To Kill a Mockingbird 3

The back of the Radley house was less inviting than the front: a ramshackle porch ran the width of the house; there were two doors and two dark windows between the doors. Instead of a column, a rough two-by-four supported one end of the roof. An old Franklin stove sat in a corner of the porch; above it a hat-rack mirror caught the moon and shone eerily. “Ar-r,” said Jem softly, lifting his foot. “‘Smatter?” “Chickens,” he breathed. That we would be obliged to dodge the unseen from all directions was confirmed when Dill ahead of us spelled G-o-d in a whisper. We crept to the side of the house, around to the window with the hanging shutter. The sill was several inches taller than Jem. “Give you a hand up,” he muttered to Dill. “Wait, though.” Jem grabbed his left wrist and my right wrist, I grabbed my left wrist and Jem’s right wrist, we crouched, and Dill sat on our saddle. We raised him and he caught the window sill. “Hurry,” Jem whispered, “we can’t last much longer.” Dill punched my shoulder, and we lowered him to the ground. “What’d you see?” “Nothing. Curtains. There’s a little teeny light way off somewhere, though.” “Let’s get away from here,” breathed Jem. “Let’s go ‘round in back again. Sh-h,” he warned me, as I was about to protest. “Let’s try the back window.” “Dill, no,” I said.
Dill stopped and let Jem go ahead. When Jem put his foot on the bottom step, the step squeaked. He stood still, then tried his weight by degrees. The step was silent. Jem skipped two steps, put his foot on the porch, heaved himself to it, and teetered a long moment. He regained his balance and dropped to his knees. He crawled to the window, raised his head and looked in. Then I saw the shadow. It was the shadow of a man with a hat on. At first I thought it was a tree, but there was no wind blowing, and tree-trunks never walked. The back porch was bathed in moonlight, and the shadow, crisp as toast, moved across the porch toward Jem. Dill saw it next. He put his hands to his face. When it crossed Jem, Jem saw it. He put his arms over his head and went rigid. The shadow stopped about a foot beyond Jem. Its arm came out from its side, dropped, and was still. Then it turned and moved back across Jem, walked along the porch and off the side of the house, returning as it had come. Jem leaped off the porch and galloped toward us. He flung open the gate, danced Dill and me through, and shooed us between two rows of swishing collards. Halfway through the collards I tripped; as I tripped the roar of a shotgun shattered the neighborhood.

Comment on how language is used to add excitement to the extract.
For a B grade:

i. Which synonyms are used for ‘said’ – how do they help set the scene?
ii. How is ‘the shadow’ made scary?
iii. There is a contrast between the children’s movement at the beginning of the passage and at the end – how does this affect the scene?

For an A grade:
i. The initial dialogue is made up of single words – how does this show the children’s feelings?
ii. ‘I was about to protest’ Scout does not want to be there – what emotion does this add to the scene?
iii. How is the image of the shadow made to be more ‘gothic’?


4 thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird 3

  1. Alix Hopley

    Language is used in this extract to add excitement by the use of different and more interesting vocabulary to describe the way dialogue is being spoken, For example, instead of saying ‘said’, Lee uses the word ‘breathed’ to describe how a line is being spoken. The word breathed is more fitting with the atmosphere as the characters are trying to be quiet, there is a lot of suspense and it is quite creepy. By the use of the word ‘breathed’ it emphasizes that the children have to be quiet and it is a very important that they are. It also highlights the feelings of the characters and how scared they are. This makes it easier for the reader to visualise and put themselves into that position, creating suspense and excitement for the reader.

    Another way that excitement has been created by use of language is that the dialogue consists of mostly singular words. For example, Scout says: “Dill, no,”. This shows to the reader the feelings of Scout and their feelings (scared, worried, ect..). We can see that Scout is scared and worried as the singular words highlight the fact that she has to be as quiet as possible and that there could be consequences if she isn’t. It also shows that Scout was so frightened that she physically couldn’t get a whole sentence out.

    Finally, another way that excitement is created in the scene is the part about the shadow. This is a very scary part of the text. This is achieved by not explaining who or even what the shadow is straight away. For example, when Scout says “Then I saw the shadow.”, it creates questions for the reader (Who is the shadow? What is that shadow? Where did it come from?) and makes them want to read on as they are excited to know more about the shadow and if the characters are in danger.

  2. Harri

    The short lines dialogue between the children add to the suspense of the scene, this adds to the excitement by engaging the reading in what’s happening. “Ar-r,” said Jem softly, lifting his foot. “‘Smatter?” “Chickens,” he breathed. The use of words and phrases such as ‘Breathed’ and ‘said Jem softly’ add to the depth of the chapter and help to build up the suspense through making it easier for the reader to visualise the situation that the children are in.

    Excitement can be portrayed though the boys eagerness to carry on despite Scout’s concerns. ‘Sh-h,” he warned me, as I was about to protest.’ This also shows the depth of Jem’s authority over Scout which shows the trust put within him in such serious situations. This adds to the excitement by showing Scouts understanding of not retaliating to her older brother within the circumstances.

    Furthermore, excitement can be felt through the description of the shadow. ‘but there was no wind blowing, and tree-trunks never walked.’ Scout’s description of the shadow brings her feelings to life, engaging the reader through the excitement and fear about what the shadow really is, and what will happen next.

    1. dartmouthacademyeng Post author

      Good answers, Harriet. The shadow is a very ‘gothic’ element as is the Radley house (and quite terrifying). these kind of answers would score good marks in section b of the exam. Are you re-reading the novel? It gets better each time. ________________________________________


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