To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 4-7 Summary

    In Chapter 4, Scout describes the passing of the rest of the school year. It continues in much the same fashion as her first day, with Scout finding herself continuingly frustrated with her teacher and a curriculum that doesn't challenge her.

    One day, while walking home, Scout passes the Radley home. In particular she notes that in a hole in one of the oak trees in the yard is something covered in tin foil. Curious, Scout reaches into the knothole and finds two pieces of chewing gum. She chews both of them but, when she gets home, Jem is alarmed and tells her to spit it out. However, when they pass by the same tree on the last day of school, they find two Indian-headed pennies. These are rare coins no longer produced, and Jem and Scout decide to keep them.

    With the return of summer also comes Dill's return. As with the previous summer, they three children act out scenes from their favorite stories. On one occasion, bored with stories, they roll each other down the street in old tires. In one alarming roll, Scout crashes into the Radley yard. After panicking, Scout returns safely to her own home. However, this event is the catalyst for their next game. Dill suggests they play "Boo Radley," acting out Boo's life like some sort of drama. Atticus catches them at one point and, when asked, Jem tells Atticus the game has nothing to do with Boo Radley.

    The summer continues on. When Scout begins to feel left out by Jem and Dill, she starts to spend considerable time with a neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson. Scout asks Miss Maudie about Boo. Miss Maudie tells her that Boo was always a friendly child, but that he grew up with a harsh father. However, Miss Maudie asserts that most of the rumors about Boo are untrue, although she thinks he might have gone crazy from being trapped in that house.

    Toward the end of the summer, Atticus catches Jem and Dill when they plan to leave a note on the window at the Radley house, inviting Boo out to have ice cream. This is their attempt to lure him out. However, Atticus is angry about this, and insists that Jem, Dill, and Scout stop their games about and obsession with Boo Radley.

    For a time, Jem, Dill, and Scout keep their promise to Atticus that they will leave Boo Radley alone. However, on the last day of summer, just before Dill has to leave, they come up with a new plan. They plan to sneak over to the Radley home and peek inside. The three of them go over to the Radley house one night and walk the perimeter of the house, looking in windows. Suddenly, a man appears, and the three of them take off running. They crawl under a fence on the property as the man fires shots at them. Jem's pants get stuck on the fence, and he is forced to leave them behind in his desperate attempt to escape.

    When they arrive home, there are several adults gathered at their house including Miss Maudie, Atticus, and Stephanie Crawford, the neighborhood gossip. They are talking about how Nathan Radley fired shots at someone who was on his property, someone he notes in particular as a black man. Atticus notices that Jem's pants are missing, and Dill tells him Jem lost his pants in a game of strip poker. Jem goes back to the fence that night to retrieve his pants.

    In Chapter 7, the next school year starts for Jem and Scout. Curiously enough, Jem tells his sister that, when he went back for the pants the night they tried to spy on Boo, they were neatly hanging over the fence and the hole in them had been mended.

    Scout continues to be disillusioned with school, but Jem promises her that it will get better every year. Later in the school year, Jem and Scout find another oddity in the knothole of the oak tree. They are two figurines carved out of soap who looking suspiciously like Jem and Scout. Several other items appear in the tree over the next few days, including more chewing gum, a spelling bee metal, and an old watch. Eventually, however, Jem and Scout find one day that the knothole has been filled with cement. Nathan Radley explains to Jem and Scout that he filled it because the tree was dying. Both Jem and Scout are upset by this.

    This section marks a large transformation in the reader's-and the children's-perception of Boo Radley. At first, he seems like a "phantom" in the novel, a man with a larger-than life and rather frightening reputation. However, Miss Maudie's description of his tale helps to humanize him. From her, the reader learns that Boo was a good child but she suggests that his overbearing father is what changed him over time. He himself is a victim. Additionally, the mending of Jem's pants and the gifts in the tree can be attributed to Boo, though the novel never explicitly mentions he is behind this. Clearly Nathan isn't doing this because he filled the tree, so the reader must assume it was Boo. Slowly, Boo becomes less of a mythical neighborhood monster and more of a kindly recluse. Gradually, Jem and Scout seem to realize that nothing is at it seems.

    This idea of appearance is also apparent in gender roles throughout the novel. Scout seems to be anything but the typical, lady-like, domesticated girl that was expected from women during this time. Instead, she plays with the boys and speaks her mind. She doesn't understand why the boys eventually pull away from her and exclude her from their activities. Jem makes several comments to Scout about not "acting like a girl" or telling her not to cry, seemingly with the expectation that she will because she's a girl. However, throughout the novel, both young people struggle with the fitting into these appearances that are expected of them.

    Additional information is also revealed about the town of Maycomb in this section of the novel as wel. The reader sees the first glimpse of racism with Nathan Radley who, in some of his comments about the trespasser, seems to equate a black man with a dog. This is a mindset heavily engrained in the culture of this town, and an issue the novel will struggle with.

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