Chapters 17 to 21 Summaries of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”

Chapters 17 to 21 Summaries of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”
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Harper Lee has highlighted the beauty of man not through his physical attributes, but due to his morality. This theme has been well defined by the author throughout the novel, while discussing about the sin and religion. The novel was written in 1960’s when America faced the human rights violations and campaigns against gender and race inequality. While a crippled black man is accused of raping a white woman, the author has tried to highlight the crisis of those days faced by USA. The narration by Scout throughout this novel provides many instances of injustice and equality faced by the black community during that period.

Thesis statement

The novel highlights racial discrimination prevalent in USA during 1960, which peaked with the court verdict of innocent and handicapped black man as being guilty of raping a white woman.

Summary of Chapters 17 to 21

Tom Robinson is accused of raping Mayella Ewell and she has asked for this trial. As the trial begins, the members of white community have come to the court room along with their refreshments to enjoy the proceedings, while black community is perplexed as someone from their community stands this trial. Atticus Finch is defending the accused. As he cross-examines Mayella and Bob, his defense arguments pinpoint the physical disability of Robinson with the loss of a hand. As Mayella has accused Tom of beating and assaulting her, the facial injuries on her face indicate this action to be from someone who is left handed.

Cross-examining Mayella about the exact manner of her assault, she gets confused and angry, while she determines not speaking again to Atticus. The highlights of chapter 17 and 18 of this novel indicate the fact that Bob Ewell, being left handed is the possible assaulter, as Tom Robinson has a crippled left arm, caused by an earlier accident.
Chapter 19 and 20 highlight the testimony of Tom Robinson. These chapters also indicate the manner in which Atticus tries to pursue jury of Robinson’s innocence. The chapter starts with explanation of Atticus that Mayella’s contention of Robinson choking her throat during the assault is impossible due to Tom’s handicap. As he closes his speech to jury he invokes the Quote, “In our courts all men are created equal”. He is confident of his successful defense of this case. However, the end reveals something else.
Chapter 21 and onwards discuss the disbelief of black community about the court verdict holding Tom as guilty, irrespective of strong evidence revealing Tom’s innocence and false implication.(To kill a Mocking)


This novel is a must for reading by all students and perhaps every American. The setting of this novel in racially divided Maycomb town of Alabama suits the theme. The novel has highlighted the injustice, gender and race inequality faced by Black African-Americans and women during those times. The riots following this period were the natural emotional outburst from such injustices. The role model is Atticus Finch who has upheld during those times the values of morality and righteousness. The following quote from the novel highlights these values while marking their distinction from prescriptions of law.

“Shoot all the blue Jays you want, if you can hit them, but remember it is a sin to kill a mockingbird”

The time and circumstances of the period define the righteousness and its relevance to those times. During 1960’s, when this novel was written, America was developing socially and ethically. The injustice, inequality and color/race discrimination started to vanish as the movements opposing these attributes became widespread with every passing day. The campaigns used violent methods to achieve the desired goals, which may again question the virtue of righteousness.


The narration of Scout in this novel is the clear indication of emotional suffocation of blacks during 1960’s that found outlet through violent campaigns in the following decades, throughout America. Every one should read this novel to understand the meaning of inequality.

“To Kill a Mocking Bird”,, nd, web,15 April 2015: