To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout and Jem’s father. Atticus is older than most fathers in Maycomb at almost 50 years old, and as a lawyer, Scout and Jem initially believe that Atticus doesn’t do anything of import. Atticus is kind, compassionate, and treats his children like adults to the furthest extent that he can—he asks for both sides of arguments, for instance, and takes their concerns seriously, no matter how odd they may seem. He also insists that it’s necessary to answer children’s questions truthfully, no matter how embarrassing or unsavory the subject. While at home, he spends most of his time reading newspapers, and through this, taught Scout to read at an early age. Atticus has a firm sense of morality and believes in the dignity of all people. He teaches his children to be compassionate and understanding of everyone, from mean old Mrs. Dubose to Calpurnia, the Finches’ black cook. All of this means that Atticus feels compelled to take on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Atticus knows that Robinson will be found guilty regardless, but believes that in order to look his children in the eye and in order to live with himself, he has to do his best to actually defend Robinson to the best of his abilities rather than allowing the trial to proceed unchecked in favor of the white Ewells. The months preceding the trial are trying for the entire Finch family, as Atticus is often harassed by locals for his role. In February, before the summer trial, Atticus reveals that he used to be the best shot in the county when he shoots a rabid dog, an experience that, in Scout’s mind, cements Atticus’s role as the person who does unsavory but necessary things for the community. He ultimately loses the trial, but believes that his closing arguments caused the jury to take a tiny step in the right direction by arguing about their decision for hours. He doesn’t take Mr. Ewell’s threats seriously in the months after, as he believes fully in the goodness and kindness of all people.

Atticus Finch Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird

The To Kill a Mockingbird quotes below are all either spoken by Atticus Finch or refer to Atticus Finch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Warner Books edition of To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Chapter 3 Quotes

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—“

“Sir?”

“—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Miss Caroline
Page Number: 33
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Chapter 9 Quotes

“If you shouldn't be defendin' him, then why are you doin' it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

[…]

"Atticus, are we going to win it?"

“No, honey.”

“Then why—”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

After my bout with Cecil Jacobs when I committed myself to a policy of cowardice, word got around that Scout Finch wouldn't fight any more, her daddy wouldn't let her.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch, Cecil Jacobs
Page Number: 103
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“Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

“Your father's right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Miss Maudie Atkinson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 103
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Chapter 11 Quotes

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

Page Number: 115-16
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“Atticus, you must be wrong…”

“How's that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong…”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 120
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“The one that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker), Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
Page Number: 120
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“It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 14 Quotes

Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. “Atticus,” his voice was distant, “can you come here a minute, sir?”

Beneath its sweat-streaked dirt Dill's face went white. I felt sick.

[...]

Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. “Dill, I had to tell him,” he said. “You can't run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin'.”

We left him without a word.

Page Number: 159-60
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Chapter 22 Quotes

“They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep.”

Page Number: 243
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Chapter 25 Quotes

Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.

Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 275-76
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Chapter 31 Quotes

A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing-pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.

It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's [...] Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.

Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

Summer, and he watched his children's heart break. Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

Page Number: 320-21
Explanation and Analysis:
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“When they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things…Atticus, he was real nice…” His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

Page Number: 322-23
Explanation and Analysis:
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Atticus Finch Character Timeline in To Kill a Mockingbird

The timeline below shows where the character Atticus Finch appears in To Kill a Mockingbird. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...modest plantation called Finch’s Landing and the Finches remained on the land until Scout’s father, Atticus, and his brother left to study law and medicine, respectively. Atticus set up shop in... (full context)
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Scout and Jem love Atticus, but their cook, Calpurnia, is a mystery. Since Scout’s mother died when Scout was two,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...the newspaper. Miss Caroline is upset that Scout can read and tells her to tell Atticus to not teach her anymore. Scout isn’t sure what she did wrong—she can’t remember not... (full context)
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...accept anything if they can’t pay people back. She tells the reader that last year, Atticus helped Mr. Cunningham with his entailment. Then, throughout the winter, Atticus found firewood and foodstuffs... (full context)
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Atticus explained to Scout then that Mr. Cunningham was hit hard by the stock market crash... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...Jem boasts about having touched the Radley house on the way home. At the table, Atticus and Walter discuss farming. Walter asks if there’s any syrup and Calpurnia brings him the... (full context)
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After lunch, Scout tells Atticus that Calpurnia is horrible and asks him to fire her. Atticus stonily refuses, so Scout... (full context)
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...that afternoon, feeling as gloomy as the house. She decides to run away and answers Atticus’s questions about school with one-word answers. Calpurnia is oddly kind to Scout and insists she... (full context)
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Atticus tells her that she should try to climb into other people’s skin and walk around... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...proceeds much like her first day. She can’t help but think she’s missing something, since Atticus was educated at home, not with the Dewey Decimal System, and he’s been elected to... (full context)
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...when Nathan Radley passes or when they catch neighbors watching. One day, they don’t notice Atticus watching. Jem evasively insists that they’re not playing anything. Atticus shrewdly takes the scissors and... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...their game and they stop playing it so much, though Jem does decide that if Atticus tells them to stop playing it, they can just change the characters’ names and it’ll... (full context)
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...is a sin, including her flowers—they take the Bible literally. Scout parrots that according to Atticus, God means loving people like a person loves themself, but Miss Maudie gruffly says that... (full context)
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...whips around expecting to see Boo, but instead she sees Dill ringing the bell at Atticus. Jem trudges out looking extremely guilty. Atticus tells the children to leave Arthur alone and... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Atticus allows Jem and Scout to go sit by Miss Rachel’s fish pool with Dill the... (full context)
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...idea what strip poker is. Miss Rachel shrieks about children gambling on her property and Atticus asks if the children were playing cards. Jem says they were playing with matches, which... (full context)
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...Radley to jump them. Jem whispers that he’s going for his pants when they see Atticus’s light go out. Scout tries to talk him out of it, noting that Atticus will... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Jem says nothing for a week and Scout tries to take Atticus’s advice and put herself in Jem’s skin. She reasons that she’d be dead if she’d... (full context)
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...chewing gum and a tarnished spelling contest medal. Then, they find a pocket watch that Atticus declares would be worth $10 new. Jem assures Atticus that he didn’t swap for it... (full context)
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...explains that the tree is dying, so he filled the hole. That evening, Jem asks Atticus if the tree looks sick and relays what Nathan Radley said. Atticus says the tree... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...over the winter with little fanfare. Jem and Scout suspect that Boo got her, but Atticus insists that she died of natural causes and gives Scout a scathing look when she... (full context)
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Jem wants to know how to make a snowman, but Atticus doesn’t know and cautions his children that there might not be enough snow to do... (full context)
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...he’s satisfied with the shape, he and Scout cover the mud with snow. They call Atticus and he expresses pride when he gets home. He laughs when he realizes it looks... (full context)
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By afternoon, the snow stops, and it freezes. Calpurnia declines Atticus’s offer to stay the night and Scout goes to sleep cold. She wakes up confused... (full context)
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...Maudie’s house collapses. Men leave around dawn and Jem and Scout approach Miss Maudie and Atticus. Atticus leads them home and sternly demands to know where Scout got her blanket. She... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Things began to get difficult for Scout. Atticus forbids Scout from fighting, but Cecil Jacobs makes her forget this when he announces to... (full context)
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With a sigh, Atticus says he’s defending a black man named Tom Robinson, and some believe that he shouldn’t... (full context)
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Uncle Jack arrives on the train with two long packages, pecks Atticus on the cheek, and shows Scout and Jem pictures of his cat. He insists she’s... (full context)
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...extremely boring and a tattletale. He relays everything to Aunt Alexandra, who passes everything onto Atticus. Atticus only ever got sharp with Aunt Alexandra once when she took offense to Scout’s... (full context)
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...children and of not being fair and asks to tell her side. She explains that Atticus always listens to her and to Jem when they fight, and that Jack told her... (full context)
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...gets up for water, she stops in the hallway and listens to Uncle Jack tell Atticus that he’ll never have children after Scout’s dressing down earlier. He doesn’t betray his promise... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...crew doesn’t crush her. Scout finds Jem’s attempts to shoot tin cans boring, so when Atticus gets home, he finds Scout pointing her rifle at Miss Maudie’s backside. He warns Miss... (full context)
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...May to warn everyone on the street that a mad dog is coming and ask Atticus to come home. She runs to the Radley Place to warn Nathan and Boo, but... (full context)
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Atticus and Mr. Heck Tate, the sheriff, arrive in the car. Calpurnia explains that Tim is... (full context)
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Atticus tries to refuse, but he takes the rifle and steps into the street. He pushes... (full context)
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Atticus and Mr. Tate head back to town. Miss Maudie silences Miss Stephanie and tells Jem... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...Scout need to run all the way to the post office—past Mrs. Dubose’s house—to meet Atticus in the evenings. But most nights, Atticus finds Jem enraged by something Mrs. Dubose said.... (full context)
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...insults at the children, terrifying Scout, but Jem keeps his composure until Mrs. Dubose accuses Atticus of defending a black man, insisting that Atticus is no better than the “trash” for... (full context)
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Scout and Jem don’t meet Atticus that evening. When Atticus arrives home with the broken baton and a camellia, Jem confesses,... (full context)
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...isn’t, and that Mrs. Dubose wants him to read to her every day after school. Atticus says that Jem must do this for the whole month that Mrs. Dubose requested. On... (full context)
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That afternoon, Jem tells Atticus that Mrs. Dubose is nasty, drools, and has fits. Atticus reminds him that sick people... (full context)
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A month later, Atticus enters as Jem reads to Mrs. Dubose. With a smile, Mrs. Dubose tells Atticus that... (full context)
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A month or so later, the phone rings and Atticus goes to Mrs. Dubose’s house. He returns much later with a candy box and explains... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...and marry Scout, which is little comfort—for her, Dill is summer. To make matters worse, Atticus leaves for two weeks to attend an emergency legislative session. One morning, Scout and Jem... (full context)
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...the kitchen. Calpurnia asks what to do about church this week. Scout points out that Atticus left collection for them and they haven’t misbehaved in church in years, but Calpurnia invites... (full context)
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Outside, Jem and Scout chat with Reverend Sykes. He mentions that Atticus is very kind and Scout asks why they’re taking collection for Helen. He explains that... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...take her suitcase upstairs. Jem takes it and Aunt Alexandra tells Scout that she and Atticus decided that it’s time for her to stay “for a while.” In Maycomb, this could... (full context)
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...their esteemed Cousin Joshua. Jem asks if it’s the same Cousin Joshua who, according to Atticus, went crazy and tried to shoot the president. Aunt Alexandra is shocked and offended. (full context)
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Before bed, Atticus finds Scout and Jem. He awkwardly tells them that Aunt Alexandra wants them to know... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...the Finch family. Scout hears one that mentions rape and remembers that she never asked Atticus what rape is. She asks him that night and when he tells her, she ends... (full context)
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...Alexandra. This angers Scout, but Jem insists that they need to think about how preoccupied Atticus is with the Tom Robinson case. His superiority angers Scout. When he threatens to spank... (full context)
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...Jem is concerned that Dill’s mother doesn’t know where he is, and he calls for Atticus. Dill goes white. Atticus pleasantly tells Scout to get Dill better food and calms Dill... (full context)
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...parents were too interested, but she begins to wonder how things would be different if Atticus didn’t want her around. Dill suggests that he and Scout buy a baby. Scout asks... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...to stay. After this, things go downhill quickly. One evening, Mr. Tate knocks and asks Atticus to come outside. Scout knows that men only talk outside for death or politics and... (full context)
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Mr. Deas tells Atticus that he has everything to lose and Atticus asks if he really thinks that. He... (full context)
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The next day, Sunday, Atticus spends time in the yard talking with more men, including Mr. Underwood, the owner of... (full context)
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They expect to find Atticus in his office in the Maycomb Bank building, but he’s not there. They wonder if... (full context)
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Atticus asks very calmly if the men think that changes anything. Knowing that this means business,... (full context)
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Scout turns to Atticus, whose face is pressed against the jail wall. Suddenly tired, she asks if they can... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...quietly sneaking into the house and going to bed, Scout realizes what happened. She remembers Atticus preparing to shoot Tim Johnson and begins to sob. Jem comforts her. The next morning,... (full context)
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Scout says that she thought Mr. Cunningham was their friend. Atticus says that he is. Mr. Cunningham, he insists, has blind spots, and he notes that... (full context)
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...downtown, and Miss Maudie jokes to the children that given Miss Stephanie’s wealth of knowledge, Atticus might ask her to testify. After lunch, the children go downtown. The square is crowded... (full context)
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...made up of idle old men who are regular court spectators. The men snigger that Atticus does nothing but read, and one notes that the court appointed Atticus to defend Tom.... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...the floor and she identified Tom as her rapist, so he took Tom into custody. Atticus takes over questioning and asks why they didn’t call a doctor. Jem is on the... (full context)
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...ends his questioning. Judge Taylor allows the courtroom to laugh when Mr. Ewell runs into Atticus as he stands to question Mr. Ewell. In a genial tone, Atticus asks why he... (full context)
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Jem excitedly whispers that Mr. Ewell is going down. Scout doesn’t agree. She understands that Atticus is making the case that Mr. Ewell could’ve beaten Mayella, but she thinks that Tom... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...to share what happened. Mayella promptly bursts into tears and says that she’s afraid of Atticus. Judge Taylor assures her that Atticus won’t scare her. Mayella says that Mr. Ewell had... (full context)
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Atticus takes over questioning. He calls Mayella “miss” and “ma’am,” which offends her. Scout is flabbergasted... (full context)
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Atticus asks Mayella to identify her rapist, so she points at Tom. Atticus asks Tom to... (full context)
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...when Taylor pulls out a cigar and bites into it. Judge Taylor, Mr. Gilmer, and Atticus decide to finish for the day, since it’s already 4:00 p.m. (full context)
Chapter 19
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Atticus calls Tom to the stand. With Atticus’s questioning, Tom says that he’s 25, has three... (full context)
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...him say that he’d never enter the Ewells’ yard without an invitation and believes him. Atticus asks what happened on the night of the alleged rape. (full context)
Chapter 20
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...Dill to have a drink to settle his stomach. Scout knows he’s evil and that Atticus and Aunt Alexandra will be unhappy, but she follows Dill. Dill delightedly says that it’s... (full context)
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Scout notes that according to Atticus, cheating a black man is worse than cheating a white man. Mr. Raymond says that... (full context)
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Atticus asks permission to unbutton his vest and collar and remove his coat. He only ever... (full context)
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Atticus begins to sweat—another unusual thing. He closes by saying that many people insist that all... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Calpurnia passes Atticus a note. Atticus asks Judge Taylor to go, since his children are missing, but Mr.... (full context)
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...only when Scout assures Reverend Sykes that she knows exactly what Jem is talking about. Atticus, Mr. Gilmer, and Judge Taylor all behave normally, but the rest of the courtroom still... (full context)
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...in February, when the street closed up, the mockingbirds were silent, and Mr. Tate told Atticus to shoot Tim Johnson. Mr. Tate returns and calls the court to order. Tom returns,... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Jem cries angrily as he, Dill, and Scout find Atticus outside. He says that it’s not right and Atticus agrees. At home, Aunt Alexandra apologizes... (full context)
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Dill arrives, eats Atticus’s breakfast, and says that Miss Rachel said that Atticus can bang his head against a... (full context)
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...Miss Maudie cuts Jem a piece out of the big cake. She tells Jem that Atticus is a man who does unpleasant jobs for them all. Jem says that he thought... (full context)
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...yard. Before Miss Rachel can stop her, Miss Stephanie shares that earlier, Mr. Ewell stopped Atticus, spat in his face, and threatened him. (full context)
Chapter 23
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Later, Atticus says later that he wishes Mr. Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco, while Miss Stephanie takes it... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Atticus discuss Tom’s case with Scout and Jem. He explains that Tom is at a prison... (full context)
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Jem maintains his position, but Atticus replies vehemently that he should always remember that a white man who cheats a black... (full context)
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Atticus says quietly that that’s not true—it took much longer than usual, and a Cunningham wanted... (full context)
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Jem says that he’s seen Atticus enjoy fiddle music on the radio, but somehow, they’re still different from the Cunninghams. Atticus... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...he went to jail, but he doesn’t understand that things could still change. Just then, Atticus gets home early. His face is white, and he asks to speak to Aunt Alexandra... (full context)
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...and Miss Maudie breathes heavily. Wearily, Aunt Alexandra says that she doesn’t always approve of Atticus, but she wants to know what else “they” want from him. She says that Maycomb... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...is customary, waved to a car for a ride home. It turned out to be Atticus and Calpurnia, and Atticus grudgingly allowed them to come to the Robinson cabin and told... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...good enough. She fantasizes about seeing him on the porch and greeting him politely, but Atticus warns her to not think about it and lets on that he knows about their... (full context)
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...nobody is persecuted because nobody is prejudiced. Scout has questions but doesn’t feel comfortable asking Atticus. She seeks out Jem and notes that Miss Gates hates Hitler, but she also heard... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Just as Atticus promised, things settle down in October. Three things happen, however: first, Mr. Ewell gets a... (full context)
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...she doesn’t understand why Mr. Ewell is behaving this way when he won in court. Atticus points out that nobody really believed him or Mayella, and nobody thinks he’s a hero... (full context)
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...take on and off herself. She assumes that everyone will come, but Aunt Alexandra and Atticus refuse. Scout shows off her costume and Jem takes her to school. (full context)
Chapter 28
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...whiskey. Scout wanders toward the road and sees a man carrying Jem to her house. Atticus ushers him in, Aunt Alexandra receives Scout, and they call for Dr. Reynolds and Mr.... (full context)
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Mr. Tate arrives as Dr. Reynolds leaves, and he and Scout enter Jem’s room. Atticus explains that Dr. Reynolds put Jem out to keep him comfortable. Scout sees the man... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Scout thinks that Atticus looks somehow old. Mr. Tate asks to look at Jem’s injuries while Scout tells them... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Atticus corrects Scout and blandly introduces her to Arthur Radley. Embarrassed, Scout runs to Jem’s bedside... (full context)
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Scout watches in fascination as Mr. Tate and Atticus argue. She’s not quite sure what exactly they’re fighting for or about. Mr. Tate says... (full context)
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Atticus asks where Mr. Tate got the switchblade. Coolly, Mr. Tate says he confiscated it from... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...the children’s hearts break. Scout sees that tonight, Boo’s children needed him. She thinks that Atticus was right—it’s impossible to know a person until one stands in their shoes, but she... (full context)
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...that there’s nothing more for them to learn except algebra. She runs upstairs and finds Atticus in Jem’s room. He tries to send her to bed but then allows her to... (full context)
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Scout falls asleep and wakes when Atticus nudges her with his toe. She mutters the gist of the story as Atticus leads... (full context)