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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Every small town has a person or a family that is notorious. Our Maycomb is no exception. In fact, we have more than one candidate for that honor. Some might give it to the Cunninghams, dirt-poor farmers who are too proud to take help from anybody. Others would single out the Ewells, the nastiest family in Maycomb County. But for my older brother Jem and I, the most interesting family in Maycomb is the Radleys. The rundown Radley place is just three houses south of ours. We pass it every day on our way to school. It is a place of mystery and source of many stories, most revolving around the "malevolent phantom" who lives there, Boo Radley. My given name is Jean Louise Finch. But everybody calls me Scout. I reckon my father Atticus is the most respected person in town. We Finches are Maycomb County born and bred. Atticus studied law in Montgomery and then returned to Maycomb to start his law practice. He even represents the county in the state legislature. Atticus is a real gentleman. He never boasts about things like being a crack shot. And he says it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because all they do is bring folks happiness. He believes that anybody who needs a lawyer should have one. Sometimes he helps folks who can't pay him. And he always until proven otherwise, says we should think of everybody in Maycomb as our friends. It was our friend Dill who first gave Jem and I the idea of making Boo come out of his house. Boo's real name is Arthur. Our housekeeper Calpurnia says Arthur's father was the "meanest man" in the world. When the town wanted to put Arthur in an asylum, Old Man Radley refused. Instead, he locked Boo away in his house. I reckon nobody has seen Boo since. Jem says he is probably dead. But we keep hearing stories about him wandering the town at night and being the cause of everything odd that happens after dark. People say Boo Radley is crazy. You wouldn't want to meet up with him face- to-face. These stories really got us excited and the idea of seeing Boo Radley became an obsession for Dill and Jem. I reckon most folks in Maycomb will tolerate a Boo Radley. But when anything involving a Negro comes up, Atticus says it drives otherwise sensible people "stark raving mad." That is what happened my second year in school. One day in the schoolyard Cecil Jacobs announced that Scout Finch's daddy was defending a Negro. I was ready to give him a pounding if he didn't take it back. But it turned out to be true. Atticus had been picked to defend Tom Robinson, who was charged with attacking Mayella Ewell. It was one Negro's word against two white folks, Mayella and her Daddy. Atticus told me there was no chance he could win the case. But he was going to try, anyhow. I reckon a lot of folks in Maycomb went stark raving mad over the idea that Atticus might help get Tom Robinson freed. That's when Jem and I learned that there are a lot of scarier things in Maycomb than Boo Radley. Still all the commotion made me want to know one thing. If it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, isn't it just as much a sin to kill an innocent man just because he is black? BookTalk by Tom Reynolds, librarian, writer, and author of Teen Reading Connections. This material is copyrighted. Text may not be copied without the express written permission of the publisher except for the imprint of the video screen content or via the output options of the EBSCOhost software. Text is intended solely for the use of the individual user.
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