To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of the early childhood of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, chronicling the humorous trials and tribulations of growing up in Maycomb, Alabama, from 1933 to 1935. Maycomb's small-town Southern atmosphere - in which nobody locks their doors at night and the local telephone operator can identify callers solely by their voices - contributes to the security of Scout's world, just as pervasive forces of racism threaten to unsettle it. Scout's devotion to her older brother, Jem, and her hero-worship of her father, the defense attorney Atticus Finch, infuse this story with an uncommon intimacy and affection.
An acknowledged tomboy, Scout - along with her ubiquitous playmates Jem and Dill - spends her days lamenting that she must attend school and her afternoons engaged in various schemes to provoke a mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, to emerge from his house. As Scout, Jem, and Dill become increasingly obsessed with luring Boo outside, they put themselves at greater risk, at one point incurring Boo's brother's gunfire.
Scout and Jem's misadventures suggest an idyllic childhood, one tempered only by the rules of their beloved servant, Calpurnia; the standards imposed on them by their prudish Aunt Alexandra; and the particularities of their neighbors, Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mrs. Dubose. Over the course of the novel, both children learn to appreciate the values held by their father, whose boyhood nickname, "Ol' One-Shot," is put to the test in an episode with a mad dog.
When Atticus is assigned a case defending a local black man, Tom Robinson, who has been unjustly accused of rape by Mayella Ewell, a poor white woman from a family of ill-repute, Scout explores her beliefs, her father's moral obligations, and the dynamics of her community. As the untroubled realm of her childhood collides with the adult world of the courthouse, Scout discovers that redemption - salvation, even - can come from unexpected sources.