the appearance, at the end of the story, of Boo Radley?

Chapter 31
• How do the events of the final chapters explain the first sentence in the whole novel?
• Comment on the way the writer summarizes earlier events to show their siginificance.
• How does Scout make sense of an earlier remark of Atticus's as she stands on the Radley
• How much of a surprise is it fo find what Boo Radley is really like? Has the story before this point
prepared the reader for this discovery?
• At the end of the novel, Atticus reads to Scout. Comment on his choice of story. Does it have any
connection with themes earlier in the novel and in its ending?

The activities listed below are intended to help you develop a good understanding of the novel. They are
related to one or more chapters, as shown.
Chapters 1 and 2
In small groups or pairs, talk about your first day at primary or infant school. You could record this talk or
use it as a starting point for a written account.
Chapters 3 and 4
Make a list of all the superstitions you remember from when you were young. Ask your friends and
relatives to tell you the superstitions they used to believe. You could also explore superstitions in other
books you have read (such as Tom Sawyer). You could talk or write about these.
Chapter 5
Speak or write about a dare that went wrong. You should base this on a true account, though you may
wish to change some details to make it more interesting.
Chapter 6
Write out, as a script for a play, the conversation in which Mr. Nathan Radley tells his neighbours about
his shooting at the intruder in his garden. Decide who says what, and try to give them speeches which are
in character. Miss Stephanie Crawford, Miss Maudie Atkinson and Atticus should speak some lines. You
may wish to include lines for Miss Rachel and Mr. Avery, also.
Chapters 7 and 8
Make a story (written or scripted for speaking) out of your recollection of any minor disaster (like a fire, or
a flood, or some other domestic accident). Try to tell the story from a child's viewpoint. You may wish to
alter things or exaggerate for dramatic or comic effects.
Chapter 9
Defending Tom Robinson. Atticus says, “We were licked a hundred years before we started” Imagine that
you are a young lawyer helping Atticus prepare his case. Make notes (a series of bullet points) of things
that will help you defend Tom, and of things that the prosecution will use to try and convict him.
Chapters 10 and 11
Models of bravery. Atticus tries to explain what he thinks real bravery is. Think of real world examples -
perhaps famous people or maybe someone less well-known - and explain why you think they are brave.
This is best done as a spoken presentation to a group. You can follow it up with discussion.

Chapter 12
Mixing with strangers. Speak or write about your experiences of meeting people whose way of life was
different from your own - perhaps people from another country, or ethnic group, or people whose first
language is not ther same as yours.

Chapters 13 to 16
Here we see how Atticus tries to protect his children from the ugly realities of adult life. Atticus did not
want his children to be in court, but they manage to see most of the trial. Do you think that it was good or
bad for them to be there? Discuss whether you think it right for young people to be able to witness
criminal trials. (You can choose the age range for the discussion.) You could do this as a formal debate -
whether young people at a given age should be allowed to attend criminal trials. You will need some
speakers to propose and oppose the motion, and someone to chair the debate.

Chapters 16 to 21
Using the account of the trial in these chapters, make one or more new texts by adapting the original.
Here are some suggestions:
• Write an account of the events of a chosen day, or a summary of the trial after the verdict for a
local or regional newspaper, such as the Maycomb Tribune, the Montgomery Advertiser or the
Mobile Register. (All these newspapers are named in the text. While Maycomb is a small
[fictitious] town, Montgomery is the state capital of Alabama and Mobile is another large city in the
same state.)
• Script and present a short item on any part of the trial for a news broadcast on an Alabama radio
• Write a scene for a play (stage or TV) or cinema screenplay of some part of the trial. You may
wish to edit the original text to make your version shorter.
• Prepare a list of bullet points for Atticus to use in presenting his appeal against Tom's conviction.
• Write one or more monologues, showing how various people experienced or witnessed the trial.
These could be participants or observers. You may wish to choose some of the following: Judge
Taylor, Mayella Ewell, Calpurnia, Helen Robinson, Mr. Gilmer, Heck Tate, Dill. Decide how open
and truthful you want to be.

Chapters 22 to 25
Mr. Underwood's editorial. We are given quite a lot of information about Mr. Underwood's editorial in the
Maycomb Tribune, following Tom's death. For example, that he “likened it to the senseless slaughter of
songbirds by hunters and children”. An editorial is a section in a newspaper which does not give news,
but comments on it and interprets it. Using all the clues you can find, try to write the editorial as you think
Mr. Underwood might have done.

Chapters 26 to 31
The secret diary of Arthur Radley. At the end of the novel we realize that Arthur (Boo) Radley has never
stopped watching the children, and that he has foreseen the danger from Bob Ewell, which Atticus has
not taken seriously. Imagine that Arthur keeps a diary, in which he writes about what he has seen and
how he makes sure that the chidren are safe. We do not know what style Arthur would use, so you must
choose one you think appropriate to what we know of him. Write a series of entries for such a diary, to
cover the main events of the final chapters of the novel.