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To Kill a Mockingbird - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at character in To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is narrated by its main character, Scout, from the vantage point of adult life. The characters, therefore, feature to a greater or lesser extent depending on their relationship to Scout. Her younger self, her brother Jem and their father Atticus are at the centre of the novel. Their childhood friend Dill, their servant Calpurnia and Aunt Alexandra also feature strongly. Boo Radley, the reclusive man who saves the Finch children’s lives at the end of the novel, is a key character. Many other inhabitants of the town play their parts in the plot, including Tom Robinson, whose trial is one of its most important events.

We see these characters through the observant eyes of the young Scout, but our own experience of the characters is also filtered through her more mature reflection.

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Even as a child, Scout has a knack for judging other people’s characters, although her judgements can sometimes be harsh if she feels she has been treated unfairly, or, even more likely, if she is defending someone she loves.

Pay attention to the speech and action, as well as to narratorial description of characters. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, as narrator, describes characters in a way that immediately invites judgement if she is not delivering her own verdict on the character (and she often is). Sometimes Scout’s innocence allows her to see better, as when she speaks to Mr Cunningham about his son Walter, unwittingly defusing a dangerous situation. At other times, her youth leads her to miss that which is apparent to the adults around her, and also to Jem as he begins to grow up.

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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  1. How does the friendship between the Finch children and Miss Maudie differ from their relationships with other adults?
    Miss Maudie does not patronise the children, pry into their lives or tell on them. Scout describes her as a friend. Other adults maintain a strict distinction between themselves and children
  2. How does the narrator inform the reader that she was a tomboy as a young girl?
    Scout spends her time playing with Jem and Dill and hates being excluded for her gender
  3. Which of the following does NOT accurately describe Jem?
    Although he denies his fears, Jem often feels afraid. He puts his fears aside when he is determined to find out something he wants to know, or when he is responding to a dare
  4. Which aspect of Tom Robinson's character leads to his trial?
    His kindness in stopping to speak to and occasionally help Mayella make him the target of her accusation. Scout believes that Tom was the only person who had ever been kind to Mayella
  5. Atticus shoots the rabid dog in the street with a single shot. What effect does this episode have on Jem's and Scout's view of their father?
    Jem and Scout had been embarrassed that Atticus was much older than the fathers of their classmates and spent his time in less masculine pursuits than hunting, fishing, drinking and smoking
  6. How do Jem and Scout come to change their opinion about Boo Radley?
    Despite this series of events, Scout still responds dramatically when she realises that Boo had been directly behind her
  7. "Calpurnia bent down and kissed me. I ran along, wondering what had come over her." What does Scout's reaction to the kiss tell the reader about Calpurnia?
    Calpurnia is a dependable presence in the lives of the Finch children. She feels affectionate towards Jem and Scout but does not often show it. Scout is more familiar with reprimands than with kisses
  8. Aunt Alexandra wishes to send Calpurnia home. Why?
    Aunt Alexandra hints that it is not appropriate for Scout, a white girl, to be at a church where she will mix with black people. The fact that she does not mention this being inappropriate for Jem implies that she is specifically worried about Scout spending time with black boys
  9. Which of the children in To Kill a Mockingbird could best be described as "inventive"?
    Jem and Scout enjoy Dill's stories and also enjoy catching him out when he has been embellishing those stories. He often lies for their entertainment or when the subject of his father is mentioned
  10. What do the red geraniums in the Ewell yard NOT tell the reader about Mayella?
    Scout thinks about the red geraniums when Mayella makes her appearance in court. Scout can tell that, unlike the rest of the Ewells, Mayella attempts to keep herself clean. Despite her hard work looking after her many siblings, Mayella also finds time to cultivate the flowers

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