Chapters 4 and 5
describes her school year as being boring as she is not challenged
by what is being taught. Quite bored with school, Scout anticipates
her afternoons playing her yard with Jem. Jem, however, leaves school
thirty minutes after Scout so Scout walks herself home passed the
Radley house. One day, as she passes the house, she notices something
shiny in the knot of an old oak tree that stands on the border of
the Radley property. Scout examines the object and realizes it is
two pieces of chewing gum. Scout takes the gum and tells Jem about
the incident when he arrives home. Scared by the fact that Scout
found the gum on the Radley lot, Jem orders Scout to spit out the
On the last day of school, Scout and Jem pass the oak tree together
and find a shiny package made of gum wrappers containing two, polished
Indian-head pennies. The children wonder who left the pennies in
the tree but decide to take the pennies until they can ask their
friends at school next Fall if they'd lost the pennies. Scout has
no idea who placed the pennies in the tree but Jem seems to have
School ends and Dill returns from Meridian. As usual, the three
friends play act stories that they have read. This summer, however,
they find themselves bored with the sotires they've already done
and want to try something new. On one occasion they find and old
tire and Scout curls up inside it and the other two puxh it down
the street. She loses control and the tire rolls right into the
Radley's yard. The children panic and stop this game. This episode
gives Dill another idea for a new game.
Dill, still fascinated by the legend of Boo Radley, wants to act
out Boo's story. The three take roles: Scout plays Mrs. Radley,
Dill plays Mr. Radley, and Jem gets to play Boo. For several days
the threesome play "Boo Radley" in their front yard, acting out
the scene in which Boo stabs his father with a pair of scissors.
The neighbors notice the game and alert Atticus. Atticus takes the
scissors away and scolds the children who lie by saying they are
not talking about the Radley's. Atticus leaves the situation alone
but the children's enthusiasm about the game wanes.
Chapter Five opens with Scout lamenting over Jem and Dill's growing
relationship. To occupy her time while Jem and Dill spent their
afternoons in their treehouse, Scout turned to her neighbor, Miss
Maudie. A kind and patient woman, Maudie also had her own eccentricities.
Unlike most other proper Maycomb ladies, Maudie spent most of her
time outside, working in her garden. She treated Scout with respect
and allowed her to be herself rather than criticize her for her
Maudie and Scout spend one summer afternoon discussing the history
of the Radley family. Miss Maudie describes Mr. Radley, Boo's father,
as a "foot-washing" Baptist who believed that pleasure was sin.
Foot-washers, according to Maudie, believe that flowers and women
are also sins by definition. Scout wonders if this is the reason
why they locked Boo in the house, to keep him away from women and
flowers. Although Maudie offers no explanation for Boo's reclusion,
she does warn Scout against believing all the gossip she hears about
The day after her conversation with Maudie, Scout finds Jem and
Dill plotting to send a note to Boo by attaching a piece of paper
to a fishing pole. Scout reluctantly joins the boys but their plan
fails as the paper remains attached to the fish hook and Atticus
catches them in the act. He issues his final warning and scolds
the children for the "Boo Radley" game they had thought he had forgotten.
Atticus firmly believes all people, including Boo, deserve respect
and should be treated decently regardless of their class, race,
or strange behavior.
We get further information concerning the childhood adventures of the three
with the shadow of Boo Radley hanging over their activities. This threat is purely self-generated by the children, in particular, Dill’s vivid imagination.
Scout discovers gifts in the Radley tree, and of course, the reader
immediately realizes where these are coming from, but Scout does not see the connection.
Lee cleverly retains Scout’s naivety for a six-year old whilst giving the
reader sufficient information to draw an adult conclusion.
Miss Maudie is one of the book’s strongest female characters and one of the
few residents of Maycomb who shares Atticus’ sense of justice.
She also becomes a close friend of Scout’s and is the principal maternal figure along with Aunt Alexandra. Whereas Aunt Alexandra will provide guidance regarding the correct behavior for ladies, Miss Maudie will provide a stronger role model, as she understands the tomboy aspect of Scout’s character.
There are several central themes throughout the novel’s plot.
It is clear that Scout’s real education comes from outside school, from
Atticus and from the books, which she reads.
She would read anything, which was available in the house, especially Time Magazine, but she is bound by the law to endure the drudgery of the Maycomb County School system.
There are differing types of prejudice prevalent in the Alabama culture, not
only by whites to blacks, but vice versa. Calpurnia’s attitude about the way the Finch children should speak is typical. She is clearly concerned to teach the children to be white in total contrast to
the way she brought up her own son, Zeebo. There is also prejudice between the better-off residents of Maycomb and the impoverished families like the Ewell’s and Cunningham’s.
Despite the specter of evil, which the children have generated concerning
Boo Radley, they show bravery by continuing to flirt with this force. A typical example of this is Jem’s bravery in deciding to deliver a note to Boo by shoving it under his door.
Scout’s world is a safe place.
The only fears she has have been generated through her own imagination. When she passes the Radley house she takes and eats the gum on trust.
Coupled with trust is, of course, truth and we find during the course of the
story that almost every character lies at some stage, although these lies are meant to protect people from trouble.
Scout will face different forms of femininity as she tries to
understand what it is to ‘be a girl’. The two main female role models have different views on femininity, but it would appear that Scout would tend to adopt Miss Maudie’s line.