Scout, formally known as Jean Louise Finch, talks about how her brother Jem, older by 4 years, broke his arm badly at the elbow when he was thirteen. To this day she insists that the entire incident began with the Ewell family, the most wretched family in Maycomb County, but Jem disagrees. He believes that the whole thing started way back when Dill came from Meridian, Mississippi, to spend his first summer in Maycomb with his aunt, Rachel Haverford, the Finch's neighbor. To take a broader view of things, Scout suggests that it all started when General Jackson chased the Creek Indians north and Simon Finch, their ancestor, moved up the river and built Finch's Landing. Because they couldn't decide who was right, they asked their father, Atticus, and he says that they were both right. Scout begins relating the stories of her childhood that build up to the night that Jem broke his arm.
Years before Scout and Jem were born, Atticus broke the tradition of having a male Finch living at the homestead when he went to Montgomery to study law. His younger brother, Jack, went to Boston to study medicine. Their sister, Alexandra, stayed on at Finch's Landing with her husband. When Atticus was admitted to the bar, he returned to Maycomb County, twenty miles east of Finch's Landing, to practice law. He got off to a rocky start because his first two clients were hanged.
When Scout was six and Jem was almost ten, they met Dill for the first time and made a lasting friendship. Scout and Jem were playing in their backyard when they heard something in Miss Rachel's yard next door. Expecting to find a puppy, they found Charles Baker Harris, know as Dill for short, sitting in the yard...