in A Level, AQA, English Literature, Novels

Below, you’ll find a list of the key characters in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. Remember that each character is also symbolic of greater themes, ideas, and contextual points; they are not just a person in a story, they represent something much deeper.

This list is suitable for anyone studying the text at high school / secondary school level and above. (Particularly for GCSE, IGCSE, and A-Level on the following exam boards: AQA, OCR, Edexcel, WJEC / Eduqas, CIE / Cambridge, CCEA).


Thanks for reading! If you find this list useful, you can take a look at our full course here.

If you’re interested, check out our other articles that we have about this novel:

To Kill A Mockingbird: Context

To Kill a Mockingbird: Part One and Part Two Summary


CHARACTERS ANALYSIS

SCOUT FINCH

  • The narrator of the story: a young but precocious girl who grows up in Maycomb. Scout (Jean Louise) has a lively, slightly rough, and wild character; she is quite tomboyish and refuses to be ladylike — much to her Aunt Alexandra’s dismay. She is creative and a little mischievous, but also very good at heart.
  • Scout is intelligent and learns to read at a very young age, which gets her into trouble when she starts school. She has a dislike of social norms and refuses to play by the typical rules of folk in Maycomb. She approaches the world with a critical eye, not always believing or agreeing with what she is told; and using her own mind and heart to arrive at judgments she feels is fair and honest.
  • As she grows up, Scout’s experiences — both positive and negative — encourage her maturity. She sometimes is quick to anger and has an urge to retaliate; but Atticus always encourages her to be intelligent and moderate rather than lashing out and seeking retribution. She develops a strong sense of fairness and equality; and in particular, learns to not look down on those poorer than herself (such as the Cunninghams) or those of different racial backgrounds (such as Tom Robinson).
  • Scout is five years old when the novel begins, and eight when it ends.

JEM FINCH

  • Scout’s older brother, a strong role model for Scout who has a protective and friendly attitude towards his little sister, although they often squabble and sometimes fall out with each other — she thinks he sometimes has an attitude of ‘maddening superiority’. Jem is more sensible and mature than Scout at times, but he does partake in certain behaviors just to seem cool, such as going up to the Radley Place and touching the house because Dill dares him. At the beginning of the novel, this is an act of bravery for him, whereas by the end of the novel he shows real bravery in trying to save Scout from being attacked by Bob Ewell and ending up with a broken arm; this demonstrates the process of maturity that he goes through.
  • Jem is nine years old when the novel begins, and twelve when it ends. He has a strong sense of morality, like his father, and also aspires to be a lawyer and follow in Atticus’ footsteps.
  • Jem has an idealistic, hopeful character and wishes that everyone had the same sense of right and wrong as he and his father. He is strongly impacted by the outcome of Tom Robinson’s trial because he had faith in the town of Maycomb and hoped they would do the right thing and realize he was innocent. He is unable at first to accept that though Atticus lost the trial, the jury took a long time to decide the outcome and so this was a kind of small progress for Maycomb as they didn’t quickly judge Tom, they did spend time in debate.

DILL

  • A fun, highly intelligent boy who becomes a close friend of Scout and Jem, even though he only visits Maycomb in the Summer. His full name is ‘Charles Baker Harris’. Dill doesn’t know his real father, and dislikes his stepfather — he runs away from home (in Meridian, Mississippi) and stays with Scout and Jem because he feels that his stepfather is stealing his affections from his mother.
  • Though Dill is an outsider, his aunt lives in Maycomb and so he is accepted there as one of the locals. He is a clownish character who likes to tell embellished and sometimes entirely made up stories about himself and others. He has a sense of mischief but does also become upset and serious at important moments in the novel — such as Tom Robinson’s trial.

ATTICUS FINCH

  • Scout and Jem’s father, an important man in Maycomb. He is a lawyer and often represents members of the town in legal matters, always trying to do what’s best for them and help them as much as possible even if he doesn’t get paid properly or it damages his reputation. He explains that people can repay you with more than money, they can give acts of kindness, share food or services, and this approach creates a communal feel to the village of Maycomb, where folk by and large help each other through the difficult years of the Great Depression era.
  • Atticus’ wife passes away when Scout is only two years old, so he has both a professional occupation and a nurturing role in the children’s’ lives — aided by Calpurnia and later Aunt Alexandra, who comes to stay in Maycomb for a while. He passes on his sense of morality to the children, which is based around sympathy and compassion rather than judgment and hatred. He understands that people have the capacity for both good and evil in them, and he always tries to engage with the good in people while forgiving them for their sins and ill will — even when this is directed straight at himself. Bob Ewell, for instance, spits on him after the trial, and Atticus instead of being angry merely explains that Bob felt insulted and disempowered by Atticus defending Tom and accusing himself and Mayella of lying, so he had to find a way to retaliate.
  • Atticus is much older than other fathers in Maycomb, and at first, Jem and Scout are ashamed of this, saying that he doesn’t hunt or fish like the others. But when a rabid dog enters town, the Sheriff consults Atticus and he is the one to shoot it cleanly and expertly; the children are impressed. This demonstrates that Atticus knows how to shoot a gun and use violence, but that he chooses not to engage in these activities — he takes a moral high ground. Even though he doesn’t succeed in acquitting Tom Robinson, he is a heroic figure in the narrative who always fights on the side of good, and his strength, courage, and compassion help to move Maycomb forwards in terms of equality and justice.

CALPURNIA

  • Atticus’ African American housekeeper — she is an intelligent, honest, and nurturing woman with a fierce sense of right and wrong. She scolds Scout for behaving rudely to Walter Cunningham, as he is a guest in their house and should be treated with respect.
  • In some ways, Calpurnia is a surrogate mother figure to the children as their own mother has passed away. She is treated with love and respect, and Scout has a fierce, defiant relationship with her in a way that shows they are very close.
  • Calpurnia exposes the children to the African American community in Maycomb, taking them with her to church and allowing them to sit with her people during the trial. Through her, they are able to develop a personal relationship with the black folk of the town and come to understand and respect them more deeply, seeing them as no different from anyone else despite the generally inherent prejudices of white people towards African Americans in 1930s America.

AUNT ALEXANDRA

  • Atticus’ sister, she lives at the family farm — Finch’s Landing, just outside the town of Maycomb where the Finch family has lived for generations. She comes to stay with Atticus and the children for a large portion of the novel.
  • Aunt Alexandra behaves as if she had a ‘royal prerogative’, she is conscious of her middle-class status and very concerned about keeping up appearances in Maycomb. She wears tight dresses, and attempts to get Scout to wear the same and behave in a more ‘ladylike’ manner, she tries to get her to ‘behave like a sunbeam’.
  • Aunt Alexandra is disliked by Scout and sometimes an abrasive character whose beliefs are at odds with Atticus and the children, yet she is also family and well respected for this reason. She feels that Atticus doesn’t raise his children properly and that they are devoid of a feminine presence in the house after their mother passes away. Also, tries to dismiss Calpurnia when she first arrives in Maycomb, implying that she attempts to replace her as a motherly figure.
  • She is also a socialite, and very concerned with running women’s’ social events in the town — in particular, Scout attends a ladies’ meeting where the women discuss missionary work and the poor living conditions of the African Mruna tribe — Scout finds this hypocritical as the same women do not treat African Americans in their own community with respect.

MISS MAUDIE ATKINSON

  • A widowed neighbor of the Finch family, she also grew up on Finch’s landing. She has a strong sense of kindness and fairness; she is a voice of reason in the town, often agreeing with Atticus’ sense of justice
  • Miss Maudie Atkinson has a sharp tongue and doesn’t partake in gossip like the other women of the town, for instance, she discourages Miss Stephanie from spreading rumors about Boo Radley. She is not overly feminine and accepts Scout’s tomboyishness rather than trying to make her more ladylike like Aunt Alexandra does.
  • She is not afraid to have her own strong opinions, even if most townsfolk would disagree. Stands up for the black community of Maycomb, counting herself as one of “The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us [white folk]”.

MISS STEPHANIE CRAWFORD

  • An older woman in town (in her 60s) who has never married, she loves gossip and spreading rumors.
  • Scout learns through the course of the novel not to trust her or be too affected by her manner, Harper Lee here comments on the theme of maturity: it is not related to age, but instead a process of personal growth and development that some people never achieve in their lifetime.

HECK TATE

  • The sheriff of Maycomb — a tall, good-natured man in his early forties. He understands that Atticus has better shooting skills than him, and so asks him to shoot a rabid dog that has come into town. This demonstrates that he is not egotistical, but practical, and it also reveals that Atticus is good at shooting but actively chooses not to — he’s afraid of killing ‘a mockingbird’, an innocent victim.
  • Heck’s honesty comes into play during the trial, where he factually recounts the bruises that Mayella received, leading Atticus to conclude that Tom Robinson could not have attacked and raped her in the manner described.
  • Heck also displays a willingness to bend the rules and ignore the law if he feels that justice has been served — at the end of the novel, Atticus thinks Jem has killed Bob Ewell and Tate instantly states ‘Bob fell on his knife — I can prove it’, implying that he is willing to protect Jem and close the case on Bob’s death rather than taking Jem to trial (it later transpires that Boo killed Bob, not Jem).

BOB EWELL

  • The patriarch of the Ewell family, an unemployed alcoholic with a mean streak to his character. He raises his children harshly and with no clear respect, structure, or rules. He is prone to outbursts of anger and violence, such as when he spits on Atticus after the trial as he feels that Atticus dishonored him. Bob attacks Scout and Jem in a mad bid for retribution after the trial, demonstrating that he is an irrational and desperate character — the true antagonist or villain of the story.
  • Though it is hard to find anything to like about Bob Ewell, Atticus demonstrates his extremely moderate character as he refuses to become frightened or angry about anything that Bob does, even when it personally affects him and his family. This demonstrates a deeper message that no matter how cruel or rude people are to us, we must always try to exercise compassion and understand their reasons and motivations, rather than retaliating back and seeking revenge.

BURRIS EWELL

  • The youngest of the Ewell family, described by Little Chuck Little as ‘a hard down mean one’. From a very young age, Burris displays the same surly and recalcitrant nature as his father, creating an interesting take on the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate: is Burris so disagreeable because of his circumstances, or because of his heritage? Harper Lee uses his character to comment on the situation of the ‘white trash’ communities in the Southern US.
  • There is shown to be no hope for people like Burris, unlike many of the other poor folk of the town such as Walter Cunningham, he has no willingness to cooperate or show appreciation when others try to help him. He is full of anger and contempt, and therefore Miss Caroline is forced to dismiss him from school as he cannot be worked with or improved.

MAYELLA EWELL

  • Bob Ewell’s eldest daughter, aged 19 at the time of the trial. She is beaten and possibly abused by her father, and her younger siblings are difficult to manage but she is forced to care for them. She is suspicious of Atticus’ kindness to her because she is not used to it, and terrified of her father to the point where she will lie in court to defend him, even if it means sentencing Tom Robinson to death.
  • There is an interesting debate centered around Mayella: Is she a victim or a villain? Tom is sentenced to death on her word and her false account, yet she lies because she is terrified of her father. She opens up the debate for nurture vs nature, is her character inherently bad or is she only bad because of her unfortunate circumstances? She lives in poverty and has no positive role models, she is so cruelly treated by her father that she instantly mistrusts Atticus when he is nice to her. Scout observes that ‘she looked as if she tried to keep clean’, which singles her out as different from the other Ewells, such as Burris who laughs when he finds a ‘cootie’ in his hair.

MR DOLPHUS RAYMOND

  • A wealthy white man who associates with the black community in Maycomb rather than other white folks — he pretends to be an alcoholic as an excuse for his behavior so that other white folks aren’t too suspicious of him.
  • He demonstrates the difficulties and complexities of segregation — as a white man, he is not just free to befriend black people without judgment. Harper Lee uses his character to comment on the social structure of the Southern USA, Raymond is a kind and sympathetic character who faces ostracisation from other white folks, he risks his status and reputation by associating with black people. This shows just how difficult it was in 1930s America to go against the laws of segregation.

Thanks for reading! If you find this list useful, you can take a look at our full course here.

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