To Kill a Mockingbird

Background on setting:

  • Took place during the Great Depression - there were very few jobs, most people were unemployed, paying for luxury items was out of the question. People had trouble buying necessities like food and clothing
  • Racism was inherent to Southern society - it was practiced and taught without thought
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt was speaking to the public on the radio through his "Fireside Chats" to assure the country that the Depression will end and things will be okay

State of Society when the novel was published (1960):

  • The Civil Rights movement was in full swing -- protests, sit-ins, marches, etc.
TKAM Character Chart 2018-2019

Spark Notes

  • Scout Finch is telling the story of her childhood growing up in Maycomb, Alabama. In the story, she is six years old. She has an older brother Jem and they live with their father Atticus. Scout is a thoughtful child, she questions traditions that seem unfair and is comfortable speaking her mind to authority figures.
  • The novel takes place in the 1930's, during the Great Depression and a time when segregation and racism was commonplace.
  • Scout and Jem play with their friend Dill, who visits in the summers. Dill dares Jem to run up and touch the Radley house--there are many rumors about Boo Radley stabbing his father and speculation about the Radley family in general because they are seen as outsiders.


  • Dill returns to Mississippi
  • Scout starts the first grade; her teacher, Miss Caroline, embarrasses Walter Cunningham and is annoyed that Scout can read, write, and is willing to stand up to the teacher and speak out.
  • Scout beat up Walter Cunningham for getting her in trouble with Miss Caroline.
  • Walter Cunningham joins Scout and Jem for lunch; Scout criticizes how much syrup Walter uses and Calpurnia yells at her.
  • Miss Caroline asks Burris Ewel why he attends only one day of school per year.
  • Scout doesn't want to return to school but Atticus reminds her that she needs to consider things from Miss Caroline's view.
  • Scout sees something shiny in the knot of a tree on the Radley property on her way home from school. She investigates and finds gum -- Jem disapproved of Scout going onto the Radley property. On the last day of school, Scout and Jem find coins in the tree.
  • Atticus catches Scout, Jem, and Dill re-enacting the Radley drama.
  • Scout feels left out from the boys so she starts spending time with Miss Maudie, a neighbor. Miss Maudie describes Boo as a child, he was kind, sweet, and good.
  • Scout demands to be included, and she finds out Jem and Dill are planning to leave a note for Boo Radley asking him to come out. Atticus finds out and tells the kids to stop. Jem is upset that Atticus calls the kids out about making fun of the Radleys and Jem reacts by saying he doesn't want to become a lawyer anymore, to hurt Atticus's feelings.
  • Scout, Jem, and Dill decide to look into the Radley house. They sneak onto the property but Mr. Radley hears them and shoots a gun. While running to safety, Jem's pants got stuck and torn on the Radley fence.
  • Jem and Scout walk home together this year, they keep finding things in the knot of the Radley's tree: gray twine, soap dolls, a pack of chewing gum, a spelling medal, a pocket watch with an aluminum knife
  • Scout and Jem wrote a thank you card but when they went to put it in the tree, Mr. Radley had filled the knot with cement.
  • It snowed that winter & Miss Maudie's house burned down . While watching the fire burn, Boo Radly puts a blanket around Scout's shoulders without her noticing.