Character Descriptions

Primary characters



Atticus Finch


Main article: Atticus Finch

A lawyer and the father of Jeremy Finch and Jean Louise Finch,raising them as a single parent after he is widowed. He is appointed to defend Tom , who is accused of raping . He does not want to take the case, but sees it as his duty not only to take it, but to do his best to defend his client. He shows Robinson to be innocent in the case that follows. He tries to instil in his children a sense of dignity and respect for others. His lack of athleticism is an embarrassment to his football-loving son, although he is revealed to be "the best shot in Maycomb County", something he has never told his children. Atticus Finch is also a very respectable man in Maycomb county.

 

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch


Jean Louise "Scout" Finch is the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird. She is smart for her age and has trouble with her teacher, Ms. Caroline, in school because she can read and write when she starts first grade. Her teacher does not like this because she wants Scout to learn her way to read and write, not Atticus' (Scout's father). She matures as the novel progresses but still retains some of her childish ways. The novel is written from the point of view of Scout when she is older and she often comments on how she didn't understand something at the time, but now, having grown up, she does. She is the only one of the three children to see Boo Radley, and actually talks to him during the course of the novel. She learns a lot by "standing in his shoes." She was terrified of Boo, but once she actually saw him, she realized he was harmless. She learns the true value of getting to know someone before judging them. She is sad at the end that she never gave Boo anything back, as he gave them treasures and their lives.

 

Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch


Jem represents the idea of bravery in the novel, and the way that his definition changes over the course of the story is important. The shift that occurs probably has as much to do with age as experience, although the experiences provide a better framework for the reader. When the story begins, Jem's idea of bravery is simply touching the side of the Radley house and then only because "In all his life, Jem had never declined a dare." But as the story progresses, Jem learns about bravery from Atticus facing a mad dog, from Mrs. Dubose's fight with addiction, and from Scout's confrontation with the mob at the jail, among others. Along the way, he grows from a boy who drags his sister along as a co-conspirator to a young gentleman who protects Scout and tries to help her understand the implications of the events around him.

 

Charles Baker "Dill" Harris


Jem and Scout's summer friend. His goal is to get Boo Radley to come out of the house, and the children concoct many plans to do so, until they are put down my Atticus. He promised to marry Scout. Dill ran away from home the summer of the trial because he felt unwanted, and was allowed to stay.

 

Calpurnia


She is the Finch family's cook and housekeeper, whom the children love and Atticus deeply respects (he remarks in her defense that she "never indulged [the children] like most colored nurses"); she can be described as a strict mother figure. In Scout's early life she provides discipline, instruction, and love, and essentially fills the maternal role after their mother's death. Calpurnia is one of the few black characters in the novel who is able to read and write, and it is she who taught Scout to write. She is believed to be just a few years older than Atticus (in fact, they grew up together, and Atticus's father gave her the first book she ever read) but since she does not know when she was born, she simply has her 'birthday' at Christmas, as it is easy to remember. She is mentioned as having several children, one of whom is Zeebo, who drives the town garbage truck.

Living in Maycomb's African American and Caucasian communities, Calpurnia has two different perspectives on life, and Scout notices that she speaks and acts differently among her black friends than at their home. Because of her unique status, she can relate to both sides of stories.

While everyone in the novel is filtered through Scout’s perception, Calpurnia in particular appears for a long time more as Scout’s idea of her than as a real person. At the beginning of the novel, Scout appears to think of Calpurnia as the wicked stepmother to Scout’s own Cinderella.[dubiousdiscuss]

 

Arthur "Boo" Radley


Arthur Radley, nicknamed "Boo" by the children of Maycomb, is a recluse. After he fell into a bad crowd as a teenager, he was brought up in front of a judge. Rather than let his son be sent to the industrial school, (where the other gang boys would eventually receive a high-quality education) he brought Arthur home. The form of punishment that the father used to keep Boo inside is unclear, but the indications are that Mr. Radley used religion as a weapon. The story is that later Boo stabs his father in the leg with a pair of scissors. He is once again taken to jail. This time when he returns home, he doesn't come out at all. Boo becomes a central figure in the imaginations of Scout, Jem, and their neighbor Dill Harris, and thus being, their summers are occupied with dramatic re-creations of his life and plans to lure Boo out of his house. Despite his history of being abused by his father, Boo is revealed to be a gentle soul through his unseen acts: the gifts he leaves in the tree; his mending of Jem's torn pants; the blanket he puts around Scout the night of the fire; and finally, his rescue of the children from Bob Ewell's murderous attack. As self-defence for the children, Boo kills Bob Ewell with a kitchen knife. The children's fear of Boo Radley, based on ignorance rather than knowledge, subtly reflects the prejudice of the town against Tom Robinson, a connection mirrored in the use of mockingbird imagery for both men.

The children, Scout, Jem, and Dill, are very interested with making "Boo Radley come out." He leaves treasures in an old oak tree for the kids, which started out with Wrigley's gum, but Nathan Radley (Boo's brother) fills the knothole with cement when the children try to thank Boo in a letter. He also appears when Miss Maudie Atkinsons house sets on fire. He puts a blanket over the freezing Scout while they are watching the rescue effort. When they come back to their own house, Atticus realizes and tells them, providing furthur encouragement. When Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem on Halloween, Boo comes out of his house to save them by killing Bob Ewell with his kitchen knife. Atticus believes Jem killed Bob with a kitchen knife. It takes Mr. Heck Tate a lot of time to convince to Atticus that Bob fell on his own knife because he was so drunk and stumbled over a tree root. Mr. Heck Tate knows Arthur "Boo" Radley killed Bob Ewell, but was tying to defend Arthur "Boo" Radley.

 

Nathan Radley


Nathan Radley is the brother of Arthur "Boo" Radley. However, when Boo's real father died, Nathan acts as the house's carekeeper. Even though it is not known whether he is the jailer of Boo Radley or the carekeeper, he plays an important role in To Kill A Mockingbird by cementing the hole in the tree where Boo Radley used to put gifts for the children. Even though Nathan is seen outside more often, he is just as mysterious as Arthur "Boo" Radley.

 

Maudie Atkinson

 

Miss Maudie Atkinson lives across the street from the Finch family. She had known the Finches for many years having been brought up on the Buford place, which was near the Finch's ancestral home, Finch Landing. She is described as a woman of about fifty who enjoys baking and gardening; her cakes are especially held in high regard. She is also considered by some to be a symbolic Mockingbird, as she is frequently harassed by devout "Foot-Washing Baptists", who tell her that her enjoyment of gardening is sin. Miss Maudie befriends Scout and Jem and tells them about Atticus as a boy. During the course of the novel, her house burns down; however, she shows remarkable courage throughout this (even joking that she wanted to burn it down herself to make more room for her flowers/azaleas). She is not prejudiced, unlike many of her Southern neighbors. Also, she is one of the few adults that Jem and Scout hold in high regard and respect. She does not act condescendingly towards them, even though they are young children.

 

Mayella Violet Ewell


Mayella Violet Ewell is Tom Robinson's 19 year-old accuser and the daughter of Bob Ewell. She is the oldest daughter of Bob Ewell and has to take care of her siblings (one of them is Burris, the boy we see at Scout's school), since all the Ewell children go to school only for the first day of each year and their father spends his unemployment money on alcohol. Mayella's mother died when Mayella was a child. Since her death, Mayella has become her father's surrogate and her siblings' mother. At one point during Tom Robinson's testimony a sexual relationship between Mayella and her father is hinted at ("She says she never kissed a grown man before an' she might as well kiss a Negroe. She says what her papa do to her don't count."). She was continually physically abused by her father; Atticus politely and indirectly proves this by mentioning the bruises concentrated on her right side, indicating a left-handed person and Tom Robinson has no use of his left arm. Mayella cannot attend school because she must stay home, take care of her siblings, and clean. She is isolated from her peers making her very lonely. In fact, she is so lonely that when Atticus Finch asks her if she has any friends, she becomes confused because she does not know what a friend is. During her time in court, she is confused by Atticus' polite speech and thinks that his use of "Miss Mayella" is meant to mock her. She wants a better life for herself and lovingly grows red geraniums, but a change in her situation is unlikely. To get the human contact that she so craves, she attempts to seduce a black man, namely Tom Robinson. Her father sees this and beats her up, calling her a whore. He then finds the sheriff, Heck Tate, and tells him that his daughter has been raped, even though there is absolutely no proof of this. By testifying against Tom Robinson, she was trying to destroy the evidence suggesting she had attempted to seduce him.

 

Bob Ewell

 

Robert "Bob" Ewell is Mayella's father and the town's ne'er-do-well, who spends what little money he has on liquor and lives in filth. After seeing his daughter Mayella kiss Tom, a black man, Bob beats her and forces her to accuse Tom of rape. Although the case ends in conviction, he is humiliated by Atticus' showing the truth and later swears revenge. He tries to break into Judge Taylor's house and he harasses Helen Robinson. When Tom is shot, his only comment is "one down and two to go." However, he decides to go after Atticus's children to fulfill a promise of getting Atticus if it took the rest of his life. One night he attacks Jem and Scout, who fortunately are saved by Boo Radley.

 

Thomas "Tom" Robinson

 

Tom Robinson is a 25-year-old black man who is accused of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. He is defended by Atticus Finch in his trial. As noticed by Scout, his left arm is useless and shriveled, making it unlikely that he beat Mayella as her bruises were on the left side of her face. Despite this, he is found guilty of rape and sentenced to death. While in jail, he attempts to escape, but is shot seventeen times and killed. The manner in which he was killed leads many to believe that he was not escaping and that it was murder. He has a wife named Helen and three children. Like Atticus, he is polite and altruistic, doing things for others out of compassion and kindness. He states during his testimony that he felt sorry for Mayella, shocking the jury.

 

Aunt Alexandra Finch


Alexandra Hancock (nee Finch) is Atticus Finch's sister, married to James "Uncle Jimmy" Hancock. She has a son named Henry and a somewhat spoiled grandson named Francis. She stays with the Finches because she does not find the black Calpurnia a satisfactory maternal figure, and because she wants to make Scout into a Southern Belle. She disapproves of Scout being a tomboy and unsuccessfully encourages her to act like a "lady". This is the cause of many conflicts between Scout and Alexandra throughout the course of the novel. She feels guilty and partially responsible when Scout and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell, then after she gives up on making Scout a lady and even gives Scout back her overalls.

 

Minor characters


Uncle Jack Finch


"Uncle Jack" is Atticus' and Alexandra's brother. Uncle Jack is youngest of the three of them, and is said that he and Alexandra have the same features. Uncle Jack is described as smelling like alcohol and something sweet. Scout and Jem absolutely love him. He is a doctor and has a good sense of humour and makes Scout and Jem laugh while performing small services for them. His full name is John Hale Finch and he studies medicine in the North. He and Maudie Atkinson were close to the same age, and he would tease her with marriage proposals, which she, just as good naturedly, declined. He also had a pet cat named Rose Aylmer.

 

Francis Hancock


Francis was the spoiled grandson of Alexandra. He was the son of her son, Henry Hancock. On Christmas, Henry and his unnamed wife would drop Francis at his parent's place at Finch's Landing, and would go on their own pleasures. According to the story, he lived in Mobile, Alabama. Francis got along well with Jem, but sparred with Scout. One Christmas, Francis called Atticus a "nigger-lover" which infuriated Scout and caused them to get into a fight. Francis lied about his role in it, and caused Scout to be punished for it. However, Scout explained the full story, and charitibly persuaded her uncle not to punish him about it, but to let Atticus think they had been fighting about something else.

 

Mrs. Henry Lafeyette Dubose


Mrs. Dubose is an elderly woman who lives near the Finches. She is hated by the children, who run by her house to avoid her. Scout describes Mrs. Dubose as 'plain hell.' A virulent racist, she calls Atticus a "nigger-lover" to his children, and the upset Jem objects and ravages Mrs. Dubose's camellias. As a punishment, Jem is assigned to read to Mrs. Dubose each day for a month. She has a fit each time he reads, and when the alarm rings, Jem is allowed to leave. After a month and a week of reading, Jem is finally allowed to stop. Mrs. Dubose dies shortly thereafter. Atticus informs Jem that Mrs. Dubose had fallen victim to an addiction to morphine. By reading to her, Jem had helped her die free from painkillers, her dying wish. In thanks she leaves him a candy box with a camellia in it. Jem disposes of the box in anger, but is later seen by Scout admiring the flower. Atticus tells Jem that Mrs. Dubose was the bravest person he ever knew, and he was trying to teach Jem the importance of bravery and respect and the importance of courage and endurance when the situation is hopeless, as in her morphine addiction.

 

Judge John Taylor


Judge John Taylor is a white-haired old man with a reputation for running his court in an informal fashion and an enjoyment of cigars and dipping, every once in a while he will shoot a spit into his spittoon. He seems to have no views on anything, until he presides over the Tom Robinson trial, in which he shows great distaste for the Ewells and seems to have great respect for Atticus. After the trial, Miss Maudie points out to the children that Judge Taylor had tried to help Tom Robinson by appointing Atticus to the case instead of a new, untried lawyer.

 

Heck Tate


Heck Tate is the county sheriff and a friend of Atticus. At the end of the novel he is the one who comes up with the story to protect Boo Radley. He also indirectly forces Atticus to reveal his accuracy with firearms (which Atticus had previously tried to conceal from his children) by asking him to shoot a rabid dog.

 

Mr. Braxton Underwood


Mr. Underwood is a racist news reporter who is Atticus' friend. He owns and also publishes the articles in The Maycomb Tribune. Being a racist, he disagrees with Atticus on principle but has a strong bond with him, as exemplified when he defends Atticus from the Cunningham mob.

 

Horace Gilmer


Horace Gilmer is a lawyer from Abbottsville, and is the prosecuting attorney in the Tom Robinson case. Like many other Maycomb County residents, Mr. Gilmer seems to be prejudiced, as shown by his harsh cross-examination of Tom Robinson.

 

Dr. Reynolds


Dr. Reynolds is the Maycomb doctor. He is well known to Scout and Jem. Scout says that he "had brought Jem and me into the world, had lead us through every childhood disease known to man including the time Jem fell out of the tree house, and he had never lost our friendship. Dr. Reynolds said that if we were boil-prone things would have been different..." (ch. 28). He inspects Jem's broken arm and Scout's minor bruises after the attack from Bob under the tree.

 

Dolphus Raymond


Dolphus Raymond is a wealthy but disliked white man who had children with a black woman. He pretends he is an alcoholic, but he only drinks "Coca-Cola" out of a sack. He does this to put the people of Maycomb at ease, to give them a reason why he lived with a black woman. He knows they will not understand why he lives as he does, so by pretending he is a drunk, he makes life easier for himself (and for Maycomb). Thus, he has all kinds of false rumors spread by Maycomb surrounding his decision. He is also an example of a mockingbird. When Dill and Scout discover that he is not a drunk they are amazed. He shows Scout 'how sometimes you have to pretend you are something when you really aren't. He was engaged to marry a woman named Spencer, but she committed suicide on the wedding day.

 

Link Deas


Link Deas owns cotton fields in Maycomb who employs Tom and later Helen because she does not get accepted by any other employers in the county due to Tom Robinson's legal troubles. He announces to the court at one point in the trial that he's never had a "speck o' trouble" out of Tom in the eight years he worked for him, which causes Judge Taylor to throw him out of the court room. When Bob Ewell starts threatening Helen after the trial, Mr. Deas fiercely defends her and threatens several times to have Mr. Ewell arrested if he keeps bothering her.

 

Caroline Fisher

 

Caroline Fisher is Scout's first grade teacher and is new to Maycomb, Alabama and its ways. She attempts to teach the first grade class using a new standardized system which she learned from taking certain college courses that Jem mistakenly refers to as the Dewey Decimal System. She is upset that Scout is far more advanced in reading than the rest of her class and believes that she is receiving lessons from her father, Atticus, so, in an effort to standardize the class, forbids Scout from reading. She has good intentions, but proves quite incompetent as a teacher. She is also very sensitive and gets emotionally hurt quite easily.

 

Reverend Sykes

 

Reverend Sykes is the reverend of the First Purchase M.E. African Church in Maycomb County. This is the church Tom Robinson attended. Reverend Sykes forces the congregation each to donate 10 cents for Tom Robinson's family since at the time, Tom's wife Helen was having trouble finding any work. During the trial, when the courtroom was too packed for the children to finds seats, Reverend Sykes lets the kids sit with him up in the colored balcony. This is an example how the black community accepts the Finches, and they in turn accept the black community.

 

Zeebo

 

Zeebo, Calpurnia's oldest son, is the town garbage collector. He is one of only four people in First Purchase church who can read, and so he is the vocal leader, leading hymns in the negro First Purchase Church by "lining," reading a line of verse and having the congregation repeat it.

 

Stephanie Crawford

 

Stephanie Crawford is the neighborhood gossip, who once claimed she saw Boo Radley from her bedroom standing outside of her cleaned window one night. She is one of the first on the scene after a loud gunshot is heard behind the Radley house. Because she is the neighborhood gossip, it is unwise to think of anything that she says as true, because most of the time it is not true at all. She is a friend of Alexandra Finch. She lets Miss Maudie live with her when Miss Maudie's house burns down, supposedly in order to steal Miss Maudie's lanecake recipe. She is thrilled to pass on gossip to the kids about Atticus. Miss Crawford made Scout's ham costume for the play. (In the movie, as played by Alice Ghostley, she was related to Dill Harris.)

 

Rachel Haverford

 

Miss Rachel Haverford is Dill's aunt and the Finch's neighbor. She drank heavily (due to her seeing a snake on her lingerie in her closet) and was somewhat like her neighbors. Her trademark line was "Doo Jesus!" and even though she could be hard to deal with, she truly did love her nephew, and eventually got to realizing that he loved to visit her. She was also a close friend of Alexandra. Her family name, in the legends of Maycomb County was that it was synomymous with Jackass. Two of her relations had murdered the community's blacksmith over one of their mares being wrongfully detained; were imprudent enough to have done so in the presence of witnesses and then insisted that the blacksmith had it coming to him. They pled not guilty to first degree murder, and were then hanged. The Haverford relations were Atticus' first case as a lawyer.

 

Helen Robinson

 

Helen Robinson is the wife of Tom Robinson. She is spoken about many times. She has 3 children. She is harassed by Bob Ewell after the trial of her husband. A few times (or maybe even once) she walks on the public road Bob Ewell would "chunk" at her, or follow her, crooning foul words. Link Deas tells him to stop and gives Helen a job after Tom is put into jail.

 

Jessie

 

Jessie is Mrs. Dubose's (who has an addiction to morphine) black caregiver. She is the woman who shoos the children out when Mrs. Dubose has her fits, and she seems to care enormously for Mrs. Dubose. However, she is unfairly treated.

 

Burris Ewell

 

Burris Ewell is a son of Mr. Ewell and a younger sibling of Mayella Ewell. He comes to the first day of school, but departs just as everyone else in his family does. He's got live lice in his hair. He even scared his teacher Caroline Fisher and behaves rudely when she tells him to go home and wash his hair and come back clean tomorrow. But she doesn't know that he won't be coming to school until the first day of the next year. But she finds out later by the children in the class and weeps by Burris's rude behaviour.

 

Lula

 

Lula is the angry African-American woman who confronts Calpurnia when she brings Jem and Scout to her (all-black) church called First Purchase M. E. Church. She believes that if white people can be racist, then she can be too and demands that Jem and Scout be removed from the church. But the other African-Americans welcome Jem and Scout happily, making Lula leave the church.

 

Mrs. Merriweather

 

Mrs. Grace Merriweather is the producer of the pageant in which Scout plays a ham. She is the most devout lady in Maycomb. She is also a hypocrite for talking about the "sinners" in the North for setting the negroes free and inviting them to eat with them. She complains about her cooks and field hands complaining.

 

Walter Cunningham Jr.

 

Walter Cunningham Jr. is a child who is almost as old as Jem but is in Scout's class. He is too poor to even pay off a 25-cent debt because the Great Depression hit his agrarian family hard. He is invited over to the Finch's house once, after engaging in a fight with Scout, where he covers up all of his dinner with molasses, much to Scout's dislike.

 

Walter Cunningham Sr.

 

Walter Cunningham Sr. is Walter Cunningham Jr.'s dad. He is only displayed twice, once at the beginning of the story when he has to pay off the debt to Atticus (Walter Cunningham Sr. was his client) by giving him driftwood and other supplies. The second time, he leads the mob who tries to lynch Tom Robinson the night before the trial. Only when Scout comes and talks to him about his son, does he turn his back and leaves with the mob, because he is reminded that Atticus has kids as well.

 

Mr. Avery

 

Mr. Avery is an overweight neighbor who tells Jem and Scout that the weather only changes because of bad children like them. After it snows, they build a snowman resembling him. (See reference #2.) Often refers to the Rosetta Stone.

 

Note: This is not original Notebox content. This is taken from a ENG1D5 MyClass Page.