The magic of the movie lies in the fact that at every single juncture in the film, Scout happens to learn another and yet another new thing about issues like education, superstition, cowardice, prejudice, courage, diversity, and so on. The evolution of the lot happens with the young Girl Scout gradually losing her innocence when she encounters the prejudices related to race and color in her own home town, but the movie is also about how she accepts the extremely harsh realities of life as she encounters them. She also learns to accept people for what they actually are, regardless of their skin color, like that of Tom Robinson, and regardless of their eccentricities, like those displayed by the character of Boo Radley. (Study Guide for To Kill a Mockingbird)
The first scene of the film is about 6-year-old Scout and her 10-year-old brother immersed in their own world of play, innocently and guilelessly. Their perceptions about their widowed attorney father are also revealed in the opening scene. Their childhood fantasies and fears include fantasizing about a recluse, Boo Radley, who supposedly inhabits a mysterious house in their neighborhood. The girl draws a symbolic mockingbird in the first scene, and shades it in her childlike way, and then proceeds to tear the picture up into small pieces, thus signifying that there is a portent of racial tensions and divisions yet to be shown in the movie, that would tear the entire town part, in much the same way as Scout Finch had torn the picture of the mockingbird. One morning, as Scout and her brother play in their backyard, a poor and impoverished farmer from the countryside, named Walter Cunningham, drives by in a horse drawn wagon, bringing a sack full of hickory nuts to the Finch residence as a part of his entailment for the legal work that he had done. (To Kill A Mockingbird (1962): Review by Tim Dirks)
This makes Scout curious, and she questions her father Atticus Finch, the lawyer, about their financial status as compared to that of the Cunningham's. She asks her father, if they are as poor as the Cunninghams, and when her father says that they are not, she appears to be relieved. The imaginative children Scout, her brother Jem, and their common friend Charles Baker Dill Harris, expect to have a great time of their summer vacations, making plans of swinging in their tires, and playing in their tree house, and also fantasizing and spinning imaginative tales of the terrible man Mr. Radley who lived in that creaky and old wooden place, with his crazy and terrifying and eccentric son, Boo Radley. When Mr. Radley happens to walk by their house and Jem happens to spot him, they all quiet down, and rush to stare at that old house, Jem makes the comment, "There goes the meanest man that ever took a breath of life." (To Kill A Mockingbird (1962): Review by Tim Dirks) When Dill asks him why he said that, Jem says that he keeps a boy named Boo chained to the bed at all times, and that the boy gets up at night and walks around screaming and scratching. The children then go on to make up tall tales of what the boy Boo looks like, that he is six feet tall, and that he eats squirrels and cats. His eyes are popped, and that he drools all the time. (To Kill A Mockingbird (1962): Review by Tim Dirks)
Dill's aunt too adds to these images by saying that Boo is a dangerous man. Meanwhile Jem makes up another story about another neighbor, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubois, who is cared for by a black woman named Jessie, by saying that he himself had seen that lady with a Confederate pistol in her lap. All this disrespect for unknown people on the part of the children is beautifully counterbalanced when the children's father Atticus comes back home and point out that the flowers in Mrs. Henry's garden are magnificent and wonderful, and that the children must notice that above anything else. A poignant message is conveyed here, wherein one is made to understand that one must indeed look beyond external appearances to find the real person underneath.
Later that same night, Scout sits reading to her father form the pages of Robinson Crusoe, but she appears to be perturbed by what Jem had told her earlier about the eccentric Boo coming and looking into her windows in the middle of the night. Her father corrects her and asks her to leave those 'poor people alone', and 'stop tormenting them', revealing his basic attitude towards people in general, and his unprejudiced nature, which he then passes on to his children. Still later in the night, as Atticus sits on his porch, he happens to overhear a deeply moving conversation between his son and his daughter, talking about their dead mother, whom they miss. The fact is that the scene conveys an impression that these are two children who are trying their best to come to terms with the various uncertainties and unfairness that life seems to have brought them at this young age, and how they try to deal with the injustices of the world. The next day, the seventy-five-year-old Judge Taylor stops by Atticus' house and informs him that the grand jury would charge the black man Tom Robinson the following day. Atticus being a deeply principled man who stands up against prejudices of any kind, thinks deep and hard, and decides to take up the case and defend the black man in the case. (To Kill A Mockingbird (1962): Review by Tim Dirks)
This is the time when almost the entire town happens to turn against Atticus, just because he happened to have the courage to stand up for what he thought was right, in this case, that he believed that a black man was being persecuted just because of the fact that he was black, and not because he may have committed the crime that he was being accused of. One of the most vicious characters is the supposed victim's father, Bob Ewell. He violently opposes the fact that Atticus would dare to take up the case of a mere black man, and this was the same though that was running through the minds of almost all the inhabitants of the town Maycomb. However, Atticus stands by what he believes in, and for him, the entire controversy was about Tom's innocence, and about the injustices that were being heaped upon him, and not about Tom's skin color. It must be remembered that at that time, in the South, there were more numbers of men like Ewell, and less like Atticus, and a large number of these men were quite inordinately scared and frightened of black skinned people, and they would therefore take the defensive against them. (To Kill a Mockingbird, all time 100)
The tragedy of the story lies in the fact that although Atticus presents a good and strong case, which proves Tom's innocence beyond a reasonable doubt, the unfortunate black man is nevertheless found guilty by a jury. The jury, which refuses to take the word of a black man as against that of a white, finds Tom guilty, and therefore, justice is not served, and tragedy results at the end. The Director of the movie To Kill a Mockingbird has taken pains to make sure that the pint of view of the movie is not changed throughout the movie, that is, the point-of-view of the narrator, who relates the entire story in a flashback and the result is that almost all the actions that take place in the movie are seen filtered through the eyes of the two children Jem and Scout. Atticus is seen as a good lawyer and an excellent father, while Bob Ewell is seen as a monster, Tom Robinson is a tragically innocent figure. (To Kill a Mockingbird, all time 100)
Due to this particular approach, the way in which fear is perceived by adults, and by children is seen clearly in one particular scene, wherein an angry mob that opposes the defense of the black man Tom by the white man Atticus advances upon the lawyer as he stands waiting outside the Court. Atticus is scared for his two children and tries to usher them to safety, but the children are not at all frightened, and this is because they feel safe and protected because they are standing near their own father, who, they believe, would do anything to look after them. At the same time, the children are frightened witless of the perceived danger that they sense in Boo the bogeyman, but their father Atticus, being an…