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To Kill a Mockingbird Notes on Characters

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To Kill a Mockingbird Major Characters

Scout Finch: Originally named Jean Louise Finch, Scout is the narrator. In the story she is looking back as an adult to the two years of her life when she learned about courage and kindness and the importance of doing what is right. She learned from her father and her neighbors that doing what is right isn’t always rewarded, but it’s the right thing to do and that protecting innocence is a large part of that.

Jem Finch: Scout’s older brother, Jem is Scout’s primary source of knowledge, and he takes responsibility for her in most instances. As Jem grows older, he finds it difficult to deal with the hypocrisy and cruelty of people, but Atticus helps him work through some of that disappointment.

Atticus Finch: Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus is a lawyer in Maycomb County. When he undertakes to defend Tom Robinson, accused of rape, he unknowingly puts his children in danger. Atticus is a God-like father who teaches his children to be respectful and honest. He is ethical and fair in his work and his home, and his children respect him very much. He teaches them about courage and kindness through his own example and he is a well-respected member of the Maycomb community.

Dill Harris: Charles Baker Harris (Dill) is the little boy who spends the summers with his aunt next door to the Finch family. Dill is Scout and Jem’s dearest friend and they spend the summers playing and trying to find ways to make Boo Radley come out. Dill asked Scout to marry him during his second Maycomb summer, and he returns to endure with them the most difficult summer of their lives -- the summer Tom Robinson’s case goes to court. While they watch the trial, Dill gets upset about the way the prosecuting attorney treats Tom while he’s on the stand. Dill can’t understand why anyone would want to be so cruel to another human being.

Calpurnia: The colored woman who cooks for the Finch family, Calpurnia is the surrogate mother in the family because Scout’s mother died when Scout was only two. She and Scout have a love-hate relationship that eases when Scout finally starts school. Calpurnia is the source of many arguments between Atticus and his sister, Alexandra, because Alexandra wants Atticus to let Cal go, but Atticus insists that she is part of the family and so she remains.

Boo Radley: Boo Radley (Arthur) is the object of fascination for Jem, Scout, and Dill. He is a recluse who has remained in the house down the street from the Finch house for years. When he was younger he got into some trouble when he became involved with a group of rowdy kids from Old Sarum. One night they resisted arrest by Maycomb County’s beadle and locked him in the courthouse outhouse. After that, Arthur’s father, Mr. Radley, took him home and he wasn’t seen again for fifteen years. But it was said that one day Boo Radley stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors while cutting newspaper clippings for his scrapbook. For this he was locked in the courthouse basement for many years before he came home again. From these stories learned from gossiping neighbors, Jem, Scout, and Dill made ghost stories of Boo Radley, and the other children in town were afraid of him as well. They said that he only came out at night to eat cats and squirrels, and he was the local spook. Boo, however, begins to win Scout and Jem over by leaving gifts for them in the knothole of an oak tree until his brother, Nathan, cements the knothole. Boo even covers Scout with a blanket on a cold night she and Jem spent in front of the Radley house while Miss Maudie’s house burned down. Boo was so quiet that Scout never even realized he’d covered her shoulders with the blanket until after the fact. After all the children’s attempts to drag Boo Radley from his house, he ends up saving them from Bob Ewell.

Bob Ewell: Father of the bunch of Ewells who only attend school on the first day so the truancy lady will leave them alone. He is an alcoholic who poaches game to feed his family because he spends whatever money they have on booze. He accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter and has him thrown in jail, and although the whole town knows the Ewells are not to be trusted, Tom Robinson is convicted because he’s black.

Tom Robinson: Tom is a respectable, humble, kind Negro whom Atticus is defending against the charge that he raped Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell. Atticus knows he will lose because Tom is black, but he also knows that Tom is innocent and that he must defend him. Tom was only trying to help Mayella because no one else would, but she made advances that he refused and her father saw them. She claimed that Tom raped her and beat her, but there was no way he could have done it. All of her bruises were on the right side of her face, but Tom’s left hand was a withered and useless appendage he’d caught in a cotton gin as a child. Tom was sent to a work prison after his conviction and Atticus was expecting a new trial soon, but Tom was shot trying to escape the prison before Atticus could get him out of jail.

Minor Characters

Miss Caroline: Miss Caroline is Scout’s young first-grade teacher who gets on Scout’s bad side by telling her that she can’t read with Atticus anymore because he doesn’t know how to teach. She also whips Scout on the first day of school because she misunderstands when Scout tells her that Walter Cunningham is poor and that’s why he doesn’t have a lunch. Miss Caroline had a trying day that day because not only was Scout unintentionally causing her problems, but she also had a run-in with Burris Ewell who cursed her and made her cry before he left the school that afternoon.

Walter Cunningham: Walter is the son of a local farmer whom Atticus helped with a legal problem regarding his land. The Cunninghams are a poor family who pays their debts with the yield of their crops. Scout gets in trouble for explaining that Walter won’t borrow any money for lunch from Miss Caroline because he can’t pay her back. After Jem rescues Walter from Scout’s abuse on the playground later that day, Walter goes home with them for lunch and gets Scout into trouble again because she questions him when he pours molasses all over his lunch.

Burris Ewell: Burris Ewell makes his appearance on Scout’s first day of school. Miss Caroline notices a ‘cootie’ crawling in his hair, and when she sends the filthy child home to bathe and wash his hair, he curses her and tells her that he’s done his time by coming to the first day of school. He has been to the first day of first grade for three years, and he never shows up again after that. All of the Ewell kids do this. He challenges Miss Caroline to make him stay and then reduces her to tears with all sorts of horrible insults when she sends him away. He comes from the wretched Ewell family of Maycomb County, which everyone leaves to their own filth and rancor.

Miss Stephanie Crawford: Miss Stephanie lives in the same neighborhood as the Finch family. She is a gossip and a busybody tattletale. Miss Stephanie is one of the main sources for stories about Boo Radley.

Miss Maudie Atkinson: Miss Maudie is a neighbor who allowed Jem and Scout free reign of her yard as long as they stayed out of the flowers she worked so hard to maintain. She was always out in her yard working during the daytime and looking like an elegant lady on her front porch in the evenings. She had grown up with Atticus and his brother, Jack, and she and Scout became close one summer when Jem and Dill often excluded Scout from their games. Miss Maudie’s house burns down on the coldest night anyone can remember, and that’s when Boo Radley sneaks up behind Scout and covers her with a blanket without her even knowing he is there.

Nathan Radley: Nathan Radley is Boo’s older brother who moved back to Maycomb County from Pensacola when his father died.

Mr. Radley: Mr. Radley was Boo and Nathan’s father, a very religious, strict man who walked to town and back home once a day and never spoke to anyone when they greeted him. He died when Jem and Scout were a few years younger, but Boo didn’t even come out of the house then.

Mrs. Radley: Mrs. Radley is Boo and Nathan’s mother, and her only visible function in the family is to come out onto the porch and sweep occasionally. Mrs. Radley dies just before the cold snap when Miss Maudie’s house burns down.

Mr. Avery: Mr. Avery is a fat neighbor who tells Jem and Scout that the weather only changes because of bad children like them. So when it snows just a little, Jem (with Scout’s help) constructs a snowman that looks just like Mr. Avery.

Aunt Alexandra: Alexandra is Atticus’ sister who lives with her husband at Finch Landing, the old homestead. She is constantly nagging Atticus about how he raises Scout because she’s a tomboy.

Uncle Jack: Jack is Atticus’ younger brother who is a doctor in Boston. He comes to stay with Atticus, Jem, and Scout for a week every Christmas, and the kids love him. It is he who takes Scout aside when she’s going through her cussing phase and convinces her to quit because he doesn’t like to hear such words.

Miss Rachel: Miss Rachel lives next door to the Finch family, and her nephew, Dill, comes to stay with her every summer and becomes close friends with the Finch kids.

Simon Finch: Simon was the first Finch in the United States. He sailed across the Atlantic from his Cornwall home because of persecution against the Methodist church, and he ended up in Alabama making money as an apothecary. He built the family homestead known as Finch’s Landing and began the Finch family line. He lived to an old age and died wealthy.

Francis Hancock: Francis is Scout and Jem’s cousin. They see Francis at Christmas when they go visit their Aunt Alexandra at Finch’s Landing, but they don’t really like him very much. The Christmas after Atticus took on the Tom Robinson case, Scout beat Francis up for saying mean things about Atticus, and her Uncle Jack whipped her for it before he heard her side of things.

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose: Mrs. Dubose is a sickly old neighbor two houses down from the Finches. She is a crotchety old woman who yells mean things at Scout and Jem about how they’ll amount to nothing when they grow up. Jem takes her abuse until she says something mean about Atticus, and that finally gets to him. That afternoon on his way back from town Jem takes Scout’s new baton and breaks off all the blossoms of Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bush. Atticus sends him down to apologize to her and she insists that Jem read to her for two hours every afternoon for a month. He does it and hates every minute of it. Not long after his sentence ends, Mrs. Dubose dies and leaves Jem a perfect camellia blossom. Atticus explains that she was a morphine addict, and she died after freeing herself from her addiction. Atticus considers her one of the bravest people he knows and he wanted Jem to see that about her.

Mr. Link Deas: Mr. Link Deas owns the cotton fields that Tom Robinson worked in. He stood up in court after Atticus questioned Tom, and insisted that Tom was a good man who’d worked for him for eight years and never caused any trouble. His outburst, although meant to help Tom, got Mr. Deas thrown out of the courtroom, and his words were stricken from the record.

Reverend Sykes: Reverend Sykes is the preacher at Calpurnia’s church who goes out of his way to be kind to Scout and Jem. He makes them feel welcome when they accompany Cal to church. At the courthouse, he takes them up to the balcony where the colored people are sitting because all the seats on the first floor are taken.

Heck Tate: Heck is the Maycomb County sheriff who hands over his gun to Atticus when confronted with a rabid dog. He’s also one of the men in the group who comes to talk to Atticus about the danger of having Tom Robinson locked up in the Maycomb County jail. He didn’t want to be responsible if Tom got lynched.

Mr. Underwood: Mr. Underwood is the editor, writer, and printer for The Maycomb Tribune. Although he is a bigot, he hides in his office next to the jailhouse to protect Atticus and Tom Robinson from the Old Sarum mob that tries to take Tom from the jail to lynch him.

Mr. Cunningham: Mr. Cunningham was one of the men from Old Sarum who came to lynch Tom Robinson but was unsuccessful because of Scout, Jem, and Dill’s interruption. He was also one of Atticus’ clients when he needed legal help with a land problem. Scout and Jem had taken his son, Walter, home from school to have lunch with them on their first day of school. When Scout recognized him and began to talk to him on a personal level, he was convinced to lead the Old Sarum mob back home without hurting anyone.

Mayella Ewell: The girl Tom Robinson is accused of raping.

Judge Taylor: Judge Taylor is the Maycomb County judge who presided over the Tom Robinson trial. He is an informal man who runs his court with ease.

Mr. Gilmer: Mr. Gilmer is the solicitor from Abbottsville who comes to town when court is in session. He is the prosecutor in the case against Tom Robinson, and he and Atticus are friends. The way that he questions Tom Robinson in his cross-examination upsets Dill because Dill thinks he’s being mean to him. Scout thinks that Mr. Gilmer wasn’t really trying very hard in this case because she’d seen him be a lot rougher on other defendants, but it still bothered Dill nonetheless.

Mr. Dolphus Raymond: Mr. Raymond is understood to be a chronic alcoholic. He comes through town bobbing and weaving and drinks from a brown paper bag. He is wealthy, owns one whole side of the riverbank and is from an old family, but lives by himself with his colored woman and their mixed children. When Scout and Dill leave the courtroom because Dill is so upset, they meet Mr. Raymond and discover that he doesn’t drink whiskey from a paper sack -- it’s Coke. He does it so that people will believe that alcoholism is why he lives the way he does rather than face the fact that he lives with colored people because he wants to.

Mrs. Merriweather: A pious old church member who attends one of Alexandra’s missionary teas and proceeds to humiliate Alexandra by going on and on about people who do things thinking they’re right when really they’re just stirring up trouble in relation to Atticus defending Tom Robinson in court. Miss Maudie, the Finch’s neighbor and long-time friend, summarily hushes Mrs. Merriweather.

Cecil Jacobs: Cecil Jacobs is Scout’s classmate who scares her and Jem as they’re walking to the high school pageant on Halloween. On their way home, Scout and Jem believe that Cecil is following them again in an attempt to repeat his prank, but it’s really Bob Ewell preparing to kill them to get revenge against Atticus for making him look like an idiot and a liar in court.

Miss Gates: Miss Gates was the teacher Scout discovered to be a hypocrite. Miss Gates preached to her class the evilness of Hitler’s prejudice but didn’t realize the same error in her own heart. Scout remembered that after the trial she’d overheard Miss Gates talking about how right the jury was to put black people back into their place because they’d been getting too high and mighty lately.

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