To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel about Atticus, a lawyer, and his children, Jem and Scout, living in Alabama. Jem and Scout are infatuated with a spooky neighbor, "Boo" Radley, Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Tom is found guilty by a racist jury and is killed while trying to escape from prison. Bob Ewell, the winner of the case, attacks Jem and Scout to exact revenge but Boo saves them and kills Bob.

Chapter 4 Summary

Brief Summary

Scout discovers gifts in a tree on the Radley property on her way home from school. First she finds two pieces of gum and then two Indian nickels. Jem is concerned that a bussed-in students left them the tree and forgot about them. Scout and Jem decide to hold onto the nickels until the new school year or until someone claims them. Dill returns to Maycomb for the summer and the three begin playing a game about the Radley family tragedy. This occupies the bulk of their summer as they practice and expand upon the drama that is composed mostly of myth and rumor. The trio gets in trouble for mocking Boo and the Radley family.

Detailed Summary

The rest of the school year passes dismally for Scout who is bored by the system and feels cheated by in some unknown way. Each day she is released from school, Scout runs by the Radley place out of fear of Boo Radley. On day, while passing by, she notices tinfoil sticking out of an oak tree's knot -- hole which reveals itself to be two pieces of Wrigley's Double -- Mint without their outer wrappers. With some trepidation, Scout chews the gum before telling Jem where she found it. Upon hearing about the location from which Scout retrieved the gum, Jem demands she spit it out and warns her not to touch or eat anything from the Radley property again.

The following day, as they are walking home and discussing Dill's return for the coming summer, Scout and Jem find another piece of tinfoil in the knot -- hole. It was box covered in chewing gum wrappers and it contained two highly polished India -- head nickels from nineteen-hundred. Unsure of who is using the knot -- hole for a hiding place, they decide to keep the nickels until school starts again in the fall, assuming that they belong to a classmate who rides the bus. They briefly discuss the magical importance of the nickels. Jem tells Scout that they're magic is string and bring good luck to whoever holds them.

Finally, Dill arrives and the trio begins its favorite role playing games again; however, Dill is tired of dramatizing the movies he's seen during the year. After discussing the possibility of smelling death and walking through the rising spirit of a recently deceased person, Scout suggest that they roll in a tire. Scout takes the first turn in the tire. Jem pushes with such force (retribution for an earlier offense) that she lands in front of the Radley property. Upon realizing where she landed, Scout runs back to Dill and Jem but leaves the tire behind as well as the laughter she swears she heard coming from inside the house. The incident inspires their next new game, the Radley family drama, which the perfect over the course of the summer. Atticus catches them one day when they are rehearsing the scene in which Boo Radley stabs his father in the leg with a pair of scissors.

Chapter 5 Summary

Brief Summary

The trio continues to play the Boo Radley drama despite Atticus' reprimand. Dill suddenly recognizes Scout for her girlhood and claims her for his fiance; however, both he and Jem use her girlhood as a reason to ignore her for the rest of the summer. Scout begins spending more time with Miss Maudie who periodically bakes mini-cakes for the children. Miss Maudie attempts to explain to Scout the reason for Boo's remaining in the house. She explains the County's tendency to victimize some of its citizens rather than understanding their perspective. Jem and Dill devise a plan to give a note to Boo inviting him to come out and play with them.

Detailed Summary

Despite Atticus' reprimand, the trio continues to rehearse its play with altered character names. Dill claims Scout for his fiance although he neglects her in favor of Jem. Separated from the boys, Scout begins spending time with the Finches' neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson. Miss Maudie allows the children to play in her yard as well as bakes them mini--cakes for every large cake that she makes. One night, Scout asks Miss Maudie if she believes Boo Radley is still alive. Miss Maudie tells Scout Boo's real name, Arthur, and confirms that she believes he is because she hasn't seen his body carried out yet. Miss Maudie tells Scout that Boo's fundamentalist Baptist father prohibited Boo having an active social life after the incident with the gang. She claims that the rumors about him are false and that she remembers him as a pleasant young man, though she believes that by now he most likely is crazy

The following morning, Scout attempts to join Dill and Jem in the yard; however, Jem tells her to leave them alone. Jem, finally, reveals that he and Dill are planning to give Boo Radley a note asking him to come out of his house. They attach the note to a long fishing pole and attempt to stick it to a side window; however, Atticus catches them and demands that they stop this nonsense right now(55).

Chapter 6 Summary

Brief Summary

It is the end of the summer and time for Dill to return to Meridian. Jem and Scout go to Miss Rachel's fishpool to say goodbye to Dill who motivates them to go for a walk to the Radley place. While there, Jem and Dill decide they are going to search for Boo by peeking through the windows. They are interrupted by a shadow figure that shoots at but intentionally misses the intruders. Jem's pants are lost before they return home where they discover that the shooter is Boo's older brother Mr. Nathan Radley. Dill tells the adults that they were playing strip poker; thus not only explaining their whereabouts during the commotion but also explaining Jem's missing pants.

Detailed Summary

It is Dill's last day in Maycomb, so Atticus allows Jem and Scout to spend time with him by his aunt's fishpool. Dill suggests they go for a walk to the Radley property. Jem and Dill want to take advantage of the night to catch a glimpse of Boo Radley through his window without risking getting in trouble. The trio creeps through the fence in the back of the Radley yard and begin looking through all the windows. As Jem ascended the back porch, Scout sees a shadow of man crossing the porch. The three of them ran from the Radley house just as gun shots rang out, but Jem's pants were torn loose by the fence.

Mr. Nathan Radley, Atticus, and their neighbors are standing by the front gate of the Radley property when the children return. Miss Stephanie Crawford tells the children that Mr. Nathan Radley shot at a Negro in his collard patch. She notices Jem's missing pants leading Atticus to question the children about their whereabouts. Dill claims he won Jem's pants in a strip-poker game the three of them were playing by the fishpool.

Later that night, when everyone is bed, Jem decides he wants to retrieve his pants before Atticus finds them and discovers the children's lie. Scout tries to stop him by threatening to tell Atticus, but then offers to join him when she realizes that her entreaties were of no use. Jem refuses to let her go with him so that she won't make any unnecessary noise. After what seems like an eternity to Scout, Jem returns with his pants, slipping back into bed without a word.

Chapters 4-6 Analysis

This section of the novel serves as an introduction to Boo Radley, though the reader is not formally introduced to him; rather, the reader learns more about Boo along with the children as well as through their relationship/obsession with him. At first Boo is a specter as symbolized by the mysterious packages being left in the old oak's knot hole. Although Lee never explicitly states that Boo is leaving the gifts specifically for Scout and Jem, it is implied by the location of the tree and the type of gifts being left. Chewing gum and Indian head nickels would only appeal to children Jem's and Scout's age. The other influential factor is that no other children live on their street. This hints to a humanistic side of Boo that is unfamiliar to most of Maycomb County.

This humanist side of Boo is confirmed by Miss Maudie when she and Scout begin spending quality time together. Like Boo, Miss Maudie is the victim of a small town's suspicion of those who defy convention; therefore, she abhors the rumors that attack his character. She remembers him as being a sweetly soft spoken young man who suffered, unfortunately, at the hands of his religiously fanatic father. She also makes a suggestion similar to the one Atticus made in Chapter 3 as well as later in Chapter 5; she tells Scout The things that happen to people we never really know(51). Scout, again, must attempt to perceive things from Boo's point of view in that, perhaps, Boo is just as, if not then more frightened of the outside world than it is of him.

The reader is also introduced to Miss Maudie who establishes herself as one of the most significant characters in the novel. Despite her status as a social outcast, Miss Maudie, like Atticus, acts as a voice of reason among people whose penchant for tradition leads to a natural suspicion of everything new and different. Miss Maudie's independence and self-possession has blemished her reputation in the county to such an extent that she is often called a hell-bound sinner. She is specifically vilified for her naturalism which causes her to [spend] too much time in God's outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the bible(49). Her effortless humanism is exhibited by the manner in which she defends Boo Radley's reputation and circumstances as well as the easy manner in which she adopts the three children. The cakes she bakes for them speak to her maternal relationship with them. The relationship she develops with Scout is particularly poignant because no other woman in Scout's life is as understanding of her idiosyncrasies as Miss Maudie. Rather than reproach Scout for her tomboyish behavior, Miss Maudie accepts Scout's independent spirit. One can make the claim that Miss Maudie is an adult version of Scout because they are outspoken almost to a fault and both lack the ladylike refinement expected from Maycomb's women. Although Lee positions Miss Maudie outside Maycomb's mainstream, Miss Maudie has far more reliable insight into Maycomb society than the local busy body, Miss Stephanie Crawford.

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