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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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1 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Ch. 12 – 16 Discussion Questions English I PreAP

2 Discussion Questions – Ch. 12
What accounts for the changed relationship between Jem and Scout? Jem is now twelve years old and is experiencing many changes that Scout can’t understand. Jem wants to spend more time on his own or with boys his own age. He is moody and, with Scout, he is a know-it-all. As a result of Jem’s new personality, Scout is spending more time with Calpurnia and in the company of women. She is starting to see the differences between men and women; she is also gaining some respect for what women do.

3 Discussion Questions – Ch. 12
What insights do Jem and Scout gain from attending Calpurnia’s church? Jem and Scout witness a tremendous unity among the members of First Purchase. Everyone is willing to make monetary sacrifices to help Tom Robinson’s family. Their response is very different from the way the white community is responding to Atticus and his role in the trial. More importantly, Scout and Jem see a different side to Calpurnia. They find out that Calpurnia has a long history with the Finch family and that she learned to read (and taught her son to read) from a book given to her by Atticus’ father. Calpurnia also reiterates Atticus sentiments that it is not necessary to tell people everything one knows – arrogance is not flattering.

4 Discussion Questions – Ch. 13
What elements heighten the contrast between Atticus and Aunt Alexandra? The main contrast between the two is strongly revealed when Atticus agrees to speak to the children about their family name, as directed by Aunt Alexandra. Atticus is very uncomfortable with forcing heredity on the children and the children sense it. As a result, they feel totally disconnected from their father and react very strongly to all of the change Aunt Alexandra is trying to create. Pay close attention to the description of Aunt Alexandra on pg. 172

5 Discussion Questions – Ch. 14
Cite examples of prejudice and lack of human understanding. Much of prejudice is leveled at Jem and Scout. Though often the children don’t understand what the words mean, the tone is recognized and unmistakably hateful. Also, when Aunt Alexandra suggests that Atticus release Calpurnia from their service a lack of human understanding is revealed. Aunty’s motivation seems to be that Scout is too close to Calpurnia, but Atticus assures his sister that the closeness is as he wants it to be.

6 Discussion Questions – Ch. 14
In what ways does Jem break the one remaining code of childhood? When Jem reveals Dill’s presence to Atticus he has broken the childhood “code” and has become a “tattletale.” This act definitively separates Jem from Scout and Dill. Dill recognizes the change in Jem because he gives Jem a very different answer than he does Scout when asked how he got to Maycomb. This incident reflects the change in Jem.

7 Discussion Questions – Ch. 14
Further contrast Dill’s home life with Scout’s. When Dill explains why he ran away from home, Scout examines her own home life. Scout realizes that she is “needed” in her home and she is convinced that every child must be “needed.” Scout determines that Dill’s parents must be mean to him and he feels rejected. Dill denies they are mean. However, clearly they give him everything but themselves, and so he feels unneeded.

8 Discussion Questions – Ch. 15
Contrast the two groups of men Atticus faces. There are two reasons men stand in another’s front yard: death and politics. The group that gathers in Atticus’ front yard are led by Heck Tate and come in friendship to warn Atticus of the trouble brewing among the Old Sarum bunch (KKK). The men fear that they will do something bad to Atticus. The mob that gathers outside of the jail is not the everyday people that Jem and Scout are used to seeing. The mob smells of pigpens and whiskey. The Old Sarum bunch intend to lynch Tom Robinson. However, Scout breaks the tension and defeats the intent of the mob with her innocent chatter to Mr. Cunningham.

9 Discussion Questions – Ch. 15
Explain Jem’s reason for following Atticus to town. Jem is concerned with his father’s safety. He admits to Scout that he is afraid someone might hurt their father. When Atticus takes the car to town, a rare occurrence, on the evening before the trial, it is strange enough to Jem that he feels the need to follow him.

10 Discussion Questions – Ch. 15
Why does the group at the jail disperse after Scout’s talk? Scout causes Mr. Cunningham to see the situation through Atticus’ eye (sound familiar?!). She innocently talks to Mr. Cunningham about his son Walter, which touches him and allows his to feel a common parental pride and protectiveness. Mr. Cunningham then feels shame for endangering Atticus’ children and disperses the mob. Scout weakens the mob by reminding them of their individuality. She destroys the “mob mentality” and “crowd courage.”

11 Discussion Questions – Ch. 16
Why does Scout cry after returning home from the jail? How does Jem’s treatment of Scout show his maturity? The full impact of the evening’s events really hit Scout when they get home. She realizes how much danger Atticus was in both when he faced the mad dog and when he faced the mad mob. She realizes how evil people can be. Jem knows that he needs to comfort his sister, so he allows her to sleep in his room. Jem realizes that Atticus is too emotionally drained to comfort Scout, so he takes over. He lets Scout cry and release her feelings.

12 Discussion Questions – Ch. 16
What does Maycomb’s turnout for the trial imply about human nature? There is a morbid curiosity inherent in human nature. Miss Maudie calls it a “Roman carnival.” People are wearing fine clothes and picnicking. However, among the black community, there are few women and children which contrasts to the “holiday” mood of the white community and reveals their attitude toward the trial.

13 Discussion Questions – Ch. 16
Why is Scout confused after overhearing remarks about her father’s defense of Tom Robinson? Scout learns that Atticus was appointed to defend Tom Robinson, not just that he has chosen to do so. She learns that the white community is upset with Atticus because he intends to do a thorough job of the defense. She is confused why Atticus has not told Jem and her of his appointment. She is further confused about why the town is upset that Atticus has chosen to do what only seems natural to Scout, that is to do the best job he possibly can.

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