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Chapter 30

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 30 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 30 | Summary



The doctor ushers everyone out of the room. Though nervous, Scout guides Boo through the house to the porch. There the discussion continues, with Atticus making a defense for Jem, saying he killed Ewell in self-defense. Tate says several times that Ewell must have fallen on his own knife. Determined to follow the legal system, Atticus insists that he won't be able to face Jem if he covers up for him. The men go round and round this way a few times before Atticus realizes that the sheriff is trying to tell him that Jem really didn't kill Bob Ewell: Boo Radley did.

Now understanding each other, Tate makes it quite clear that he stands by his interpretation of the story. As sheriff of Maycomb County, he informs Atticus, his word is final.


Sheriff Tate realizes before Atticus does that Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell. The fact that the sheriff has Ewell's switchblade in his pocket suggests he has already decided how this incident must play out. But Atticus, focused on his children's immediate well-being, takes longer to realize that Boo Radley saved his children's lives in more ways than one: he not only took his children out of harm's way, but in killing Bob Ewell, he made sure that Ewell's hatred would never be a danger to them again.

Some of Atticus's strongest qualities are his open mind, his unfailing sense of justice, and his moral code that shapes all his actions. All of the best of Atticus intersects here when, as Sheriff Tate advises, he follows the spirit of the law and stands behind the sheriff's account that Ewell's wound was self-inflicted. Atticus realizes Scout's maturity when she agrees with the sherrif, adding that turning Boo in would "be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird."

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