Comprehensive Summary and Review of Chapters 13-18
In order to bring a more feminine atmosphere into the household and give
Scout a role model, Atticus invites his sister, Alexandra, to stay with them.
She is well suited to the Maycomb society and receives a fine welcome by the
ladies of the town.
Aunt Alexandra is extremely "family-conscious" and tries to instill
the importance of the Finches into the minds of Jem and Scout. She also feels
that it is necessary to keep Calpurnia in her "place" and not give
her any authority over the children. She is appalled when she finds out that
the children had attended services in a "black" church and even
tries to convince Atticus to get rid of her.
That night, Scout discovers that Dill is hiding under her bed. He tells Scout
and Jem that he ran away from home because he felt that neither his father
nor his stepmother were paying any attention to him. The children bring him
some food and then Jem convinces him that they have to tell Atticus.
Atticus allows Dill to sleep there but also tells him that he has to inform
Dill's aunt where he is. After many conversations with his mother, Dill is
finally given permission to stay in Maycomb for the summer and things appear
to get back to being normal.
As Tom Robinson's trial approaches, Atticus worries about the safety of his
client. This fear proves to be justified when a group of townspeople, including
Walter Cunningham, appear at the courthouse one night, with the intention
of lynching Tom Robinson. The only person who stands in their way is Atticus.
At first, the mob intends to plow right through him, but with the unexpected
arrival of Scout, they realize the error of their actions.
The trial begins the next day and the town becomes crowded with spectators.
The children who have secretly left their home to attend the trial, are waiting
outside the courtroom until the trial begins so that they can slip inside
without being seen by Atticus. The atmosphere is festive and people appear
to be enjoying the event.
The reader meets a new character, Dolphus Raymond who is white and has married
a black woman. The concept of bi-racial children is introduced and Scout voices
confusion over this.
When the children feel that Atticus will be too busy to notice them in the
courtroom, and that it is safe for them to enter, they find that all the seats
have been taken and Reverend Sykes invites them to sit in the balcony where
the black people are sitting. The trial has already started and Heck Tate
sits on the witness stand being questioned by the prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer.
Tate tells that he was summoned by Bob Ewell to come to his house on the night
of November 21 because Mayella had been raped. When he got there, he found
that the girl had been beaten and was badly bruised. When Atticus cross examined
him, two important points surfaced; no doctor had been called to examine Mayella
and her bruises were concentrated primarily on the right side of her face.
Mayella testifies next, a reasonably clean nineteen-year-old girl who is
obviously terrified of the situation. She tells that she had asked Tom Robinson
to come inside the house that evening to help her break up a dresser and that
he had molested her. When Atticus cross-examined her, he asked her if she
screamed. When she indicated that she did, he asked her why her screams didn't
wake up her brothers and sisters who were sleeping in the house. He also asks
how Tom was able to hit her so severely with only one hand as his left had
become useless after an accident many years earlier. Instead of answering
him, Mayella starts to cry and tries to evoke pity for herself.
Aunt Alexandra who has come to stay with the Finch family, holds many of
the town's prejudices against blacks. She doesn't even say hello to Calpurnia
before telling her where to put her bags. In talking with Scout, she categorizes
people by labeling them "fine folks" and emphasizes the caste system
that existed in Maycomb. She also forces Scout to deal with the issue of femininity
by constantly reminding her to behave like a little lady. Even Atticus brings
up this topic after Aunt Alexandra insists that he should speak to her.
The theme of prejudice comes to the forefront. Aunt Alexandra forbids Scout
from going to Calpurnia's home and even goes so far as to tell Atticus to
get rid of the housekeeper. Atticus refuses to do this, saying, "I don't
think the children have suffered one bit from her having brought them up.
If anything, she's been harder on them in some ways than a mother would've
been." It is quite obvious that Atticus' attitude is different from the
The importance of belonging is shown in this chapter. Dill runs
away from home because he feels neglected and not wanted and goes to Maycomb
which he considers his sanctuary. Listening to Dill's reasons for leaving
his home, Scout "found [herself] wondering .... what [she] would do if
Atticus did not feel the necessity of [her] presence, help and advice."
The idea that someone can be unwanted in a place where they belong is totally
incomprehensible to Scout.
The theme of bravery is again seen when Atticus goes to the courthouse
to make sure that Toms Robinson is safe, when Jem refuses to leave his father
when the group of men confront him, and when Scout addresses the mob. The children
can't understand why Atticus isn't angry at the men who were ready to hurt him
and lynch Tom.
Scout's innocent talk to Mr. Cunningham during the mob scene brings him to
his senses and prevents a riot.
The chapter includes an interesting discussion of what makes a person a member
of one race or another . Jem tells Scout that children who are part of both
races "don't belong anywhere. Colored folks won't have 'em because they're
half white; white folks won't have 'em cause they're colored, so they're just
in-betweens, don't belong anywhere." When Jem points out some biracial
children, Scout can't tell that they're "mixed" and wonders, then,
whether Jem and she are mixed. Jem assures here that even if they might,it
was probably generations ago and no longer counts. Perhaps the idea that they
themselves might have a "drop of Negro blood", makes them less prejudiced
than the rest of the townspeople.
At breakfast, the morning after the mob scene at the jail, Jem and Scout
ask many questions. In his usual calm manner, Atticus explains that people
don't always act sensibly and that a mob has its own momentum.
On the day of the trial, the courtroom is packed. Most people there have
already judged Tom and are convinced that he is guilty. The only one who doesn't
seem to want to attend is Miss Maudie who indicates that "'t's morbid,
watching a poor devil on trial for his life. Look at all those folks, it's
like a Roman carnival."
The Finch children again find themselves welcome and even honored among blacks
when Reverend Sykes invites them to the balcony, and chairs are vacated in
the front row on their behalf.
Heck Tate and Mr. Ewell take the stand in Tom
Robinson's trial, and their testimony make it appear that Tom is guilty of
the crime. After Atticus cross examines them, further evidence surfaces to
prove Robinson's innocence. Atticus points out that a left-handed man must
have beaten Mayella Ewell. He goes on to show that while Mr. Ewell is left-handed,
Tom Robinson's left arm is crippled due to a farming accident.
When Mayella Ewell takes the stand, it becomes obvious that her story has
many holes in it and that she is looking for pity for her social state as
well as for what supposedly happened to her. Throughout her testimony Mayella
is very nervous. She seems afraid of Atticus, and thinks that he is making
fun of her when he calls her "Miss". It is obvious that Mayella
is not used to being treated politely. Mayella breaks down in tears as she
describes her desperate struggle with Tom. After she is finished speaking,
Atticus asks Tom Robinson to stand up. Everyone present can see that his left
hand is useless and mangled. However, she starts crying hysterically before
Atticus may point many of them out.
The trial displays prejudice against black people and also focuses on social
status. The Ewells belong to the bottom rank of Maycomb's society living in
filthy surroundings and not caring to improve their lot. They flaunt the law
and are arrogant and crude in manner. Mr. Ewell is depicted as being confident
of his ability to outsmart the world.