Year 11 – To Kill a Mockingbird 2

Atticus said, “He’s within range, Heck. You better get him before he goes down the side street—Lord knows who’s around the corner. Go inside, Cal.” Calpurnia opened the screen door, latched it behind her, then unlatched it and held onto the hook. She tried to block Jem and me with her body, but we looked out from beneath her arms. “Take him, Mr. Finch.” Mr. Tate handed the rifle to Atticus; Jem and I nearly fainted. “Don’t waste time, Heck,” said Atticus. “Go on.” “Mr. Finch, this is a one-shot job.” Atticus shook his head vehemently: “Don’t just stand there, Heck! He won’t wait all day for you—” “For God’s sake, Mr. Finch, look where he is! Miss and you’ll go straight into the Radley house! I can’t shoot that well and you know it!” “I haven’t shot a gun in thirty years—” Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus. “I’d feel mighty comfortable if you did now,” he said. In a fog, Jem and I watched our father take the gun and walk out into the middle of the street. He walked quickly, but I thought he moved like an underwater swimmer: time had slowed to a nauseating crawl. When Atticus raised his glasses Calpurnia murmured, “Sweet Jesus help him,” and put her hands to her cheeks. Atticus pushed his glasses to his forehead; they slipped down, and he dropped them in the street. In the silence, I heard them crack. Atticus rubbed his eyes and chin; we saw him blink hard. In front of the Radley gate, Tim Johnson had made up what was left of his mind. He had finally turned himself around, to pursue his original course up our street. He made two steps forward, then stopped and raised his head. We saw his body go rigid. With movements so swift they seemed simultaneous, Atticus’s hand yanked a ball-tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder. The rifle cracked. Tim Johnson leaped, flopped over and crumpled on the sidewalk in a brown-and-white heap. He didn’t know what hit him. Mr. Tate jumped off the porch and ran to the Radley Place. He stopped in front of the dog, squatted, turned around and tapped his finger on his forehead above his left eye. “You were a little to the right, Mr. Finch,” he called.

Comment on how language is used to present Atticus in the extract.

For a B grade:
i. How does the image of Jem and Scout watching from under Calpurnia’s arms help present Atticus’ deed in this scene?
ii. In their exchanges (the dialogue), Atticus calls the Sheriff ‘Heck,’ but the Sheriff calls Atticus ‘Mr Finch’. What does this say about Atticus?
iii. The simile, ‘I thought he moved like a nauseating swimmer’ shows how the narrator views the scene –does this intensify the moment or soften it?

For an A grade:

i. What is the emotion of Jem and Scout as they watch the scene unfold – how does this affect the reader’s attitude towards Atticus?
ii. How do the sounds described help intensify the moment?
iii. The shooting of the dog is interspersed with short, simple sentences – what effect does this have?


3 thoughts on “Year 11 – To Kill a Mockingbird 2

  1. Alix Hopley

    In the extract, Atticus is presented in a few different ways, due to the different viewpoints. For example, Atticus is presented in the extract as almost a frightening sight to watch and is shown as a very shocking character. We can see this in the line: “Mr. Tate handed the rifle to Atticus; Jem and I nearly fainted.” This shows that Jem and Scout were incredibly shocked by the thought of their father’s future actions. This implies to the reader that Jem and Scout only ever see a mellow and civilised attitude from their father, Atticus. However, at this present moment he is contemplating shooting someone and this is a more dangerous side shown to his character that the audience wouldn’t usually see.

    The language used in the extract also presents Atticus as a dominant and authoritative figure. This is shown through the dialogue used between the Sheriff and himself: “Take him, Mr. Finch.” and “Don’t waste time, Heck,”. The Sheriff addresses Atticus as ‘Mr Finch’, whereas Atticus addresses the Sheriff as ‘Heck’. This implies that Atticus is the dominant figure in this situation as the language used by the Sheriff is what would be used to communicate with a higher up person than yourself, it is a sign of respect.

    Atticus is also presented in the extract as a very unsettled character. He is very uncomfortable and not happy with the idea of facing shooting at someone. This is shown in the line:“I haven’t shot a gun in thirty years—”. This line implies that Atticus is thinking of things/excuses to delay the actions he faces and he does not want to do it at all. This line also could show a lot of worry in Atticus’s character. The line implies that he is worried or not very confident about the action he is about to make and that it could go wrong or he may not succeed at the job at hand.

  2. harriet

    Atticus is presented a little differently in this part of the novel as opposed to other parts, in this extract we see the tactical and precise side of his character. ” Atticus’s hand yanked a ball-tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder. The rifle cracked.” The description of his movements help set the scene for the reader and picture them selves within the story. The word ‘yanked’ can be associated with the urgency of the situation and the precision needed when taking the shot.

    Atticus’ actions are reflected by the choice of words when describing the sound of the gun. “The rifle cracked. Tim Johnson leaped, flopped over and crumpled on the sidewalk” Atticus had to act fast to stop the ‘mad dog’ this can be reflected by the short sentence ‘the rifle cracked.’ The shortness of the sentence shows how quickly this would have all been over- quicker than it takes to read it perhaps- adding to the urgency of the scene.

    Finally, the fact that Calpurnia wanted to block the view from the children emphasises the compassionate and protective figure of their father. “. She tried to block Jem and me with her body, but we looked out from beneath her arms.” Cal’s movements are there to protect the children from the sight infront of them. ‘ but we looked out from beneath her arms.’ Suggests she didn’t know the children could see. This refreshes the fact that the book is written from Scout’s perspective and makes the reader question what Atticus’ thoughts were in this extract.


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