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 7

Brief Summary

Jem and Scout start school again with Scout in the second grade and Jem in sixth. Scout is equally dissatisfied with second grade as she was with first. Jem finally tells her he found his pants mended and folded neatly when he went to retrieve them that fateful night. The two start receiving more elaborate gifts in the old oak tree which prompts them to write a thank-you letter to leave in the hole. Unfortunately, Mr. Nathan Radley plugs the hole with cement after they leave the note. He tells Jem the knot hole was making the oak tree sick and needed to be mended before the tree died. Upon learning that Mr. Nathan Radley lied about the tree, Jem sinks into a temporary depression.

Detailed Summary

School has started again with Scout in the second grade and Jem in the sixth grade. For a week after the incident on the Radley property, Jem is moody and silent. Scout doesn't bother him because she is aware of his tendency to retreat from her when he has much on his mind. One afternoon, Jem tells Scout that the night he retrieved his pants, he found them mended and folded neatly as if someone knew he would return for them. As he is telling her the story of that night, they pass the old oak tree and find another gift in the knot hole. It is a ball of gray twine that Scout assumes belongs to a classmate; however, Jem doubts that a child is using the tree as a hiding place. They decide to leave it in the tree and remains there for three days until Jem finally takes it, thus staking a claim on everything they find in the tree.

Scout finds second grade just as lackluster as first grade, but Jem assures her that school gets better with age because one doesn't begin to learn anything of value until sixth grade. Late in October, on their way home from school, Jem and Scout find two hand -- carved soap statuettes in the oak tree; they bear a close resemblance to the children. Scout assumes Miss Stephanie Crawford's boyfriend Mr. Avery carved them. Jem highly doubts it. The following weeks they find an entire package of chewing gum, a tarnished medal, and an old pocket watch in the hole. Overwhelmed by the mystery gift-giver, Scout and Jem decide to write a thank-you letter to leave the knot hole. The following morning, the children find their hole filled with cement. Jem makes inquiries with Mr. Nathan Radley who tells him that he filled the hole because it was killing the tree. Upon asking Atticus if the tree appeared to be dying, Jem learns that it is actually healthy. Upset by Mr. Nathan Radley's lie, Jem remains on the porch for much of the night, crying.

Chapter 8 Summary

Brief Summary

Real winter strikes Maycomb County for the first time since 1885. The rare snowfall leads the County to cancel school for the day. Jem and Scout take advantage of their day off from school and build a snowman. Without enough snow to make a full-size snow man, Jem uses dirt and water to make up the difference. He is forced to disguise the figure with Miss Maudie's garden shears and sunhat because it originally bore an unflattering resemblance to Mr. Avery. That night, Miss Maudie's house catches on fire, and she loses everything. , Scout is unknowingly wrapped in a blanket by Boo Radley while waiting for Atticus in front of the Radley place. Jem reveals the secrets about the knot hole and the manner in which he lost his pants because he is afraid the blanket will lead Atticus to think they disobeyed him.

Detailed Summary

For the first time since 1885, Maycomb County is struck by real winter weather. Mrs. Radley, Boo Radley's mother, dies leading Jem and Scout to believe that Boo killed her. They are curious to know if Atticus saw Boo Radley when he visited the Radley's to pay his respects. He simply answers no.

School is cancelled on day due to the odd and rare occurrence of snow, something Scout has never seen before. The lack of snow forces the children to use some of Miss Maudie's snow to build a snowman. Jem also gathers dirt because they still do not have enough snow to make a full size snowman. Using water, dirt, and snow, Jem makes a figure that closely resembles Mr. Avery. When Atticus sees the snowman, he tells the children to disguise him in order not to insult Mr. Avery. Jem adorns the snowman with Miss Maudie's sunhat and garden shears.

Later that night, Atticus pulls Jem and Scout from bed and brings to the front of the house. Miss Maudie's house is on fire. It takes the volunteer firemen until dawn put out the fire. Miss Maudie must move in with Miss Stephanie Crawford until she rebuilds her house. Atticus and the children return home for some hot chocolate. He notices that Scout is wrapped in a blanket that she did not have with her when she left the house. Angry at the idea that the children may have disobeyed him, Atticus demands to know why they left the gate in front of the Radley house where he instructed them to remain. Afraid of disappointing Atticus, Jem tells his everything about the gifts they found in the tree as well as the truth about the incident with his pants. Atticus agrees with Jem that they ought to keep the secrets to themselves and then informs Scout that Boo Radley wrapped her in the blanket while she was enraptured by the fire. The following afternoon, they all help Miss Maudie clean up the yard. She is in good spirits and looking forward to rebuilding a smaller so as to increase the size of her yard.

Chapters 7-8 Analysis

Lee uses her characteristic elliptical technique in order to continue exploring Boo Radley's humanism. Again, the three children act as Boo's unofficial biographers through their foibles and follies. For example, Jem's confession about the state in which he discovered his pants leaves the reader no other choice than to assume Boo is responsible. The same can be said for the numerous gifts the children find in the old oak's knot hole. These incidents demonstrate both Boo's tremendous patience with the children and his sense of humor. Considering the rumors haunting Boo Radley, one would naturally assume his response to the children's harassment would be one of anger; however, he is playful and whimsical. He seems to be acutely aware of their fascination with magic and mystery; therefore, he takes positive advantage of their navet by keeping the secret of his identity as the gift-giver and pants-mender. Boo is also proven to be protective of the children through both the pants incident as well as the night of the fire. Rather than reporting the children's indiscretion to either Mr. Nathan Radley or Atticus, Boo maintains the children's confidence by quietly and politely restoring the pants to the same location at which Jem lost them. Then, the night of the fire, he gently wraps Scout in a blanket to prevent her from freezing. The reader can interpret the care with which Boo treats the children as not only an indication of his gentle nature, but also as an indication of his love for them. They are his connection to the much missed innocence of the outside world while he is a much needed playmate for the two children.

This section of the novel also calls attention to the increasing differences between Scout and Jem. In the previous section, Lee introduces the tension that naturally erupts between siblings who not only considerably different in age, but who are also different genders. When Scout begins school, Jem tells instructs her to leave him alone during the school day. The following summer, with Dill's appearance, Scout is no longer as welcome to join the boys in their adventures. Her gender is made even more of an issue when Dill acknowledges her as a potential romantic mate. In Chapters 7 and 8, their differences in temperament and maturity are emphasized. This is initially demonstrated by Jem's attitude towards the sudden increase in gifts borne by the old oak tree. He is beginning to suspect that the gift-giver is Boo Radley, whereas Scout is content with continuing to believe the knot hole is a classmate's hiding place. Although both children have acute observational skills, Jem's analytical ability is far more developed than Scout's. Jem is also becoming more aware of how to cope with the adult's world's caveats. For example, he becomes distraught and withdrawn when he discovers Mr. Nathan Radley's lie concerning the health of the oak tree. Scout recognizes his behavior as an indication to give him physical and emotional space; however, she still perceives the world through innocent and nave eyes. Jem's increased maturity is also marked by his ability to distinguish between trivial matters and those of import; particularly being forthright and honest about is behavior. He demonstrates his new found accountability by disclosing all the information regarding the relationship he and Scout have cultivated with Boo.

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