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Summary and Detailed Notes for Chapter 1 and 2 of To Kill a Mocking Bird

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Brief Summary of Chapter 1 and 2

Family Legacy
Simon Finch established the family homestead, which the narrator’s family has lived on for generations. Atticus Finch practiced law in Maycomb, where everyone knew each other, and had a distaste for criminal law. The narrator’s family consists of Atticus, Jem, and the narrator, along with their cook Calpurnia.

Life in Maycomb County
Maycomb was an old and tired town where the courthouse sagged and the streets turned to red slop in rainy weather. People moved slowly and there was little to do or see. The summer Dill arrives, changing their lives. Jem and Scout meet Dill, an eccentric boy who is visiting his aunt in Maycomb for the summer. They talk about reading, movies, and Dill’s lack of a father, and spend their summer playing together.

The Radley Place
The children’s boundaries in their neighborhood are set by the Radley Place to the south and a difficult neighbor to the north. The Radley house is shrouded in mysterious rumors and legends. The youngest son of the family was once in trouble with the law and sent to an industrial school. Afterwards, the family withdrew from society, rarely leaving their house. Jem hears stories about Boo Radley from Miss Stephanie Crawford, who claims Boo stabbed his father with scissors. The sheriff locks Boo in the courthouse basement and Mr. Radley keeps him hidden. Mr. Radley’s death led to speculation about his reclusive son, Boo. However, Boo’s elder brother returned and took over the house.

Speculation About Boo Radley
The children remain fascinated by Boo’s mysterious behavior and speculate about his appearance and habits. Jem and Dill dare each other to make Boo Radley come out of the Radley Place, a mysterious and eerie house in their neighborhood, despite warnings of a malevolent phantom. Jem is hesitant due to the potential danger, but eventually comes up with a plan. Jem and Dill challenge each other to make daring moves towards the Radley house, culminating with Jem touching the house.
Miss Caroline’s Teaching Style
Miss Caroline is a young and naive teacher who is unaware of her students’ backgrounds. She tries to teach the class about cats, and discovers that the narrator is literate. She tells him not to let his father teach him anymore and scolds Scout for writing instead of printing.

Cunningham Family Poverty
Miss Caroline discovers that Walter Cunningham doesn’t have lunch, and gives him money to buy food. When he refuses, Scout explains that the Cunningham’s are poor and cannot afford to pay others back. The context also describes the farmers’ struggles in Maycomb County and the practice of exchanging goods for services due to a lack of money.

Classroom Reactions
The narrator tries to explain why a child cannot pay for lunch and is punished. The class laughs when the teacher punishes the narrator and is threatened by another teacher.

Detailed Notes on Chapters 1 & 2

Notes for “To Kill a Mockingbird” Chapter 1

•The narrator’s brother Jem broke his arm badly at 13 and it healed shorter than the other.

•Jem was still able to play football, not self-conscious about his injury.

•The events leading to Jem’s accident were discussed, with the narrator arguing the Ewells started it, and Jem claiming it all began when Dill came to them with the idea of making Boo Radley come out.

•They consulted their father, Atticus, who agreed with both opinions.

•The family had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings, only Simon Finch, a fur-trapping apothecary from Cornwall.

•Simon worked his way to Alabama and established a homestead on the banks of the Alabama River, where he bought slaves.

•The men in the family remained at a place called Finch’s Landing and made their living from cotton.

Introduction to Maycomb in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

•Maycomb, the setting of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was a self-sufficient place that produced everything needed to live except for ice, wheat flour, and clothing.

•Atticus Finch and his siblings left Maycomb for education and career opportunities, but their sister Alexandra remained and married a man who loved fishing.

•Atticus practiced law in Maycomb and his first clients were the last two people hanged in the Maycomb County jail.

•Atticus invested his earnings in his brother’s medical education and derived his income from law.

•Maycomb was a small and old town in a tired state when the narrator, Scout, first knew it.

Life in Maycomb County

•People in Maycomb County move slowly, with no hurry or place to go.

•The recent news of “nothing to fear but fear itself” brings vague optimism to some people.

•The narrator, her brother Jem and father Atticus, plus their cook Calpurnia live on the main residential street in town.

•The narrator finds Calpurnia to be tyrannical, always bossing her around but Atticus always takes Calpurnia’s side.

•The narrator never felt the absence of her mother who died when she was two. Jem remembers her clearly and sometimes becomes sad.

•The summertime boundaries were Mrs. Dubose’s house and the Radley Place.

•The Radley Place was inhabited by an unknown entity and Mrs. Dubose was plain hell.

•That summer, Dill came to visit, and they heard something in Miss Rachel Haverford’s collard patch next door.

The Introduction of Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

•While searching for a lost puppy, Jem and Scout encounter someone sitting near the fence.

•The person introduces themself as Charles Baker Harris, nicknamed Dill, and claims to be able to read.

•Jem jokes that Dill looks like a four-and-a-half-year-old, but Dill insists that he is almost seven.

•After some playful banter, Jem invites Dill to come over and play.

•Dill explains that he is visiting his aunt, Miss Rachel, for the summer and will be spending summers in Maycomb from now on.

•Dill reveals that he doesn’t have a father and blushes when Jem asks him about it.

•The three children spend the summer together playing games and working on their treehouse.

The Radley Place in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

•The protagonist’s friend, Dill, had a fascination with the Radley Place and suggested the idea of making Boo Radley come out.

•The Radley Place appeared eerie and mysterious to its neighbors, with its rundown appearance, picket fence, and reputation for being haunted.

•People speculated about the existence of a malevolent phantom who lived inside and was responsible for committing small crimes in Maycomb.

•The Radleys were seen as outsiders for keeping to themselves and not participating in the town’s social activities.

•Mr. Radley followed a strict routine of walking to town every day and returning promptly, rarely speaking to anyone along the way.

The Mystery of the Radley House

•Mr. Radley and his family are mysterious and reclusive neighbors, despite having lived in the same house for many years.

•The Radley house is always closed up on Sundays, which is unusual in Maycomb.

•Despite regular Sunday visits in the neighborhood, no one ever visits the Radley house.

•The Radley house didn’t have a screen door until many years ago, before the narrator was born.

•The younger Radley boy used to hang out with the Cunninghams, causing trouble around town and breaking the law.

•Mr. Radley made a deal with the judge to have his son Arthur released from the industrial school and promised that he wouldn’t give trouble again.

•The other boys went to the industrial school and received an education, with one even eventually attending engineering school.

The History of Boo Radley From “To Kill a Mockingbird”

•The Radley house’s doors were always shut, and Boo was not seen for fifteen years.

•One day, Boo was seen by several people, but not by Jem.

•Atticus never talked about the Radleys, but Jem learned from Miss Stephanie Crawford that Boo stabbed his father with scissors.

•Boo was locked in the courthouse basement because the sheriff couldn’t bear to place him in jail with Negroes.

•Mr. Radley kept Boo hidden and Jem thought he was most likely chained to a bed.

•Mr. Radley, Boo’s father, was an upright man who believed in the word of God, but never spoke to anyone.

•Mrs. Radley would sometimes water her cannas, but Mr. Radley walked to town every day.

The Mysterious Radley Family and the Death of Mr. Radley

•Mr. Radley’s eldest son lived in Pensacola, and few people ever saw anyone enter or leave their house.

•After Mr. Radley took Arthur home, people believed that the house “died.”

•Atticus warned Jem and Scout not to make any noise in the yard because Mr. Radley was dying.

•Wooden sawhorses blocked the road to the Radley lot, and traffic was diverted to the backstreet.

•Dr. Reynolds walked to the Radley house every time he called because he had to park his car in front of Jem’s house.

•When Mr. Radley died, Boo’s elder brother returned from Pensacola and took his father’s place.

•Jem claimed that Mr. Nathan Radley went out at night, and Miss Stephanie Crawford saw him looking into her window.

•Jem gave a description of Boo, who was about six-and-a-half feet tall, dined on raw squirrels, and had bloodstained hands.

The boys’ attempts to make Boo Radley come out

•Dill suggests making Boo Radley come out and see what he looks like

•Jem and Dill make a bet to see if Jem can make it further than the Radley gate

•Jem initially resists but is eventually convinced to try

•Jem is worried about the danger and his responsibility to his little sister

•Jem suggests trying to “make a turtle come out” by striking a match or rocking the house

•Scout threatens to tell Atticus if Jem sets fire to the Radley house

•The boys continue to brainstorm ways to make Boo Radley come out

Jem and Dill’s adventure to the Radley House and Scout’s excitement to start school

•Jem agrees to touch the Radley House and goes back and forth before finally slapping it with his palm.

•After the daring act, Scout and Dill follow him back to their porch but see a possible shutter movement in the house.

•Dill returns to Meridian, making Scout miserable until she realizes she’ll be starting school in a week.

•Scout longs to join the children she’s been spying on through her telescope and is excited to start school.

•Jem takes Scout to school on the first day and receives money in exchange.

Miss Caroline’s First Day of School

•The narrator was excited to start school, but his brother warned him that school would be different from playing at home.

•Miss Caroline Fisher was their teacher, who was young and beautiful, with red fingernail polish, and high-heeled shoes.

•Miss Caroline announced that she was from North Alabama, which caused apprehension in the class because of the region’s peculiarities.

•Miss Caroline read a story about cats, which the students found uninteresting because they were from a rough background.

•The narrator was forced to read aloud, and Miss Caroline discovered that he was literate. She then told him not to read anymore, which surprised the narrator because his father had not yet taught him anything.

Scout’s Reading Education

•Miss Caroline questions Scout about her reading ability and tells her father not to teach her anymore.

•Scout had inadvertently learned to read from the daily papers and reading with Atticus.

•Scout tells Jem about her encounter with Miss Caroline and her objections to the new teaching approach.

•Jem explains the Dewey Decimal System to Scout, which Miss Caroline is using to teach the first grade.

•The Dewey Decimal System consists of Miss Caroline waving cards with printed words like “the,” “cat,” “rat,” “man,” and “you.”

First grade school experience

•Miss Caroline caught me writing a letter to Dill, and reprimanded me for learning to write before the third grade.

•Calpurnia taught me writing by setting tasks to copy out scripture, with the reward of a bread, butter, and sugar sandwich if successful.

•Miss Caroline inspected students’ lunches and gave a quarter to Walter Cunningham, who refused the offer.

•When Walter remained silent, someone whispered for me to explain “he’s a Cunningham.”

•Walter was considered poor and often went without shoes in the rural community.

The Cunninghams and Professional Poverty in To Kill a Mockingbird

•The protagonist describes Walter Cunningham’s poverty, with no lunch today nor the next.

•The Cunninghams are known for their honesty and self-reliance in the community, who never took anything they could not pay back.

•The protagonist reveals her insight into the Cunningham family, gained from Walter’s father being Atticus’s client.

•Atticus’s and his family’s poverty discussed; Atticus reveals that professional people are poor as farmers are poor.

•The protagonist learns about entailment, a legal situation where property passes automatically by law to the heir upon a person’s death.

•Mr. Cunningham is in debt, and the little cash he makes goes to interest.

•Atticus explains how professional poverty works, with Dr. Reynolds also accepting non-monetary payments for his services.

Jean Louise’s altercation with Miss Caroline

•Jem’s definitions are almost accurate

•Jean Louise tries to explain Walter Cunningham’s situation to Miss Caroline

•Miss Caroline grabs Jean Louise by the collar and makes her hold out her hand

•Miss Caroline whips Jean Louise with a ruler, causing laughter from the class

•Miss Blount threatens to burn up the entire class if they don’t quiet down

•Jean Louise is saved by the bell and sees Miss Caroline bury her head in her arms

•Jem stops Jean Louise from rubbing Walter’s nose in the dirt

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