To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 12-15 Summary

    At the start of Chapter 12, Jem has turned twelve years old, and he continues to grow farther apart from Scout. He continually tells Scout to "act like a girl," which, of course, only offends her. Scout begins to look forward to Dill's return that summer; however, she is disappointed when she receives a letter from him saying that his mother has remarried and he will be staying with his family in Meridian that summer instead. Adding to Scout's summer despair, Atticus is often absent from home because he is part of the state legislature, which has been called into session.

    Calpurnia, who is minding the children, takes Jem and Scout to her church one day. The members of First Purchase Church-an all black church-are generally very inviting to Scout and Jem. After the service, Reverend Syke's takes up a collection of money for Tom Robinson's wife, who has not been able to find work since her husband was brought up on charges of raping a white woman. Scout also finds out that it was Bob Ewell who has made the accusations against Tom Robinson. Scout, knowing the community as she does and as innocent as she is, doesn't understand why anyone would believe Bob Ewell's word over anyone else's. This calls to mind the encounter with Burris Ewell earlier in the novel and his rude treatment of Miss Caroline. Scout is fairly oblivious to issues of race so, in her mind, the Ewells are incredibly low-class, so she can't understand how their word holds any merit. She fails to recognize that issues of race are at play.

    Here, the reader gets its first look at the black community in Maycomb. Except for a lady name Lula, they are portrayed in a very positive manner. The church is simple and very poor; however, the people are kind to Scout and Jem and, even though they have little, they rally to support Tom Robinson's wife. Scout has never seen anything like their church before, and marvels at how the Church doesn't even have hymns. Calpurnia explains that most people can't read anyway. Instead, her son, who can read, sings out a line of a hymn and the crowd repeats it. The kindness of the congregation of First Purchase and their strong community helps to convey Harper Lees views on the unjust racism that is ever-present in Maycomb.

    When Scout returns home from church, she find Aunt Alexandra has come to visit their home. Alexandra seems to believe the children would benefit from a feminine influence, and so she has decided to stay for a time. Alexandra quickly becomes quite popular in Maycomb, thriving in its social life, especially among the women. She attempts to instill in Jem and Scout a pride in their family legacy. Aunt Alexandra believes the Finch name to be a proud one, and she wants Jem and Scout to believe the same. After all, as we've seen in the novel so far, people are often defined by the attributes of their families. Alexandra tries to make Atticus talk to his children about family pride, but he just ends up upsetting Scout.

    Scout and Jem begin to notice that where they go about town, people seem to be whispering about them. Curious about the trial, Scout asks her father what rape is. After giving a very legal definition of rape that clears up nothing for Scout, Atticus asks why Scout doesn't ask Calpurnia. One thing leads to another, and Scout tells Atticus about how she went to Church with Calpurnia. Scout asks if she can go with Calpurnia again, and Aunt Alexandra is outraged. That night, Alexandra tries to talk Atticus into firing Calpurnia. Of course, Atticus will hear none of it. Jem tells Scout not to worry about it and to stop pestering Aunt Alexandra. Scout is angry at him for not taking her side and fights him.

    Atticus breaks up the fight and sends them off to bed. When Scout goes to her room, she sees something under her bed. To her surprise, it's Dill. He has been unhappy with his life and the lack of attention his parents have been giving him, so he took himself on the train to Maycomb. Jem tells Atticus-despite Scout's protest- and Atticus goes next door to tell Dill's aunt, Miss Rachel.

    Several days after Dill's appearance, a group of men shows up at Atticus' house-including the sheriff- with news that Tom Robinson is being transferred to another jail. They are worried that a group of people intent on lynching Tom Robinson may intercept his transfer. The following evening, Atticus goes into town, and Jem, Scout, and Dill follow him. When they reach the jail, the find that Atticus is sitting outside in a chair reading the newspaper.

    The children begin to leave but, just then, a group of cars shows up. Expecting it to be the sheriff and his crew, Scout jumps out of hiding to greet them. However, it is actually a much different group of people: the lynch mob. One of the men tells Atticus that he needs to make his children leave, and he obviously means this as a threat. Scout recognizes Walter Cunningham's father in the group and asks him to tell his son "hey." At this point, Walter seems to change his mind and tells everyone that they should leave. After this, they hear a voice nearby and Mr. Underwood, the owner of the newspaper, appears with a shotgun, telling Atticus that he had his back. Atticus then takes Scout and the other children home.

    In this section of the novel, Aunt Alexandra seems to be representative of the outside world and adulthood. She bustles into the Finch home, attempting to make Scout conform to her vision of a "proper" young woman. Meanwhile, Dill seems to represent the earlier childhood that Scout reflected on so fondly in the novel. Dill's presence is perhaps a reminder of how much their lives have changed because of the Robinson trial; he presents a contrast between childhood and adulthood.

    The novel also continues to reveal the ugly underbelly of Maycomb. Atticus goes to the jail with the intention of preventing a lynch mob from getting to Tom Robinson. Jem insists on following his father to the jail, no doubt because he understands just what is going on and is concerned for his father's safety. It becomes very apparent in this section that Jem is becoming further distanced from Scout in terms of growing up. His mature decision is a stark contrast to Scout's behavior when she able to diffuse the whole situation simply with innocence. Her asking Mr. Cunningham to say hello to his son shows how truly unaware of the situation she is. She is still very much living in the innocence of childhood, while Jem is becoming more and more mature.

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