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Free Study Guide-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-Free BookNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 16

Summary

Aunt Alexandra is disapproving of the children having had a rendezvous in a jail in the middle of the night. The children are worried for their father, especially for the fact that Mr. Cunningham would have tried to kill Atticus, if it had not been for Scout’s timely intervention, with her small talk about entailments.

A group of Mennonites pass by in wagons. As they pass Miss Maudie’s house, they comment upon her love for gardening, considering it a sin. But Miss Maudie is stubbornly unmoved.

It is the first day of the trial, and the place is crowded with people who have come to witness the trial of Tom Robinson. Mr. Dolphus Raymond is noticed sitting with the colored folk, sipping from a brown paper pack (which allegedly contains whisky).

Since the courthouse is fully packed, the children join Reverend Sykes at the balcony, along with the blacks.

The judge is none other than Judge Taylor. Though he gives the impression of dozing through the hearing is actually very sharp in his dealings. The Tom Robinson case begins with Mr. Heck Tate being the first witness.


Notes

Aunt Alexandra’s disapproval is an expected one but Atticus, is depicted as a person who doesn’t necessarily take his sister’s side always. He does show his slight irritation at her, once in a while.

The Mennonites were a strict Christian sect who accept no authority except for the Bible and are opposed to anything modern. Miss Maudie’s spending more time in gardening and less time in reading the Bible is considered as sacrilegious behavior, but Miss Maudie is unmoved by their comments.

A brief description of the courthouse and the gathering is given. Whites and blacks have arrived in equal numbers to witness the trial. The scene outside the courthouse, before the initiation of the trial, resembles a picnic spot. However, once the trial begins, there is absolute silence in the courtroom.

The Finch children sitting in the colored balcony with the blacks, is probably symbolic of how their family values endorse equality. However, they are also eager to watch their father handle the case, knowing full well that he would disapprove of their presence if he knew they were inside the courtroom.

CHAPTER 17

Summary

Mr. Tate relates his story -- on the night of November twenty first, Mr. Ewell had rushed into his office saying that his daughter has been raped by a ‘nigger’. On reaching their house, he had found the girl on the floor, badly beaten up. She had declared that the ‘nigger’ had been none other than Tom Robinson. Then Atticus questions Mr. Tate as to whether a doctor had been called, but the reply is in the negative.

Then the magnitude of her bruises are discussed. Her right eye had been bruised and marks around her neck could also be noticed. Bob Ewell is called next on the witness stand. Ewell claims that on returning home, he had caught Tom in the act of raping his daughter. Atticus questions him next about the bruises, then makes him sign on an envelope, noticing aloud that he is left-handed.

Notes

A description of the lifestyle of the Ewells is given, which gives one a fair idea of the utterly shabby and dilapidated life they lead. Ewell comes across as an audacious person, with no respect for others and a mean manner of speech. Jem realizes that the reason Atticus had paraded Ewell’s left-handedness, is to verify that he could have beaten his daughter, as her bruises are mostly on the right side of her face.

When the talk of rape and sexual intercourse arises, the Reverend deems it better that the children leave, especially Scout, but Jem placates him; the children had no plans of leaving the courtroom however, they miss out on watching their father defend the case.

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