English Practice Essay
First Published: 1960 by J. B. Lippincott
Setting: 1930s; Maycomb, Alabama
The novel begins with Jem and Scout Finch meeting their summer playmate, Dill. Part One focuses mainly on their exploits, the most important being their fun with Boo Radley, such as sneaking him letters and receiving gifts from a tree. We also meet the other characters, such as Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie. Atticus begins his representation of Tom Robinson.
Part Two deals predominantly with the trial and the events leading up to it. Atticus and the kids stave off a lynch mob, and Jem and Scout start to get an idea of what their long-time neighbors think of Atticus for defending Robinson. During the trial, Atticus establishes that Mr. Ewell routinely abuses his daughter and has forced her to falsely accuse Robinson of rape. The jury still finds Robinson guilty, and Jem and Scout learn what kind of justice blacks receive from white juries. Ewell vows revenge on Atticus. Robinson is shot and killed trying to escape from prison.
At the end, Ewell attacks the children as they walk home from a Halloween festival at school, but Boo Radley saves them by killing Ewell. The resolution is very tidy as it ties up the two-story lines.
What a potential reader could gain
First of all, the reader would be entertained – it’s a humorous, easy-to-read story. A reader could also gain an understanding of life in the South for a black man wrongly accused of a crime against a white woman. Finally, a reader could relive the magic and innocence of childhood through three (Jem, Scout and Dill) likeable and rambunctious children.
Boo Radley was the town bogeyman, the mythical childhood legend who never came out of his house, except at night, when he spied into windows and ate cats. Jem, Scout, and their friend Dill tried everything they could to get him outside, but nothing worked.
Boo Radley lived with his parents at the Radley Place, next door to the Finches. It was a run-down, beat-up old house. According to myth, Boo (his real name was Arthur) ran with a gang of punks in high school. One night, these youths locked the old town constable, Mr. Conner, into the outhouse. The judge sentenced the boys to an industrial school, but Mr. Radley would have none of that, and instead vowed that his son would never be any trouble again.
Boo wasn’t seen for another fifteen years, when he supposedly stabbed his father in the leg with scissors. The judge wanted to send him to an asylum, but again, Mr. Radley refused. He wasn’t crazy and he wasn’t a criminal, either. So, the town locked him in the county basement until Mr. Radley again took him home, where he lived as a total recluse.
Jem, Dill and Scout try various methods to get him outside – banging on the door, passing notes, using his life story as a play. Nothing works, but they periodically find little gifts stashed in an oak tree by the Radley Place, such as a stick of gum, two pennies,...