Drama – The play of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

dramatised by Christopher Sergel

Click here for print-friendly notes on the play.

 

Background information and context.

Remember when you are writing a critical essay in an exam that you have to answer the question set. You must not include information on the author or the times in which the text is set unless it is RELEVANT.

In 1960, author Harper Lee published what was to become one of the most influential novels in American history, To Kill a Mockingbird. Ironically when it was first published she was told not to expect it to sell more than a couple thousand copies. It quickly became a sensation, and now, over fifty years later, it has never been out of print, has sold over thirty million copies and has been translated into forty languages. It also received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, among other awards garnered over the years.

Lee, born in 1926, has stated that her novel is not an autobiography, though the basis of the story and its characters reflect her life growing up in Monroeville, Alabama, during the Great Depression. The central family’s last name, Finch, is the same as Lee’s mother’s maiden name; her father was a lawyer, like Atticus Finch; Lee, too, studied law before pursuing her writing career; her best friend growing up, Truman Capote, was the inspiration for the character of Dill; the trial in the novel reflects a famous trial of the time (the Scottsboro trial); the fictional setting of Maycomb County bares resemblance to Monroeville.

Within two years of publishing the novel, it was adapted by director Robert Mulligan into a highly acclaimed film, starring Gregory Peck. The film won three Oscars, including one for Peck’s portrayal of Atticus.  

By 1970, writer Christopher Sergel was working on a stage adaptation. Lee was always very cautious and careful about whom she would permit to use her story. Sergel was given permission to copyright his adaptation, which premiered in 1991 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. During the twenty years it took him to adapt the play, he made countless revisions, and even after it premiered he continued to revise it. Interestingly, it was originally intended for middle schools and high schools, but has since become a popular favourite of regional theatres across America.

It also enjoys an annual performance at the courthouse in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville every spring, though Lee, who still lives there, does not attend. She remains “deeply private and defiantly silent” about her novel. The play has basically become a Passion play for the community, and “with its strong moral statement . . . has inspired the citizens of Monroeville” (Albert Murray, New York Times: Long Lives the Mockingbird, Aug. 9, 1998).

Based on Harper Lee’s novel, Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation tells an important story. A black man is accused of raping a white woman in a fictional Alabama small town in the 1930s. A white lawyer defends him, defying the pervasive racism of his neighbours. The drama is seen from the point of view of the lawyer’s two small children and a friend. The children are Jean Louise, better known as Scout, her brother, Jem, and their tall-tale-telling friend, Dill, said to be based on the young Truman Capote.

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The character Jean Louise Finch is described in the stage directions at the start of the play as ‘a woman, dressed in simple modern clothes’. The playwright suggests: ‘If possible, there should be something about her that suggests the girl-in-the-swing, grown older, for this is who she is.’

As the stage light comes up, Jean is ‘looking about as though seeing this place in memory’.

The role of Jean in the play is to act as narrator, or perhaps more accurately, as a guide through her childhood memories of 1935, Maycomb, Alabama (‘already a tired old town’).

She foreshadows the events of the play:

 …back when ugly words were first shouted at us – back at the beginning of an experience that brought a man to his death. And it brought Boo Radley storming out of that shut-up house – the attack on me – Jem’s broken arm – another man killed!

However, she tells us it is not the events she wishes to remember.

 There’s something I have to do – something my father wanted … No – there was one other thing.

The two things she refers to are the two main themes or messages of the play:

  • Never to kill a mockingbird:

When he gave us air rifles, he asked us never to kill a mockingbird.

Your father’s right. Mockingbirds just make music. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs; they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird. (Miss Maudie)

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  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

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She introduces us to the other characters:

  • Atticus – ‘that’s my father. Back then he seemed ancient … feeble. He was a lawyer and nearly fifty.’
  • ‘my brother Jem’
  • Calpurnia ‘our cook, who raised us’
  • Heck Tate – the sheriff, and Judge Taylor
  • Miss Stephanie Crawford – ‘a neighbourhood scold. According to her, everybody has a streak: a drinking streak …’

‘She was also your principal source of information about Boo Radley.’ This is very important. Having established that Miss Stephanie is prejudiced – she judges everyone and stereotypes them – we are then told that she is the source of most of the stories about Boo. That should make us question the truth of these so-called “facts” about him. We should also question any comments that she makes.

  • Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose ‘Jem and I hated her. We had no idea she was fighting a hard battle.’
  • Reverend Sykes of the First Purchase Church
  • Bob Ewell and his daughter, Mayella. ‘No truant officer could keep any of the Ewells in school… Good times or bad they lived off the county… all Bob Ewell could hold onto that made him feel better was that if scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water – his skin was white.’
  • ‘That was the summer Dill came to us – Dill, who was to give us the idea of making Boo Radley come out… His real name was Charles Baker Harris’ She describes him as ‘a pocket Merlin’
  • Nathan Radley – Boo’s older brother

Having introduced us to the main characters and given us a context for the events that are about to unfold, she says: ‘Looking back for a place to begin – perhaps it would be what happens next.’

At this point she steps offstage and the audience then focuses on the three children – Jem, Scout and Dill – looking at the Radley place wondering what Boo Radley is like. It is Dill who suggests that they ‘make him come out’.

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It is significant that this should be considered where the story begins. It is also worth noting that Boo Radley only ‘comes out’ at the very end of the play. When he does, it is to save the lives of the children he has watched as they played outside in the neighbourhood. When Scout takes him back home she stands on the porch and Jean remembers that she was seeing through his eyes:

A young boy and girl shouting, running to meet their father coming home, the boy going after Mrs Duboses’s camelias, the children excited about surprises found in the knothole – and then a stormy night,and those children need him!

At that point she realises something very important:

Atticus – I was already beginning to stand in other people’s shoes! The thing you wanted, Atticus –

However, she does not know whether her father knew that or not until she hears the exchange between Scout and Atticus:

 Atticus – what Heck Tate said about Boo – about dragging him into the limelight – Heck was right … it’d be sort of like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?

 Yes – yes, it would.

 All those ideas we had about Boo Radley – But, Atticus – he’s real nice.

 Most people are, Scout – when you finally see them.

That final comment – ‘when you finally see them’ is not just referring to Boo Radley ‘coming out’ of his house at last but is part of the message of the play (and the novel). If we are to really know or ‘see’ a person for what they are, we need to be able to consider things from their point of view – ‘climb into his skin and walk around in it’. Scout can see that Boo Radley is nothing like the stories that have told about him and when she stood on his porch she could quite literally see things from his point of view.

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 The Trial

Segregation and injustice

In the 1930s, although 50% of the population of Southern towns were black, they had no vote and could not marry whites. The policy of segregation meant that blacks had to have their own schools, their own churches, their own football teams, even their own cemeteries.

The blacks file into the courthouse after the whites and have to sit up in the balcony, away from the whites.

Some whites formed vigilante groups to intimidate and even murder blacks; and right up until the 1950s it was common for black men to be accused of assaulting white women on the basis of little or no evidence. Harper Lee may have based her novel in part on a case in Scottsboro, Alabama.

The Scottsboro case

In 1931 when Harper Lee was 5, nine young black men were accused of raping two white women on a train. After a series of bitter trials, four of the men were sentenced to long prison sentences – even though prominent lawyers argued that the accusations were false. It was later discovered that the women were lying.

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‘Hey, Scout – how come your daddy defends niggers?’

‘My folks say your daddy’s a disgrace and that nigger oughta hang from the water tank.’

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‘You mean, what do they say he did? …Old Mr Bob Ewell accused Tom of attackin’ his girl and had him put in jail.’ (Calpurnia is the first one to cast doubt on Bob Ewell’s version of events.)

Atticus tells Scout that it is ‘common’ to use the word ‘nigger’, that she should use the word ‘Negro’ instead and that he is going to defend Tom Robinson despite the ‘high talk around town’ because if he chose not to he could not hold his head up or tell her and Jem ‘not to do something again.’

 I could never ask you to mind me again. Every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess.

When Scout asks they will win the case he tells her no:

 Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.

As an audience we are being forewarned of the outcome of the trial. For Tom Robinson, being found guilty means death.

Atticus also tells Scout that the case ‘goes to the essence of a man’s conscience’. However, Scout points out that ‘most people think they’re right’ and that Atticus is wrong but Atticus insists that ‘before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself.’  – ‘One thing doesn’t abide by majority rule – a person’s conscience.’

Put simply, Atticus has to do what he thinks is right.

After the trial, Miss Maudie tells the distraught children that ‘there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us’ and that Atticus is ‘one of them’.

The trial begins towards the end of Act One just after the incident at the jailhouse. Once again Jean sets the scene for us. As she does so, the members of the cast or stagehands can be seen moving on the basic props for the courtroom. There are spectators in the court but the audience is ‘considered to be out in the audience.’ This means that when the witnesses are giving their evidence, when Tom Robinson gives his account of events and when Atticus makes his summing-up speech, they are all addressing the audience directly.

For the first time we discover what the charges against Tom Robinson are.  Heck Tate’s evidence is factual and we learn that Mayella was badly beaten on the right side of her face and that no doctor had been sent for. Mayella identified Tom Robinson as her assailant and Heck Tate, as sheriff, arrested him.

Bob Ewell is next in the witness chair. In the stage directions it tells us that the counsel for the prosecution, Mr Gilmer, ‘does not particularly like EWELL’ and we soon see why when he is warned by Judge Taylor about his rudeness and when he refers to Tom as ‘that black nigger’.

Bob Ewell

Judge Tay calls for a ten-minute recess so that anyone who wishes to leave may do so but he tells them: ‘people generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.’ This signals the end of Act One.

Act Two opens with everyone back in place.

Bob Ewell says that he saw Tom attacking his daughter. However, Mayella’s evidence contradicts this later on. (She claims her father came into the room and ‘was hollerin who done it?’ – as if he had not seen her attacker.) He even makes Mr Gilmer ‘wince’ when he uses the term ‘nigger-nest’ then he gets up from the witness chair thinking that his testimony is over before Atticus has had a chance to cross-examine him.

Atticus asks him to confirm that no doctor was called for – ‘If I had, would’ve cost me five dollars.’ This is important as there is no evidence that a rape ever took place.  Bob Ewell also agrees with Heck Tate’s evidence that Mayella’s injuries were on the right side of her face.

By asking Bob Ewell to sign his name, Atticus shows the court that Bob Ewell is left-handed. Bob Ewell is ‘outraged’ and calls Atticus a ‘tricking lawyer’. As yet we do not understand the full significance of this piece of information.

Mayella is ‘scared’ of Atticus – ‘Don’t want him doin’ me like he done Papa.’

She claims that she asked Tom to ‘bust up a chiffarobe’ for her and he grabbed her around the neck and hit her ‘agin and agin’.

Mr Gilmer is reprimanded by Judge Taylor when he tells her to stay where she is as, ‘I expect big, bad Mr Finch has some questions.’

Mayella in court

Mayella is nineteen and, as the oldest, has to look after her seven younger brothers and sisters. Her mother has been dead a ‘long time’ and she only went to school for two or three years. She thinks Atticus is ‘mockin’ her by calling her ‘Miss Mayella’ and ‘ma’am’ and ‘makin fun’ of her when he asks if she has any friends. It is obvious to the audience that she has a hard and lonely life. When Atticus suggests that her father ‘does tollable’ except ‘when he’s drinking’ Mayella nods ‘in spite of herself’. We, therefore, doubt her when she claims he has never hit her.

It is clear to us, too, that Mayella’s account of the assault does not stand up under Atticus’ questioning. She says more than once that she does not remember what happened. Then when she is asked to identify the man that attacked her we find out that Tom’s left hand is crippled – his arm was ‘caught in a cotton gin when he was a boy – like to bled to death’ – and we understand why Atticus asked Bob Ewell to sign his name.

Soon she has no answers for Atticus. She cannot explain why no children came to help her or when or why she screamed or confirm whether Tom or her father beat her. Instead she calls the jury ‘yellow stinkin’ cowards’ if they ‘don’t wanta do nothin’ about her being ‘took advantage of’ by ‘that black man yonder’.

Tom Robinson

Tom is Atticus’ only witness. We learn that he is twenty five, married with three children. He has been in trouble with the law before. He was given a thirty-day sentence for disorderly conduct. He has to explain that he was in a fight with another man. Because he could not pay the fine, he had to go to jail – the other man simply paid the fine. Atticus mentions this straightaway to show that he is not hiding anything but, in his cross-examination of Tom, Mr Gilmer presents it as an example of Tom’s violent nature and ‘looks significantly at the jury’.

Tom’s version of events is quite different from Mayella’s. He explains that there were no children there that day because Mayella had saved up enough money to treat them all to ice cream. He tells the jury that he had helped her on a number of occasions but he makes the mistake of telling Mr Gilmer that he ‘felt sorry for her’. In the stage directions it tells us that Mr Gilmer knows he ‘he has got him’. There is no way that the all white and male jury will be happy that a black man should feel sorry for a white woman. Throughout the questioning, Mr Gilmer calls Tom ‘boy’ which is deliberately insulting and reinforces Tom’s inferiority in the eyes of the white people in the court.

Dill gets so upset at the way Mr Gilmer is treating and talking to Tom that he begins to cry.  He says he is ‘beginning to understand why Boo Radley stays shut up in that house – it’s because he wants to stay inside … Maybe he found out the way people can go outa their way to despise each other.’

In his summing-up, ‘Atticus looks directly out to the audience which is where the imaginary jury sits’. We, the audience, are the jury. He tells us: ‘This case is as simple as black and white’ and it is, both literally and figuratively. There are no doubts, no grey areas – the Ewells have lied and Tom Robinson is not guilty. It is also the word of two white people against that of one black man.

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There is no evidence that a rape ever took place – no medical evidence was sought or gathered; Atticus has shown that the person who beat up Mayella was left-handed and Tom Robinson cannot use his left hand.

If you are looking for a powerful scene or speech, this is an excellent example. In his monologue, Atticus sums up Tom’s predicament: ‘a quiet, respectable Negro man who had the unmitigated temerity to feel sorry for a white woman is on trial for his life.’

Atticus talks of his ‘pity’ for Mayella, ‘the chief witness for the state’ but his ‘pity does not extend to her putting a man’s life at stake.’ She has broken ‘a rigid code’ in that she kissed a young black man. ‘Her father saw what happened’ and there is enough ‘circumstantial evidence’ to suggest that he was the one who beat her. He calls upon the jury to do their duty ‘in the name of God’.

It seems to Jem that his father has won but Reverend Sykes tells him that he has ‘never seen any jury decide in favour of a black man over a white man.’

Immediately after this we learn that Bob Ewell went up to Atticus, ‘cursed him, told him he’d kill him if it took the rest of his life, and when Atticus just stood there looking at him, Bob Ewell spat in his face.’

When Heck Tate delivers the jury’s verdict to Judge Taylor we discover that they have found Tom guilty.

In court

Jean tells us that later when they spoke to Atticus, ‘Jem started to cry’ – ‘I’d never seen my father so close to being bitter. ‘I don’t know how,’ he told us, ‘but they did it. They’ve done it before, and they did it today and they’ll do it again. And when they do it – seems only children weep.’

As for Bob Ewell, ‘Atticus had destroyed his last shred of credibility’.

Again the ending is foreshadowed when Jean tells us, ‘Ewell started making terrible threats. This time we should have believed him. This time he was telling the truth.’

Miss Maudie explains to Jem that a number of people have tried to help Tom: ‘His friends… and people like us… Judge Taylor … Heck Tate … Did it ever strike you that Judge Taylor naming Atticus to defend Tom was no accident? … Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying your father the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right.’

Even though he did not win the case Miss Maudie says that ‘he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out for so long in a case like this’. She also says ‘we’re making a step – it’s just a baby step, but it’s a step.’

Other important incidents:

Atticus shoots the mad dog

This is important because it lets Scout and Jem see their father in a new light. It also shows the high regard that other people have for Atticus – people such as Miss Maudie and Heck Tate. Just as they rely on him to do the right thing in court, they rely on him here to save them from the danger the dog represents. It is significant that it is Miss Stephanie who suggests that perhaps the dog was not ‘really mad. Maybe he was just full of fleas.’ Yet even she is forced to admit, ‘I felt safer when I saw Atticus take the rifle.’

 shooting the dog

This also shows us that Jem is growing up. Unlike Scout, he does not feel the need to ‘tell ‘em at school on Monday!’ He says to Scout, ‘I reckon if he’d wanted us to know, he’da told us.’ For him it is enough that they know – ‘We don’t have to talk about it any more’n he does.’ He no longer cares ‘if he’s a hundred years old!’

Jem destroys Mrs Dubose’s flowers

Mrs Dubose is described in the stage directions as ‘old and bad-tempered’. Jean tells us that she and Jem ‘hated her’. However, she also says that they ‘had no idea that she was fighting a hard battle.’

This time Jem has told Scout to hold her ‘head high’ but he hesitates when Mrs Dubose says his mother would be shocked at ‘the way Atticus Finch lets her children run wild’ and loses his temper when she says by ‘lawing for niggers’ Atticus is ‘no better than the trash he works for!’ He then destroys her flowers.

Atticus tells him that to do this to a ‘sick old lady’ is ‘inexcusable’. He also says to Scout, ‘Never thought Jem’d be the one to lose his head. Thought I’d have more trouble with you.’

Jem’s punishment is to work on her garden and to read out loud for her for two hours every afternoon.

It is not until after the verdict has been delivered, Tom has been taken away to prison, Bob Ewell has made threats against Judge Taylor and Atticus, and Atticus is working on Tom’s appeal that we hear that Mrs Dubose has died. It is only then that Jem and Scout discover what Atticus knew all along – Mrs Dubose had become a morphine addict after having been given it for pain. She used his reading as a ‘distraction’ as she weaned herself off it so she could die ‘beholden to nobody and nothing.’

Atticus acknowledges that she was prejudiced – ‘Her views on a lot of things were quite different from mine’ – but he considers her struggle to beat her addiction as an example of ‘real courage’. He tells his children that courage is ‘when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win – but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her!’

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Although Mrs Dubose is a minor character in the play, she serves to represent the prejudiced views of many in the town. She, like Miss Stephanie, seems to see the bad in people rather than the good. However, when we, the audience, like Scout and Jem, get a chance to see things from her point of view – to climb into her skin – then we can sympathise with her as Atticus does and understand her a bit better. It is not enough to empathise with likeable people; we have to see things from the point of view of everyone. That’s why the play ends with Atticus saying to Scout that, ‘Most people are (nice) – when you finally get to see them.’

The mob outside the jailhouse

Whilst Jem is apologising to Mrs Dubose, Heck Tate informs Atticus that Tom Robinson has been moved to the county jail as his trial is due to start ‘the day after tomorrow’. Heck is anticipating trouble from the ‘Old Sarum bunch’. The stage directions tell us that Heck is ‘worried’.

He says to Atticus, ‘I don’t see why you touched this case. You’ve got everything to lose …I mean – everything.’

Atticus replies (with decision), ‘Heck, that boy might go to the chair, but he’s not going till the truth’s told.’

Atticus takes a small folding chair and a light bulb with him to the jailhouse.  He hangs the light bulb over a standing hat rack and sits on the chair. The stage light is quite dim except for the small area around Atticus. That means that when a group of men appear they cannot be seen clearly. Only Bob Ewell and Mr Cunningham can be identified. This increases the tension of the scene and the threat to Atticus posed by the ‘mob’.

The children – Scout, Jem and Dill – decide to check on Atticus. When they discover that he is not in his office they are ‘uneasy’ then they see him sitting outside the jailhouse. When they hear the sound of a ‘lotta cars’ approaching they decide to ‘get down ‘n’ watch’.

Jean comments that her father ‘seemed to be expecting exactly what was coming.’

Atticus is in real danger. He is all that stands between the mob and Tom Robinson. Heck Tate has been sent on ‘a snipe hunt’ what we would call a wild goose chase – a false errand.

When Scout hears her father saying, ‘Do you really think so?’ her curiosity gets the better of her. That question normally means ‘he was about to deal with somebody.’ She darts forward.

Atticus is ‘afraid for her’ and for Jem and Dill when they follow her ‘into the circle of light’. The lighting here helps to focus the audience’s attention on the tense situation developing.

Outside the jail

Scout kicks a man holding Jem. The crowd, including Bob Ewell become impatient. If Atticus cannot get the children out of the way, they will. Then Scout, in her innocence, defuses the situation. She recognises Mr Cunningham and says hello. She asks him to say ‘hey’ to his son Walter for her and she talks about his ‘entailment’ that Atticus, as his lawyer, has been helping him with. Because of her intervention, Mr Cunningham sees the situation from Atticus’s point of view and he and the other men leave. Without understanding how or why, Scout has prevented a violent attack on Atticus and helped protect the man the mob might well have lynched, Tom Robinson.

Mr Cunningham

When Jem says to Atticus, ‘I thought Mr Cunningham was a friend,’ Atticus replies, ‘Still is. He just has his blind spots along with the rest of us … he was part of a mob. But a mob’s always made up of people, and Mr Cunningham’s still a man. What you children did – you made him remember that.’

Atticus tells Scout, ‘You made him stand in my shoes for a minute.’

After saying this, Atticus switches off the light bulb and they exit in darkness. This serves to highlight the importance of what has just happened. Immediately following this, the props are brought on stage for the courtroom scene.

News of Tom Robinson’s death

It is just after we discover that Mrs Dubose has died that Heck Tate brings Atticus the news that Tom Robinson is dead.

Bob Ewell calls it ‘good news’ and says ‘there’s one down – two to go!’ We are being forewarned that there is more violence to come. This is confirmed when Jean tells us that, ‘Atticus was underestimating what anger and sick frustration could do to an already unbalanced man.’ This is a foreshadowing of the events to come.

The children are attacked

At this point in the play the lights on stage are dimmed until the stage is ‘entirely dark’ except for Jean who is ‘only dimly lit.’

As Scout and Jem are going to the school where Scout is taking part in a pageant, Jem lights the way with his flashlight. He teases Scout, asking if she is scared of ‘haints’ and tells her she must be scared because they are ‘passin’ Boo Radley’s place’.

As they listen to a mockingbird, Jem’s flashlight goes out. There is something wrong with it. The stage is now dark except for the dim light on Jean. This all serves to make the scene more dramatic and the events which follow more confusing and disturbing – it also highlights the danger for the children.

On the way back from the pageant, Jean tells us the trip was ‘more eventful’. ‘Jem thought he heard something’ and kept stopping to listen. At first, Scout thought he was trying to scare her but he said he was not and held her tightly.

 mockingbirdham

Just as Jean tells us she thought she ‘heard steps following, too’ there is a rumble of thunder and the final light on stage goes out leaving it in ‘total darkness’. At this point the audience cannot see anything and it is the dialogue and the sound effects that create the drama. The children get increasingly worried, ‘there is another rumble of thunder’ and there is the sound of ‘someone running toward them’.

In the panic that ensues, Jem yells at Scout to run and we hear ‘a crack’ and then ‘Jem screams in pain’.

The stage directions tell us that at this point the darkness on stage is ‘split as the Radley door is swung wide open’ and we see the silhouette of a ‘big man’. The stage directions also state that ‘the less seen the better’. In this way the audience can share the children’s confusion and fear for their safety. We cannot tell who is attacking them or what is happening to the children.

When the sounds of ‘struggle stop’ we are told that the man from the Radley house has picked up Jem and we can see from the porch light at the Finch house that Jem’s arm has been broken. Scout is watching from the ground and there is no sign of the attacker.

It is at this point in the play that we finally see Mr Arthur Radley – Boo. He is the one who saved Scout and Jem.  We also learn that they were attacked by Bob Ewell who is lying dead ‘with a kitchen knife stuck under his ribs.’

Atticus thinks that Jem is responsible for Bob Ewell’s death. It is a measure of his honesty and respect for the law that he accepts that Jem will have to face the consequences of his actions. He tells Heck Tate, ‘I won’t gave him grown up with a whisper about him. I won’t hush up-’

It is Heck Tate who sets Atticus straight. Of course Jem could not have killed him – his arm was broken. It was, of course, Boo who killed Bob Ewell to protect the children. Heck Tate insists that that decision is his and his ‘responsibility’.

I’m saying there’s a black man dead for no reason, and the white man responsible for it is dead. So let the dead bury the dead, this time, Mr Finch.

Not only does it serve no purpose to bring Boo to trial it would actually be cruel: ‘To my way of thinking, dragging him with his shy ways into the limelight – that’s a sin.’

Heck and Atticus agree that the official version will be that ‘Bob Ewell fell on his knife.’

Arthur 'Boo' Radley

Boo Radley is not the seven foot, squirrel-eating monster that the children had imagined him to be. He was the one who had left the children little gifts in the tree; he had watched them playing with Dill; he had saved them from Bob Ewell who would have killed them both and felt no remorse. To take him to court or to have him praised as a hero would be the same as killing a mockingbird.

He went inside and I never saw him again. But when I turned around, standing on Boo’s porch – I saw something else –

What Jean sees is that her younger self had stood on the porch and was in Boo’s skin, seeing Scout and Jem playing and waiting for their father. Jean realises that, even as a child, in that moment, Scout had learned the lesson that Atticus so wanted her to learn. She was ‘already beginning to stand in other people’s shoes!’

That in itself is enough to make the ending of the play hopeful.

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