Check Your Understanding

“To Kill a Mockingbird” In paragraphs 1–5 of the excerpt, what can you infer about Jem and Scout’s relationship? What is Scout’s reaction to Jem’s behavior? Highlight textual evidence to support your analysis of the relationship between these two characters.

Jem is acting like an older brother who is in charge of his younger sibling. Scout resents Jem’s attitude toward her and his attempt to act as a big brother who can make her do as he says. Possible annotations include, but are not limited to: “Scout here, she’s crazy—she won’t fight you anymore.” / “‘I wouldn’t be too certain of that,’ I said. Jem’s free dispensation of my pledge irked me, but precious noontime minutes were ticking away. ‘Yeah Walter, I won’t jump on you again….'”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” Authors can develop characters through dialogue, or the conversations among the characters. How is the language Jem, Scout, and Walter use similar? How does Walter speak differently than Jem and Scout? How does dialect help develop the characters and enhance the story? Cite textual evidence to support your analysis.

The three children drop g ‘s from the ends of words such as comin’ and runnin’. All three characters speak in a Southern dialect, which helps the author establish the setting, the South, and gives the voices of the characters a specific sound and rhythm. This helps evoke a particular time and place, and also distinguishes the young Scout, who does not fully understand what is going on around her, from the older, educated, and more aware Scout who is narrating the novel. Possible annotations include, but are not limited to: the following sentences in paragraphs 6 and 11: “…we were nearly to the Radley Place when Walter called, ‘Hey, I’m comin’!’ … ‘And who’s runnin’, Miss Priss?'” All the children are familiar with local colloquialisms such as haint, a distinctly Southern word meaning a “ghost” or “apparition.” But Jem and Scout speak a more standard and formal version of English than Walter does. Walter uses the informal term “reckon,” for example, in paragraph 8.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” Inferences based on textual evidence can support an interpretation or analysis as powerfully as evidence that is explicitly stated. What can you infer about how well or poorly Atticus understands Scout from his reaction to her request to stay home from school the next day? What can you infer about their relationship as a result of this moment? Highlight your evidence to explain your answer.

Atticus understands Scout well. He knows that something nonphysical is troubling her when she says she is not feeling well and doesn’t want to go to school. Nonetheless, Atticus never challenges Scout directly about how she feels; instead, he lets her argue her case about not attending school any more. Eventually, Atticus gets Scout to tell him what’s bothering her. Possible annotations may include these sentences from paragraphs 16–20: “I told Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school any more if it was all right with him.” / “‘No I can’t,’ said Atticus. ‘I have to make a living. Besides, they’d put me in jail if I kept you at home—dose of magnesia for you tonight and school tomorrow.'” / “I’m feeling all right, really.” / “Thought so. Now what’s the matter?”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” When Scout attempts to engage Mr. Cunningham in conversation, what can you infer about her? Highlight textual evidence to show how this gesture connects to Atticus’s advice about dealing with others. How does Scout feel about her attempts at conversation with Mr. Cunningham? Cite textual evidence to explain.

Scout begins the conversation by talking to Mr. Cunningham about his son Walter. Scout takes Atticus’s advice very seriously. In this scene, she is trying to put it to use, but she feels as if she is failing miserably. First, Mr. Cunningham doesn’t seem interested in her friendship with Walter. Nonetheless, Scout continues to believe in Atticus’s advice. When she tries to change the subject to Mr. Cunningham’s entailment, the situation seems to worsen. Scout is confused and doesn’t understand why Atticus’s advice isn’t working, not realizing why Mr. Cunningham and the other men have come to the jailhouse. Acceptable annotations include but are not limited to these quotes from paragraphs 33 and 35: “‘I go to school with Walter,’ I began again. ‘He’s your boy, ain’t he? Ain’t he, sir?'” / “Maybe he told you about me, I beat him up one time but he was real nice about it. Tell him hey for me, won’t you?'” When Scout’s conversation about Walter doesn’t engage Mr. Cunningham, she tries another tactic. Possible annotations may include these sentences from paragraphs 36 and 39: “Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in…so I tackled his entailment once more in a last-ditch effort to make him feel at home.” / “I began to feel sweat gathering at the edges of my hair; I could stand anything but a bunch of people looking at me.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” Sometimes you must make an inference about the meaning of a text from a single statement or action of one of the characters. Understanding why a character says something or does something should be evaluated in light of the context of the situation and the motivations of the character. In paragraph 42, Mr. Cunningham says to Scout, “I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady.” What can you infer about Mr. Cunningham based on this dialogue? What subsequent plot event offers explicit evidence of your inference about the meaning of Mr. Cunningham’s statement?

Early in the excerpt, Scout asks Mr. Cunningham to say “hey” (hello) to Walter for her. Mr. Cunningham and the other men have come to the jailhouse to lynch Tom. Because of Scout’s attempts to engage Mr. Cunningham in conversation and her innocence of the situation, Mr. Cunningham changes his mind about the lynching. Even though Scout is unaware of the intentions of the men, she understands that something significant has changed because, as she says, he did “a peculiar thing.” His comment about saying “hey” to Walter for her is a way for Mr. Cunningham to let Scout know he really has listened to her and he has changed his mind about something. This is explicitly confirmed in the very next paragraph when he tells everyone to leave. Possible annotations may include, but are not limited to this from paragraph 35: “‘Tell him hey for me, won’t you.'” Having listened to Scout struggle to make conversation with him and realizing her innocence about the situation, Mr. Cunningham agrees to Scout’s request and more, as demonstrated in paragraphs 41–43: “Then he [Mr. Cunningham] did a peculiar thing. He squatted down and took me by both shoulders.” / “‘I’ll tell him you said hey, little lady.'” / “Then he straightened up and waved a big paw. ‘Let’s clear out,’ he called. ‘Let’s get going, boys.'”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” Examine the role empathy plays in each of these excerpts. How does Atticus try to instill the idea of empathy in Scout? How do other characters display, or try to display, empathy? Highlight evidence from the text to support your explanation.

In paragraphs 1–4, Jem displays empathy toward Walter, who acts uncomfortable around the Finches: “He fingered the straps of his overalls, nervously….” Jem “grinned,” and reminded him, “our daddy’s a friend of your daddy’s.” Later in the story, Scout tries to apply a similar kind of empathy with Mr. Cunningham by recognizing his discomfort (and that her “friendly overture had fallen flat”) and trying to relieve it. When Scout comes home from school upset, Atticus tells her that the trick to getting along with others is to consider things from their point of view. He is trying to teach her that thinking about someone else’s situation is key to understanding who they are and why they act the way they do. Possible highlights include these from paragraphs 23–25: “‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'”

How does García Márquez develop the events in his autobiography? What overall shape does he give the text structure by unfolding events in a certain order? Highlight events (or episodes) that stand out for you. Cite specific evidence from the text to explain your choices.

Highlighted evidence from paragraph 4 of the autobiography may include: “Then I saw myself and I saw my mother, just as I saw, when I was boy, the mother and sister of the thief whom Maria Consuegra had killed with a single shot one week earlier, when he tried to break into her house.” Possible annotation: The text begins with a memory of walking with his mother and then provides a flashback. By moving back and forth in time, the author presents an intriguing text structure, one that builds tension, suspense, and atmosphere. The use of flashback, especially in paragraphs 5-8, makes the excerpt more like a work of imaginative literature and less like a plain account of the facts. The flashback of the episode in which the thief is killed and his mother and sister carry flowers to his grave create an atmosphere and a tension that would have been absent if García Márquez had simply told the events in sequential order–in the order in which they really happened.

What is the central (or main) idea of this excerpt from Living to Tell the Tale? Restate the central idea of the text in one or two sentences, and support your response with specific details from the text.

A restatement of the central (or main) idea of the text might hearken back to the Essential Question of the unit–that human compassion (or empathy) informs our understanding of the world. Acceptable annotations include, but are not limited to, in paragraph 9: “That vision [of the thief’s mother and sister bringing flowers to his grave] pursued me for many years . . . until I managed to exorcise it in a story”; and in paragraph 10, “‘I feel as if I were the thief,’ I said,” both of which suggest the author’s empathic response toward the thief and his family. In paragraph 7, Maria Consuegra’s tearful reaction to García Márquez’s grandfather’s question, which evokes her dreadful memory of the thief’s “anguished lament: “‘Mother, help me!” demonstrates how human compassion responds to tragic events, helping us relate to the world in the process.

In paragraph 10, García Márquez says to his mother, “‘I feel as if I were the thief.'” What makes him feel empathy for the thief, and who else does he empathize with? How might his empathy (sharing of another’s feelings) suggest his purpose for writing about this event? Annotate to explain your ideas. Highlight specific evidence from the text to support your explanation.

García Márquez’s statement to his mother: “‘I feel as if I were the thief,'” which he says to her on the day they go “to sell the house . . . walking down the same deserted street at the same lethal hour,” in paragraph 9, suggests the empathy he feels for the thief and the compassion he feels for the thief’s mother and sister as he and the rest of the town watch them carry flowers to his grave. His statement may suggest his purpose for writing about this event–to show that we all need to share in the humanity of others and in their grief, to gain a more informed understanding of our world.