To Kill a Mockingbird is at once a powerful indictment of racial injustice and a tender story about growing up. Narrated in the first person by the adult voice of Scout, who is almost six years old when the novel begins, the story weaves together two interrelated plots about life in Maycomb County, Alabama, in the 1930s. One story line involves the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman; the other follows the adventures of Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill, as they try to investigate the mysterious legend of the eerie Radley Place, which houses a “malevolent phantom” nicknamed Boo Radley. Lee juxtaposes the innocence and curiosity of the children with the ignorance and hostility of many of the adults, using the character of Atticus Finch-the children’s father and a respected attorney who defends Tom Robinson-as a standard of reason, compassion, and fairness. Atticus helps the children leave behind their world of make-believe and come closer to understanding the mystery behind the Radley Place, just as he pushes the town of Maycomb County toward its own confrontation with bigotry and injustice. Combining dry humor with an evocative description of the various social groups, economic problems, and political issues of the time, Lee creates in To Kill a Mockingbird a poignant tale of small-town southern life.

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