To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee creates a mood of suspense and foreboding as Jem and Scout begin their walk home. Briefly summarize their journey from the school to the big oak tree, noting some elements that contribute to the suspenseful mood.


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The walk back from home is even darker than before, and near the school, Scout remembers that she left her shoes backstage. She is thinking of returning to get them, when Jem stops her because he hears a strange noise. Scout hears it too, but thinks maybe it's just Cecil again. They call out taunts to Cecil in order to get a response, but there is only silence. Jem thinks maybe Scout should take off her costume, but she doesn't have any clothes underneath, and can't get her dress on in the dark. They are almost home, near the dark shadow of the tree by the Radleys' house, and are trying to walk faster. It sounds like the person behind them is wearing thick cotton pants. The next time they stop walking, the footsteps behind them suddenly quicken into a run. Jem yells to Scout to run, but her costume throws her off balance. Something is crushed against her and she hears metal ripping. Jem's hand tries to pull her, but she is tangled up in her costume. There is a crunching sound and Jem screams. The man whom they are struggling with grabs Scout and begins to strangle her, when suddenly he is jerked backwards and thrown to the ground. Scout thinks Jem must have saved her, but she still can't see anything. She hears the sound of someone breathing heavily and, walking toward the tree to lean on, reaches out with her toes to find a person on the ground with stubble and the smell of stale whiskey. She makes her way in the direction of the road, and in the streetlight she sees a man carrying Jem, whose arm is hanging down at an odd angle.

Chapter 28 Analysis

The night of the pageant, in Chapter 28, is filled with foreshadowing of the violent events to occur. Before the children leave, Aunt Alexandra has a feeling that something is going wrong and Scout notices a strange look pass over her face. Alexandra blames it on "someone walking over her grave". The intense darkness of the night also creates a sense of foreboding, as does Scout's inability to see things around her, trapped inside the large, bulky costume. Then, Scout misses her cue, and ends the night upset and embarrassed. When she and Jem turn around to go back for her shoes, the school lights go out, leaving the children alone in the darkness.

The attack occurs all around Scout and the sense of her helplessness makes the account of the violence more intense. Though the book began with a fear for the monstrous, phantom-like figure of Boo Radley, this chapter solidifies a reversal: Boo becomes the children's savior against the real evil, a human man. One reason that Dill dwells in fantasy rather real life is that nothing can be as frightening in fantasy as it can be in reality. Now that the children have grown older, they come to know vividly that the real source of evil to be concerned about comes from their fellowman, not from imaginary ghosts.