Characters / To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch

An attorney, member of the state legislature, and father of Scout and Jem. Known for his skill with a rifle. He defends a black man named Tom Robinson who is accused of rape, and is referred to by his children by his first name, rather than "Dad" or "father".

  • Badass Bookworm: As a lawyer, words are his stock in trade.
  • Badass Pacifist: He sits outside the jailhouse unarmed to defend Tom Robinson from a lynch mob, and the defense he gives in the courtroom definitely counts.
  • Crusading Lawyer: The town's not mad that Atticus was assigned to defend a black man. The problem is, he's actually doing the job properly, which is tantamount to treason in the racist Deep South.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's how he survives in Maycomb without resorting to insults or harsh words. As a result, he's also a Gentleman Snarker.
  • Determined Defeatist: Knows full well that the racist jury will never acquit Tom Robinson, even if all evidence points to his innocence. He gives his all in defending him anyway.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Despite his skill, he will only use a gun when absolutely necessary. His kids don't even know that he's capable of wielding a gun until he has to put down a rabid dog.
  • Expy: Atticus' character was based upon Harper Lee's father.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: It comes with the territory, being a traditional county-seat lawyer: erudite, civic-minded, and very well-mannered.
  • Informed Ability: For a lawyer, Atticus is surprisingly naive regarding court room politics, attempting to use reason and appealing to the jury's better nature in his defense of Tom rather than attempting to manipulate them into letting their disdain for the Ewell's override their prejudice. In contrast, the prosecuting attorney completely ignores the evidence and uses their racism to his advantage. This may be because he has very little trial experience, something he mentions to Sheriff Tate when he's asked to take the case. Or it may be that he knows what the outcome of the trial will be, and is more interested in getting to the truth of the matter. Or he may simply be too honest a man to attempt such tactics.
  • The Hero: Though the book is from Scout's 1st-person perspective, he's probably the real main character.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: Takes a dim view of the trial, but stays at it anyway.
  • Nice Guy: A compassionate true gentleman and a kind-hearted father.
  • Papa Wolf: The only time he so much as contemplates violence is where his children are involved.
  • Pro Bono Barter: He accepts foodstuffs from the Cunninghams because they can't afford the fees and are too proud not to pay.
  • Retired Badass: Used to be a good sharpshooter. He also won't join the father's football team with the excuse that he's too old.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Scout calls it his "last will and testament diction," and remarks that she often has to ask him to repeat sentences because of it. It is implied that Scout's narration is an attempt to imitate this.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Subverted. Atticus really is a simple country lawyer, but he attempts to win the jury over with simple logic and appeals to their sense of humanity rather than charm and emotion.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Atticus facing the lynch mob without a weapon qualifies. If his kids hadn't shown up, he probably would have been strung up right alongside Tom.

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

The narrator and protagonist of the novel.

  • Author Avatar: She's just like Harper Lee was as a little girl.
  • Boyish Short Hair: In the movie (her hair length is not mentioned in the book, only that she has bangs).
  • Character Development: The book is a coming-of-age story for her.
  • Decoy Protagonist: It is told from her point-of-view, but since she's a kid, she's more of a witness to events.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: She's really hot-headed, fighting and punching out anyone that gets on her bad side.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Because she's just a kid, she doesn't realize how rude her brutal honesty and blunt language are to adults.
  • Innocent Prodigy: She's smart enough to read far above her grade-level without being taught and apparently has an innate grasp of mathematics. However, she's exactly as naive as you'd expect a pre-pubescent girl to be, and oftentimes can't understand the doings of the adults around her.
  • Missing Mom: Her mother died when she was two. Jem remembers her but Scout doesn't.
  • Plucky Girl: In notable contrast to her more cynical older brother. Jem's not a fan, and thinks she should act more "ladylike."
  • School Is for Losers: She has this attitude, noting that she learns more reading at home with Atticus and that Atticus never had a day of formal schooling in his life. To her credit, Maycomb's school system isn't the greatest.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: How she narrates the story.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: She's going through a cursing phase when the book takes place. Partially because she likes the words and partially because she hopes that Atticus will not make her go to school if he finds out she learned them there.
  • Tomboy: Especially by 1930's standards, anyway. She doesn't like dresses, she plays with boys, and considers "you act like a girl" an insult.
  • Tomboyish Name: Prefers being called Scout.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Being just a child and all. She doesn't really understand why the lynch mob is at the jail house, only that they might hurt her father, and disarms them by talking to Mr. Cunningham.

Jeremy "Jem" Finch

Scout's older brother.

  • Adorably Precocious Child: His knowledge of the law and trial procedure is so great that he gives excellent running commentary on Tom Robinson's trial. It's only adorable to the audience, though. Scout just finds it annoying.
  • Berserk Button: He's very sensitive about Atticus and his mother. Mrs. Dubose pushing both at the same time causes him to fly into a rage so severe that it terrifies Scout.
  • Big Brother Bully: He acts like this towards Scout pretty often, especially earlier in the book. He grows out of it eventually.
  • Big Brother Instinct: When he and Scout are attacked at the end of the book, he does everything possible to protect her. Which isn't much, given how young he is, but he still screams at her to run and tries to pull her to safety.
  • Big Brother Mentor: He tries to be this to Scout, but he just comes off as bossy and officious.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: He thinks so: Being forced to read to the repulsive old lady who insulted his mother while she goes into withdrawal from morphine because he cut up her flowers. In reality, he is being taught an important lesson about respect and bravery.
  • Innocence Lost: More so than Scout, as Jem understands more of the social issues in his community and has a hard time meshing those racist values with people he grew up liking and respecting. Also, his belief in the legal system is shattered after the trial.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's about as mean as you would expect a boy his age to be, particularly to his sister. But he's a decent kid underneath it all.
  • Missing Mom: Unlike Scout, he's actually old enough to remember her.
  • Scars Are Forever: Not "scar" as such, but the very first sentences of the book describe how Jem's arm was broken close to the elbow, which made it noticeably shorter than it should be from then on. It happens in the climax of the book.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Played with. Scout notes that Jem looks nothing like Atticus, more closely resembling their mother. However, the two have very similar expressions, such as they way they put their hands on their hips when being defiant.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: His belief in justice and the court system surpasses even Atticus', and throughout the trial he is confident that Atticus will win. Needless to say, when the guilty verdict comes back, he's crushed.

Calpurnia "Cal"

Housekeeper of the Finch family and strict mother figure to Scout and Jem. Despite being black, she is able to read and write, and is the one who taught Scout to read and write.

  • Closer to Earth: It's clear that she's the disciplinarian out of herself and Atticus, and generally has a more pragmatic approach to parenting the children. Scout notes that Atticus always takes Calpurnia's side in arguments between her and the children as well.
  • Double Consciousness: When Scout notices that she acts and talks different when among Black people than she does in the Finch home, Calpurnia points out that she would feel out of place if she didn't match the people around her.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: She treats Scout and Jem like her kids. Granted, it means disciplining them sometimes.
  • Mama Bear: She may not be their mom, but that doesn't stop her from protecting Scout and Jem.
  • Parental Favoritism: Scout thinks this is the case, with Calpurnia favoring Jem, but Atticus points out that Cal scolds her more because Scout gets into more trouble. When Scout goes off to school, their relationship greatly improves, mostly because Cal misses her so much.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: We get the impression that Scout doesn't like Calpurnia very much because she is so strict, but she ultimately has the children's bests interests at heart.

Charles Baker "Dill" Harris

An intelligent and imaginative boy whom Jem and Scout befriend. His carefree attitude hides his inner pain over his parents' divorce and his mother's alcoholism.

  • Brilliant, but Lazy: He'd much rather put his considerable intelligence to concoct zany schemes and wild stories rather than anything productive.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: With Scout, who he insists is the only girl he will ever love. Given that he's based on Truman Capote, this is probably true.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: He lives in a world of his own creation. Scout calls him "a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies."
  • Consummate Liar: His lies are always ridiculous, but he's so damn convincing that no one, save Atticus, ever calls him on it.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His home life is less than ideal: abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, and despised by both.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The most cynical character in the story by far.
  • Disappeared Dad: He keeps inventing different reasons why his dad's not around.
  • Expy: For Harper Lee's friend, Truman Capote.
  • Insufferable Genius: He's a little bratty and self-important, but it's largely a facade.
  • Large Ham: Is said to act this way when he plays villains in Jem and Scout's games.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the movie after attempting to get close to Boo Radley's house and knocking on his door. He, Jem, and Scout make a break for it and hide around a nearby house. Dill quickly tells the two "see ya next summer" and takes off.

Nathan Radley

The older brother of Arthur "Boo" Radley who imprisoned his son in their house for years.

  • The Fundamentalist: Miss Maudie calls him a "foot-washing Baptist," the ultra-conservative type that thinks fun and pleasure are sinful. He gets it from his father, and its part of the reason he treats Boo the way he does.
  • Like Father, Like Son: According to Scout, Nathan and his father are exactly the same- the only difference being Nathan will respond back when greeted.
  • Terse Talker: When he does deign to speak, he tries to keep it as brief as possible.

Arthur "Boo" Radley

A quiet and reclusive young man and neighbor to the Finches. He is almost never let out of his house and is a mysterious figure to Maycomb, often leading to rumors of just who he is.

  • Big Damn Heroes: At the end of the book.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: He's a very scary person, but he's far from evil.
  • The Dreaded: Jem, Scout, and Dill are terrified of him, to the point where just touching the Radley house is an act of great bravado.
  • The Ghost: Initially until the final part of the book.
  • Good All Along: Jem and Scout start to realize this when Boo leaves them gifts in the knot-hole of the tree.
  • Hollywood Personality Disorders: Schizoid Personality Disorder in his case.
  • Madman In The Attic: The town has a lot of different stories about why Boo is locked up, such as that he once stabbed his father with a pair of scissors.
  • Missing Mom: Unlike his father, who we know is dead, we have no clue what happened to his mother.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Former Trope Namer.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: He's definitely not normal, having some sort of aversion to people and the outside, but he's the farthest thing from evil you can get.
  • Papa Wolf: Kills Bob Ewell when he tries to murder Atticus' children.
  • Shrinking Violet: While forced into reclusion by his father (or likely because of this), Boo is still very quiet and unsure around others. Discussed by Sheriff Tate, that Boo would likely find the mass attention of others overwhelming.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: No one intervened when Boo's father imprisoned him at home for years on end. Though, considering how small and rustic Maycomb is, this is probably a literal example.

Maude "Maudie" Atkinson

Another neighbor of the Finches and childhood acquaintance of Atticus. Whenever Scout has no one to talk to, she usually talks with Maudie. She also loves baking Lane cakes.

  • Cool Old Lady: Wins a quote-off with some Bible-thumpin' fundamentalists that criticize her vibrant garden.
  • Demoted to Extra: Her role in the film is microscopic compared to in the book. Her best lines (notably the speech that gives the book its name), are instead given to Atticus.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Scout occasionally compares her wisdom to her father's.
  • Gray Eyes
  • Nature Lover: Spends all of her time out in her garden.
  • The Pollyanna: Even after her house burns down, she still mainly talks about how much bigger she'll make her garden be for her next house.
  • Title Drop: "Remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Robert E. Lee "Bob" Ewell

Main antagonist of the novel. Accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter Mayella and successfully lands him in jail.

  • Abusive Parents: Physically abuses Mayella, and it's strongly implied that he sexually abuses her as well.
  • Asshole Victim: While Boo only killed him to save Jem and Scout, he totally deserved it many times over.
  • Big Bad: Or as close as you can get in the book — his actions set the plot into motion and heavily impact the main characters.
  • Corrupt Hick: Oh yeah. Racist, impoverished, possibly sexually abusive of his own daughter, and spending his few welfare checks on alcohol.
  • Dirty Coward: He won't confront the best marksman in town, but he will try to kill his children while they're walking home in the dark.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What motivates him throughout the novel, such as when he tries to break into a judge's house.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: He hunts out of season and eats wild game exclusively. The sherrif lets him get away with it because he knows that Ewell's poaching is the only thing that keeps his children from starving to death.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Atticus and possibly Boo Radley.
  • Evil Is Petty: After the trial, he harasses Tom Robinson's wife and and tries to kill Jem and Scout, all because he didn't like being embarrassed in court.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Stabbed with his own knife by Boo Radley.
  • Ironic Name: He's really not worthy of being named after Robert E. Lee.
  • Jerkass: He is the most despicable character by a pretty wide margin. Not a single citizen of Maycomb has anything nice to say about him, and even Atticus hates him fiercely.
  • Kick the Dog: Harassing Tom Robinson, and even after his conviction and death, stalks and harasses his widow as well.
  • Lower-Class Lout: He's what Maycomb calls "white trash," a dirty, unkempt, crass, ignorant man who spends his welfare checks on whiskey while his children starve.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Robert E. Lee. According to Harper Lee, this was done to highlight his low-class background, since it was traditional for poor southern whites to name their kids after Confederate generals.
  • The Pig Pen: To the extent that people are reluctant to shake his hand.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: To the point where Robert E. Lee himself would be turning in his grave if he heard such a lout bore his name.
  • Revenge by Proxy: After Atticus puts holes in his accusations toward Tom Robinson, Ewell tries to murder Atticus' children.
  • A Sinister Clue: Atticus points out in court that Mayella's injuries were caused by someone left-handed. Like her dad. Technically, Ewell's ambidextrous (can use "one hand as good as the other"), but given that the defendant can't use their left hand....
  • The Sociopath: He's an abusive father with no concern for his family, he threatens anyone who rubs him the wrong way, he forces his daughter to falsely accuse her friend of rape, and he tries to murder Atticus' children.
  • Stupid Evil: He seems to prioritize being an ass over everything else, even his own sense of self-preservation. Not to mention his lie is so flimsy and obvious that he never would have gotten away with it if Tom Robinson wasn't black.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Subverted: Everyone knows that Ewell is a total slime. He only wins against Tom because he is white in a backwards Southern town. And the trial only reveals more unsavory facts, driving him into his vengeful rampage later in the book.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In addition to the heavy implications that he abuses his own children, he tries to kill Scout and Jem to get back at their father.

Mayella Ewell

Accuser of being raped by Tom Robinson.

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The book describes her as heavy set and ugly while in the film she's rather thin and slightly disheveled.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: She is treated like trash by the rest of Maycomb because she's a Ewell. There are signs that she wishes to rise above her family's reputation, but no one is willing to give her that chance.
  • Asshole Victim: Debatably. She's from a pretty messed-up family and isn't a nice person at all, but it's possible she's only like this because of her father.
  • Broken Bird: Her life has very little good in it. When Atticus addresses her with basic courtesy, she thinks he's mocking her.
  • Friendless Background: She is too busy trying to control/care for her many siblings and trying (but failing) to keep their home clean that she has no friends. Part of the reason as to why she came onto Tom, as he was the only person who did not treat her badly because she was "trash", and was friendly to her.
  • Missing Mom: Became a Parental Substitute to her siblings after Mrs. Ewell died.
  • Promoted To Parent: After Boo kills her father to protect Scout and Jem. This is actually a promotion in every sense of the word, considering how awful Mr. Ewell was.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: No one intervenes to help the Ewell family, despite its many problems. Justified, as social services would have been underdeveloped at the time the novel takes place.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Mayella's life has been one long procession of pain. She loses her mother at a young age, endures physical (and possibly sexual) abuse from her father, lives in poverty and squalor, struggles to raise her siblings alone, has no friends, and is an outcast because of her "white trash" background. After she comes onto Tom, the only person who showed her kindness, her father forced her to falsely accuse Tom of rape.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: What starts of merely as a bid to get some positive attention turned into a massive spectacle that costs a man his life and ignites the racial tension simmering in Maycomb.

Tom Robinson

Black man accused of raping and assaulting Mayella Ewell. His left arm is crippled, which becomes a vital point in his trial. Despite Atticus's efforts, he is found guilty and imprisoned.

  • Nice Guy: He was one of the only people who treated Mayella with kindness, and pitied her even as she ruined his life.
  • Red Right Hand: Averted; it's actually a plot point that his left hand is damaged beyond repair. Mayella's injuries were from a left-handed assailant.
  • Scary Black Man: Averted big-time; he's a fairly intimidating guy, but has a gentle soul.
  • Suicide by Cop: One way of perceiving his death.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The real tragedy is that we don't know this for sure. No one is interested in whether Tom was a good man, since his guilt was decided long before the trial began.