Catch up on parts 1 — 4 of BloggingTo Kill a Mockingbirdhere!
Scout tells us that Jem has become extremely irritable after his brush with death. I can relate. Once I fell in a pond when I was ten years old. I didn’t almost die, but I did get extremely wet, and I’ve been in a bad mood ever since.
One day when they are walking home from school in chapter 7, Jem confides in Scout. He says there’s something he never told her about “that night,” with “that night” being the one time they lurked around the Radley property and were nearly murdered when Jem got his pants caught in a fence. Jem says when he went back, his pants were exactly where he had left them but were sewn up and folded nicely, “like they were expectin’ me.”
Ignoring the disturbing implications of sentient pants, Scout wonders who would do this. Because she is a small child and the protagonist of this story, one who cannot pick up on pointed narrative cues, she does not consider the possibility that it was Boo Radley.
Because I’m in my 20s, know what foreshadowing is, and am reading this story for the billionth time, I must resist the urge to dropkick this book out an open window and shout “IT’S BOO RADLEY, YOU TINY MORONS” after it.
But boy, is it difficult! The neighborhood tree hole crusader has returned, leaving presents for Scout and Jem. We as readers are then forced to endure actual conversations like this:
JEM: Look, Scout! It’s a broken pocket watch. I wonder who’s doing this. SCOUT: Leaving us presents in the Radleys’ tree, on the Radleys’ property, within full view of the Radleys’ front porch? I have an idea. JEM: Who? SCOUT: I’m thinking Miss Maudie.
In addition to the pocket watch, they receive a ball of twine, a spelling bee medal, and two soap carvings of a boy and a girl that look suspiciously like them. With the soap carvings, this whole thing almost takes an abrupt left turn into sinister, but it never has the chance. Just as they’ve decided to write a letter and leave it in the tree for their mysterious benefactor, Mr. Nathan Radley fills the tree hole with cement. When they ask him why, Nathan Radley says the tree was dying, that you “plug ‘em with cement when they’re sick.” Is that real? Someone find a tree surgeon. I have questions.
Later, Jem points out the tree to Atticus and asks if it’s dying, but Atticus says the tree is 100% healthy. Apparently, everyone knows how to ascertain the health and well-being of trees except me.
Winter is coming in chapter 8. Scout says there are no “clearly defined seasons in South Alabama.” There’s summer, sort of fall, maybe winter, and a single day of spring before summer comes again. Where I live, there is hot swamp death season, twenty minutes of fall, eight months of the Arctic Tundra, and then flip-flops.
But this year, winter comes to Maycomb in full force. Old Mrs. Radley dies of old age, which, I’m gonna be honest, I thought she was already dead. My bad. Scout asks Atticus if he saw Boo Radley when he went over to offer his condolences, but Atticus says he did not.
The next morning, it snows. Neither Scout nor Jem has ever seen snow before, which means they have also never had to shovel their driveway while their next-door neighbor used a snowplow. (We get it, Mr. Moneybags. You can afford to buy ROBOTS that EAT YOUR SNOW FOR YOU.)
Since Maycomb is a place where it Never Snows, the townsfolk take one look at this sort-of blizzard and they’re like, “THAT’S IT, CANCEL EVERYTHING.” Scout and Jem spend their day off from school making a snowman. They don’t have enough snow to do this properly, so they go over to Miss Maudie’s house and take some of hers, using baskets to transfer it. Their snowman strongly resembles Mr. Avery, who is this bonkers neighbor of theirs that thinks naughty children are what caused the sky to barf snow. (Waiting on science to confirm.)
That night, when everyone’s asleep, tragedy strikes. Miss Maudie’s house has caught fire. Not a metaphor. Her house is actually, physically going up in smoke. Atticus hurries off to help, but he instructs Scout and Jem to go stand by the Radleys’ house, out of harm’s way, just in case the fire spreads.
The whole neighborhood is out fighting the blaze. You may be thinking, “Aren’t there people who do this kind of thing, you know, professionally?” and you’d be right. But the firemen are fighting their own losing battle; they must push the fire truck through the snow. In the end, the flames make quick work of Miss Maudie’s ex-house. The whole thing is completely destroyed, but thankfully no one is hurt.
Later, when they’re having hot chocolate, Atticus points out that Scout has a blanket wrapped around her that she didn’t have previously. Since they were standing in front of the Radleys’ house and Nathan Radley was busy trying to help put the fire out, Atticus concludes that it was likely Boo who gave her the blanket.
And that, my friends, is the last we’re going to hear about Boo Radley for a while. We’ve got some Crucial Life Lessons to learn before Scout is ready to meet him.
“Just think, Scout,” he said, “if you’d just turned around, you’da seen him.”
THIS AND THAT
Miss Maudie is such a treasure. Far from being sad about the fire that destroyed her home, she says she “always wanted a smaller house”—gives her “more yard” for her azaleas.
Now that Mrs. Radley is dead, the only ones left are Boo Radley and Nathan Radley. I would give anything to know what their deal is. Did Nathan try to get Boo to stop leaving stuff in the tree? Did Boo know Nathan was going to fill it with cement?