To Kill a Mockingbird - Dialogue

This GCSE English Literature quiz tests you on dialogue in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The term “dialogue” is used for any direct speech in literature, although technically it means a conversation between at least two people. Dialogue is an important element in characterisation. A character’s speech, both in its style and in its content, has much to teach the reader. Several of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are strongly characterised through their dialogue, with all speaking in dialect to a greater or lesser extent, although these dialects vary, most significantly by the class or race of the person speaking. Atticus often corrects Scout’s use of dialect, describing some words as “common”.

Be sure to note specific details about a character’s language choice or use of dialect.

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When studying a work of fiction take some time to consider these questions: How is the speech of each character differentiated from others? How does vocabulary vary between characters? Do you observe any changes in a character’s dialogue over time, or in different situations? Does it make any difference which characters are speaking together?

Dialogue can tell you much more than about individual characteristics. Speech can prompt events, or convey information which the reader would otherwise not know, for example those events which happened before the story begins, or how characters expect to see future events unfold. Very often the plot itself depends on dialogue. Much of To Kill a Mockingbird is dialogue as reported by Scout.

Memorising dialogue is an excellent addition to your preparations for a literature exam. Create a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, paying extra attention to those examples which illustrate characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text

The quiz below focusses on knowing who is speaking each of these lines. Consider the significance of these lines before answering the questions. What do they tell you about the character who speaks them? Can you imagine another character speaking the same lines? If not, why not? Also consider whether the dialogue also gives us information about the person being addressed, or whether it foreshadows or explains later events.

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  1. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "The thing about it is, our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the coloured folks."
    Jem sees the link between class prejudice and racism, imagining it as a hierarchy of dislike and distrust in which groups of people need to feel superior to another group of people. Jem understands that advantages can be passed down through the generations, whereas Scout argues that all people are essentially the same at birth
  2. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "It's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you."
    Atticus raises his children to be courageous, and to stand up for their beliefs, even when those beliefs are opposed by the majority of people
  3. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Because — he — is — trash, that's why you can't play with him. I'll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what."
    Aunt Alexandra divides the world into those who are socially acceptable and those to be looked down upon and pitied
  4. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "There's some folks who don't eat like us, but you ain't called on to contradict 'em at the table when they don't."
    Calpurnia sees it as her responsibility to ensure that Scout is raised with good manners
  5. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
    Atticus teaches his children the importance of obeying their consciences
  6. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "I was wonderin' why it was so quiet like, an' it come to me that there weren't a chile on the place, not a one of 'em."
    The reader hears very little of Tom's speech, although the plot of the novel revolves around his trial
  7. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "You're real nice, Uncle Jack, an' I reckon I love you even after what you did, but you don't understand children much."
    Scout is not afraid to speak her mind, even to adults
  8. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "We're askin' him real politely to come out sometimes, and tell us what he does in there — we said we wouldn't hurt him and we'd buy him an ice-cream."
    Jem credits Dill with first coming up with the idea of making Boo Radley come out of his house
  9. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."
    Pay attention to the use of titles in To Kill a Mockingbird. The Judge refers to Calpurnia by her first name, in a familiar way, although he doesn't really know her, while Reverend Sykes addresses Scout very formally, although he is an adult and she a child. Mayella is not used to anyone addressing her as "Miss" before she goes to court
  10. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "You are too young to understand it, but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of — oh, of your father."
    Miss Maudie explains to Scout that religion can be a more dangerous excuse for terrible behaviour than drunkenness might be

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