To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee Summary and Analysis Part 2: Chapters 27-28

Summary

Things settle down in Maycomb, although Bob Ewell publicly blames Atticus for him losing his job. Tom Robinson's old boss, Link Deas, gives Helen a job, but Bob Ewell makes it very difficult for her to safely walk to work. Deas puts an end to that, which makes Ewell angry.

The ladies of Maycomb decide to organize a Halloween pageant in the high school auditorium this year. Scout is assigned the role of a ham. She has a great costume for the pageant, but she can't get out of her ham suit without help.

Atticus and Aunt Alexandra don't go to the pageant because they're tired, so Jem agrees to take Scout and bring her home. On the way to the pageant, Cecil Jacobs frightens Jem and Scout. The children enjoy the festivities, but Scout embarrasses herself by making a very late entrance onstage. When it's time to go home, Scout tells Jem that she would rather leave her costume on than have to face people, and they head for home with Jem guiding Scout. Jem hears something unusual and tells Scout to be very quiet. Suddenly, a scuffle occurs. Scout hears Jem scream, and then steel-like arms begin crushing her inside the costume. Someone — Scout assumes it's Jem — pulls the attacker off her. Scout calls for Jem but gets no answer other than heavy breathing. She heads toward the breath sounds, feeling for Jem. When she touches the man's stubble, she knows he isn't Jem. Scout works to reorient herself and finally sees a strange man carrying Jem to their front door. Aunt Alexandra calls for the doctor, and Atticus calls for the sheriff.

Scout fears that Jem is dead, but Aunt Alexandra tells her that he's only unconscious as she works to disentangle Scout from the chicken wire. Dr. Reynolds arrives, and after he examines Jem, Scout and Heck Tate go into Jem's room. With Atticus is the man who brought Jem home. Scout has never seen him before. Sheriff Tate then announces that he found Bob Ewell dead under the tree where Scout and Jem were attacked.

Analysis

These two chapters comprise the novel's climax. Lee sets everything up beautifully by turning the story into a mystery of sorts, using foreshadowing to provide the reader with clues to the resolution.

The foreshadowing begins when Scout says that three things of interest happened during the fall that "did not directly concern us — the Finches — but in a way they did." All three events involve Bob Ewell, who is still very upset by the aftermath of the trial. He loses another job, and he tries to break into Judge Taylor's house. Ewell also makes it nearly impossible for Helen Robinson to get to work. The acts of revenge toward the judge and Helen hint that Ewell is serious about his earlier threats to get even with Atticus.

Ewell is angry because as Atticus puts it, "'He thought he'd be a hero, but all he got for his pain was . . . okay, we'll convict this Negro, but get back to your dump.'" In an odd way, Ewell was trying to use the circumstances of the trial to better his family's station in the community. Unfortunately, the community didn't believe his story. He loses a public job because of laziness, and realizes that he's been proven a liar and made to look a fool. Then, to add insult to injury, he believes that Link Deas is accusing him of having a romantic interest in Tom's widow, Helen. In his mind, his bitterness is completely justified and just as he felt he had to fight for his daughter's "virtue," he now has to do something to salvage his pride.

As Scout and Jem prepare to leave for the school pageant, Aunt Alexandra feels a sudden sense of foreboding, but she ignores the "pinprick of apprehension." On the way to the high school, Scout trips on the root of a large tree near the Radley house, just as she will when the two of them are attacked.

Similarly, Cecil Jacobs jumps from behind a tree to scare them much the way Bob Ewell will jump from behind to make an attempt on their lives. Also on the way to school, Jem notes that Boo Radley doesn't appear to be at home, which is important given that he ultimately saves Jem and Scout's lives. Later, as the Finch children head for home, they refuse the offer for a ride and are told to be careful.

Lee also uses foreshadowing to insinuate that Boo Radley may be as much a mockingbird as Tom Robinson by having the children note that "in the darkness a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness" near the Radley house. The solitary figure of Boo Radley will save both children from death.

The issue of femininity plays its most minor role in these chapters. In fact, readers see through Scout that social conventions are in many ways unimportant. Without her costume, Scout needs something to wear and humorously notes that "in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls . . . handing me the garments she most despised."

Because of Jem's injuries, he won't speak for the rest of the story, making it important to note the change in Jem from the beginning of the story to this point. He began as a ten-year-old boy intent on flushing Boo Radley from his home. By the end of the novel, he is a strong, level-headed young man who "was becoming almost as good as Atticus at making you feel right when things went wrong." He puts his sister at risk when he and Dill try to peek into the Radleys' house, but this night he risks his life for her. The novel begins with the events leading up to this moment, and Jem emerges as a mature adolescent well on his way to being a fine, respectable man, just like his father.

Glossary

National Recovery Act one of the measures by which President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to assist the nation's economic recovery during the Great Depression. The act authorized an expenditure of $3.3 billion for an expansion of public works.

Cotton Tom Heflin J. Thomas "Cotton Tom" Heflin was Secretary of the State of Alabama, a member of Congress from 1905 until 1920, and a U.S. senator from 1921 until 1931.

Ladies' Law law from the criminal code of Alabama prohibiting the use of "abusive, insulting, or obscene language," especially around girls or women; punishable by up to $200 in fines, imprisonment in the county jail, or up to six months hard labor.

divinity a soft, creamy kind of candy.

Climber [Informal] a person who tries to advance socially or in business.

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