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Chapter 28

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 28 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 28 | Summary



When Scout learns that Atticus and Aunt Alexandra can't come to the pageant, she performs her small part for them in the kitchen wearing her bulky costume.

Jem and Scout leave together for the school. The path, though short, is particularly dark that night. Jem and Scout are spooked at one point when Cecil Jacobs jumps out at them. Once at school Jem joins friends his own age as Cecil and Scout run off together to enjoy some of the games before both have to take part in the Maycomb County presentation. Somehow Scout is late for her cue, causing the emcee—Grace Merriweather—to have to call for "Pork" twice. The little mishap delights the audience, but Scout is embarrassed. She leaves her costume on for the short walk home, hoping to hide her "mortification."

On the dark path Jem and Scout become aware someone is following them. They break into a run, but almost immediately Scout is knocked flat and something—someone—crushes her costume's chicken wire frame on top of her. Jem is with her, grabbing her up and attempting to run. With Scout still stuck in her costume, they don't get far. She notes they are near the road when she feels Jem's hand leave her. He screams, and she turns and runs in the direction of his scream. Suddenly Scout's attacker is yanked backward and flung to the ground. A third person—and a second stranger—has entered the scuffle.

And then, just as suddenly as the fight began, it is over. Scout calls for Jem but there is no answer. She sees a lone man standing near the tree, coughing. The man fumbles around for something and then begins staggering toward the street. He is carrying something heavy.

Scout reorients herself and makes her way to the street. In the streetlight she sees the man carrying Jem toward their home. By the time she reaches the house the man and Atticus have already carried Jem inside. Aunt Alexandra runs to meet Scout and gets her in the house.

The doctor and sheriff arrive. While the sheriff goes to where the attack took place, everyone else is with Jem, including the man Scout had seen carrying Jem home. When the sheriff returns he reports finding Scout's dress, some bits of her costume—and Bob Ewell's dead body, right where he had attacked Jem and Scout. There is a knife stuck up under his ribs.


Chapter 28 is heavy on action and mystery, and with Jem's arm shattered, we know we've nearly come full circle to Scout's first-page reference to his broken arm.

Scout and Jem's bond is central to the chapter. Despite their age and gender differences—and Jem's coming teen years—the two have stuck together. The description of Jem guiding Scout along the path, one hand resting on the top of her costume, makes that clear. For Scout's part, even though she's virtually helpless in her costume, she never leaves Jem's side.

It seems that the man who saves Jem and Scout must be Boo Radley. The action of the scene and the revelation that Bob Ewell is dead serve as tense lead-ins to Scout's face-to-face meeting with Boo Radley.

Mentioned on the first page of the book, Jem's broken arm—much like Tom Robinson's mangled arm and Boo Radley's reclusive nature—puts him in a class of people symbolized by the mockingbird, an innocent, vulnerable creature. As each of them proved in one way or another, they could be wounded but not completely broken.

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