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the incident in which Atticus shoots the rabid dog
"The play of To Kill a Mocking Bird" was adapted from a novel by
Harper Lee. The story is set in Maycomb, Alabama in 1935, when racism
was rife. The play deals with racism and shows how the blacks were
exploited. The play is split into two acts; Act One is about a black
man being wrongly accused of raping a white woman. It is in Act Two
that the audience finds out that the legal system would wrongly
convict a man, just because he is black. There are many incidents
which occur in this play, but the one I am going to consider is when
Atticus shoots the rabid dog.
The part of the play where the incident of Atticus shooting the rabid
dog occurs starts with Jean. At this point the spot light would be on
Jean as she steps onto the stage and starts speaking. The incident is
introduced when she says:-
"Then a few weeks later something happened- something that made our
father even more of a puzzle. The tension in the town about the
approaching trial was getting drum-tight, but what happened had
nothing to do with that - it had to do with a liver coloured bird dog
While Jean says that she would probably be standing at the front of
the stage in the spot light. Behind her would be the set; which would
comprise of the front of houses in Maycomb. At this point Jem and
Scout would enter the stage, with Jem pulling Scout, and talking about
Tim; although they do not realise he has rabies. Soon after,
Calpurnia, a black housekeeper, would come onto the stage, as though
she has just come out of the house; she would be wiping her hands on a
tea towel. Calpurnia is not interested in the dog at this moment as
she says in a sharp tone:-
"What is it Jem? I can't come out every time you want me."
It is not until Jem imitates the dogs actions - gulping like a gold
fish and hunching his shoulders - that Calpurnia becomes interested.
Unsure as to whether to believe Jem, Calpurnia points her finger at
Jem and says with her voice hardening:-
'You tellin' me a story, Jem Finch?
Jem goes on to explain how the dog is moving, he says
'Just moseyin' - but walkin' funny.'
It is then that Calpurnia realises that the dog has rabies, and so
hurries inside to call for help. At this point, she would have a
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audience would be able to hear Calpurnia making the phone call, with
pauses in between sentences, to suggest that the person on the other
end of the phone is talking.
While on the phone to Mr Finch, Calpurnia says loudly, almost
"Mr Finch, this is Cal. There's a mad dog down the street a piece. Jem
says he's comin' this way! Yes - yessir - yes!"
Calpurnia then goes to the Radley's house to warn them. On the way,
Scout unaware where Calpurnia is going, says:-
"I better call out to them."
meaning call out to the Radleys. Concerned for Scout, Calpurnia, who
acts like a mother to her, goes after her, and upon catching her
'Listen to me - go back and you stay'
As Scout walks back to the house, Calpurnia races up to the Radleys
porch and starts banging on the door, at the same time casting nervous
glances. She would have a worried and nervous expression on her face
at this moment. This part of the play would be hard to play as a
comedy without stereotyping Calpurnia.
At the same time Jem and Scout would be looking off stage to where Tim
is meant to be. Meanwhile Calpurnia shouts:-
"Mr Nathan - Mr Boo! Mad dog's comin'! Mad dog's comin'! Hear me?
Don't come outside. Mad dog!"
This part of the play would be played as a comedy. Jem sees Tim and
points, Calpurnia would then look in the same direction. In one last
attempt to let the Radleys know about Tim, Scout shouts excitedly:-
"He's comin' now, Mr Radley!"
Calpurnia then gives Scout a fierce swat on the seat and says:-
To add comedy to the play and to take away the tension of the rabied
dog approaching, Scout replies indignantly:-
"You always pick on me"
As they move off stage, Scout would look offstage towards the
direction of the dog.
When Calpurnia, Scout and Jem leave the stage the spot light would go
on Jean, who acts as a narrator and stands outside the action. She
starts by saying:-
"We assumed that Atticus would turn to competent authority to handle
this dangerous situation, and our assumption was proved to be correct"
Offstage the sound effect of a car engine would be heard, as Atticus
and Heck Tate approach. As Jean then continues, the stage would get
lighter, as she says:-
"When our father arrived, he was accompanied by the sheriff."
Atticus spots Tim immediately, and says softly,
"There he is"
"He's got it alrite, Mr Finch'"
Atticus asks Heck to shoot Tim, as he says:-
"He's within range, Heck. You better get him before he goes down a
side street. Lord knows who's round the corner."
The spot light returns to Jean, as she says calmly:-
"It was right then - the most astonishing thing happened. Jem and I
Heck turns and offers the gun to Atticus, but he is reluctant to take
it as his children are watching and he does not agree with violence;
he has taught his children that; but Heck insists, and forces the gun
into Atticus' hands. This is when he accepts it. Atticus takes off his
glasses, while still keeping a watch on the rabid dog. Then his body
goes tense, which shows that he is focused on the rabid dog offstage.
As Atticus gets ready, Calpurnia puts her hands to her cheeks and
looks up to the sky, and says:-
"Sweet Jesus, help him"
It is as though she is praying.
Atticus aims the gun, raises it, and fires quickly. Heck Tate shouts
excitedly, with relief:-
"Got him! You got him!"
Heck then goes off stage to check. As he re-enters, he says;-
"Dead as a doornail"
People start to come out of their houses now. At this point, Jem and
Scout are at the doorstep, they are shocked and this would show on
their faces. They cannot believe that their father did that; they did
not think he had it in him. Jem can hardly get any words out, he would
look astonished. Amused at Jem's response, Heck says
"What's the matter, boy, can't you talk? Didn't you know your Daddy's
Atticus stops Heck, because he does not want his children to admire
violence, he would have a serious look on his face.. Ms Moudie, a
"Well now, Miss Jean Louise. Still think your father can't do
anything? Still ashamed of him?"
She says it jokingly, as she explains how Atticus had the 'deadest
shot' in the county, but also how he was 'civilised.'
This incident is an important one in the play, as it gives the
audience an insight into an unexpected side of Atticus' character.