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In a small Alabama town in 1932, Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer, strives to create for his two children, 6-year-old Scout and her 10-year-old brother, Jem, an atmosphere free from hatred and prejudice. The youngsters lead a carefree life, racing about the town, jeering at eccentric Mrs. Dubose, and frightening themselves and their new friend, 6-year-old Dill Harris, with exaggerated stories about Boo Radley, a mentally retarded neighbor whom they have never seen. When Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a Negro accused of raping young Mayella Ewell, the children must defend themselves against the taunts of their classmates. Though Atticus is able to demonstrate Tom's innocence, forcing Mayella to admit that her father beat her when he found her making advances toward Tom, the all-white jury returns a verdict of guilty. Atticus tries to have the decision reversed, but before he can do so, Tom attempts to escape and is killed. In revenge against Atticus, Bob Ewell one day attacks Scout and Jem; but Boo Radley, who has secretly watched over the children and has left gifts for them in a tree trunk, saves them by killing Ewell. Sheriff Tate concludes that Ewell fell on his own knife and decides that there will be no trial.