To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 8-11 Summary

    In Chapter 8, Maycomb receives some unexpected snowfall. It throws the town for a loop because the area typically does not receive snow. Scout and Jem decide to make a snowman; however, they quickly realize there isn't enough snow to do this, even after they collect all the snow from their own yard and Miss Maudie's yard. Instead, they decide to build a snowman-shaped figure out of dirt and cover it with snow. They model it after an unpleasant neighbor of theirs, Mr. Avery, and Atticus is dismayed at the likeness. When Atticus insists they disguise it, Scout and Jem put Miss Maudie's hat on its head and her hedge trimmers in its hands.

    That night, Atticus wakes up Scout because Miss Maudie's house is on fire. Atticus takes Scout and Jem outside. Some of the neighbors help carry out some of her belongings out of the house as it burns. Fire trucks arrive after that; unfortunately, they are unable to stop her house from burning down, but they do prevent other houses nearby from catching fire as well. Scout notices afterward that, while she was standing outside in the cold in only her bathrobe, someone put a blanket around her shoulders. In the confusion, she did not notice at the time when it happened. However, she had been standing in front of the Radley house. Nathan Radley had been helping with the fire, so it could only have been Boo who put the blanket around her shoulders. Realizing she had been so close to Boo, Scout is nearly struck down with terror.

    Despite everything that has happened, Miss Maudie is in good spirits the next day. She tells the children that she plans to build a new, smaller house.

    In the beginning of Chapter 9, Scout almost beats up a classmate-Cecil Jacobs'- who tells her that her father "defends niggers." This derogatory term is used throughout the novel and it is important to realize the novel's historical context when interpreting such language. It is also important to realize that this racial slur is considered incredibly offensive today, and is only used here in reference to the novel. The novel takes place in the 1930s, a period before the Civil Rights movement and during a time when racism was still rife in America, particularly in the South. Harper Lee uses such language to point out this racism and give an accurate portrayal of sentiments in the South, though she certainly does not condone such language or such a mentality.

    When Scout hears Cecil's remarks, she is infuriated, probably more at the implication that Atticus is somehow inferior than actually anything race-related. In fact, when Scout tells Atticus about what happened, he pointedly tells her not to use the word "nigger." And Atticus has to explain several things to Scout, who is largely innocent when it comes to such matters as race.

    Atticus tells Scout that he has been asked to be Tom Robinson's lawyer, a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. He tells Scout that he doubts he will win the case but that he must try in order to uphold his own sense of justice. Things in Macyomb, Atticus warns, could become tense because of this case.

    Christmastime soon arrives and Atticus' brother, Uncle Jack, comes to visit. Scout generally gets along very well with Uncle Jack. When Scout begins cursing, Uncle Jack tells her this is something she shouldn't do if she wants to grow up to be a lady. Naturally, Scout rebels against this idea because she isn't all that concerned with being ladylike. For Christmas, Uncle Jack gives Scout and Jem each an air rifle.

    At this time, Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Jack all go to visit Aunt Alexandra. Scout does not look forward to this visit because Aunt Alexandra is very forthright in her rather traditional views of what a young girl should be. Naturally, she does not approve of Scout's behavior. Scout also does not get along with her cousin, Francis. Repeating the words of his mother, Francis at one point calls Atticus a "nigger-lover," which sends Scout into a fury. She beats Francis up.

    Jack spanks her without hearing what Scout has to say, and Scout is upset. However, when they return to Maycomb, she tells Jack everything. She makes Jack promise not to tell Atticus because she had, in turn, promised her father that she wouldn't fight because of things people said about him.

    Later, Scout overhears her father talking to Uncle Jack about the case. Atticus strongly believes that Tom Robinson is innocence; however, he knows Tom's chances of winning are low since he is facing an all-white jury. Atticus mentions that Scout also needs to learn not to get so angry over things because it will only get more difficult as the trial approaches. Atticus hears her eavesdropping and tells her to go to bed; the adult narrator Scout realizes, years later, that Atticus meant for her to overhear all he had to say.

    In Chapter 10, Uncle Jack teaches Jem and Scout to shoot their air rifles. Atticus tells Jem that he should never shoot mockingbirds because "it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird," saying that they are innocent birds who only sing and never hurt anyone. This is obviously where the title of the novel comes from, and it is a metaphor for never harming a person or thing that is innocent. Boo Radley is the most obvious "mockingbird" in the novel, as Atticus constantly reminds Jem and Scout to leave him alone because Boo has never done any harm to them. However, Tom, Scout, and Jem, could also be considered mockingbirds as well.

    Scout muses over the fact that her father often seems older than other fathers. He is scholarly and wears glasses, where most fathers in their community hunt and fish. However, one day a rabid dog shows up in the community. While everyone hunkers down, the sheriff gives Atticus his gun, asking him to shoot the dog. Atticus does this with one shot, and Miss Maudie tells the children that, in his youth, Atticus was the best shot in the county. Scout wants to brag to everyone about this, but Jem tells her to keep quiet because Atticus probably wouldn't want this.

    Chapter 11 is the final chapter in Part I of the novel. In this section, Jem and Scout receive insults about Atticus from a grumpy woman-Mrs. Dubose- whose house they pass everyday. In retribution, Jem destroys the camellia bushes outside Mrs. Dubose' house. As punishment, Jem has to go to Mrs. Dubose's house every afternoon and read to her. Scout sometimes goes with him, and she and Jem watch as Mrs. Dubose has a strange fit. Each day, they read to her longer and, when an alarm goes off, a servant comes in to give Mrs. Dubose medicine as her fit begins. A few weeks after Jem's punishment ends, Mrs. Dubose dies. Atticus reveals that Mrs. Dubose was addicted to morphine, but that she wanted to die on her own terms. With the help of the children, she was able to give up her addiction before her death.

    In this section of the novel, things begin to shift in terms of plot. Whereas the beginning of the novel focuses largely on Jem and Scout's childhood and their obsession with Boo, the trial gradually begins to take over. For the first time, real racial tensions begin to emerge in the novel. It is clear that there is some deep-rooted prejudice in the minds of many of the people of Maycomb. However, it is also clear that Atticus is a much more objective individual and is someone who does not buy into this racism. He believes that representing Tom Robinson is what is right and, therefore, it is what he will do. He knows he will be facing a difficult trial and much criticism from his neighbors, but he is resolved to do it nevertheless.

    The section further reveals Atticus as the moral figurehead of the novel in the way he raises his children. Above all else, he tries to instill in them a clear sense of morals. Additionally, Scout begins to realize the courage her father has, even though he is not the masculine hunter or fisherman like other fathers in town. He could be a great huntsman if he had chosen; however, he believes it is unfair to use this talent on lesser creatures. So, he only uses his shooting ability when he must in order to protect those in his family. Additionally, though Mrs. Dubose is deeply racist and clearly dislikes him, Atticus tells Jem that Mrs. Dubose possesses "real courage," telling him that courage is "when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." This is, of course, ironic because Atticus know that he has been "licked," or beaten, at the trial before it has even begun. However, he is resolved to see it through and this, in turn, makes his courage even more apparent to the reader.

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