The story takes place in Maycomb, Alabama. The heroes of the story are the Finches, who have lived there for generations and feel right at home in their friendly, cozy community. The bad thing about it is that this friendly cozy community isn't so friendly and cozy with the blacks. This is 1930s America, and racism is the name of the ugly game. Our unnamed narrator gives us all the details we need to understand the conflict that's about to erupt between the anti-racist Atticus and his racist but beloved neighbors.
This major conflict is the trial of Tom Robinson, which is a person vs. person conflict. Tom Robinson, an African American is accused of raping Mayella Ewell the daughter of Bob Ewell. Atticus defends Tom Robinson even though public opinion is against him in a major way.
Scout, Jem, and Dill become fascinated with their mysterious neighbor Boo Radley and have an escalating series of encounters with him. Meanwhile, Atticus is still defending Tom Robinson against the rape charges Bob Ewell has brought against him. As the were watching the trial, Scout, and especially Jem, could not understand how a jury could possibly convict Tom Robinson based on the Ewells’ clearly made up story.
Despite Atticus’s impassioned defense, the jury finds Tom Robinson guilty. The verdict forces Scout and Jem to see the fact that the morals that they were taught could not always be reconciled with the reality of the world and the evils of human nature.
When word spreads that Tom Robinson has been shot while trying to escape from prison, Jem struggles to come to terms with the injustice of the trial and of Tom Robinson’s fate.
After making a variety of threats against Atticus and others connected with the trial, Bob Ewell assaults Scout and Jem as they walk home one night, but Boo Radley saves the children and fatally stabs Ewell. The sheriff, knowing that Boo, like Tom Robinson, would be misunderstood and likely convicted in a trial, protects Boo by saying that Ewell tripped and fell on his own knife. After sitting and talking with Scout briefly, Boo retreats into his house, and Scout never sees him again.