To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Chapters 4–6

Summary Chapters 4–6

Analysis: Chapters 4–6

These chapters serve primarily as a record of Jem and Scout’s childhood adventures with Dill and the specter of Boo Radley. Even as the children play the “Boo Radley game,” make their attempts to give a message to Boo, and peek through his shutters, Boo’s character is transformed from a monster into a human being. Although Boo’s relevance to the main plot of the novel is still unknown, the compelling human story that these chapters weave around Boo keeps the reader interested in him, even if he serves only as a diversion to the young Finch children at this point.

Boo makes his presence felt in these chapters in a number of ways. First, the presents begin to appear in the Radley tree, and, though Scout does not realize who has been putting them there, the reader can easily guess that it is Boo. Second, Miss Maudie offers insight into the origins of Boo’s reclusiveness and a sympathetic perspective on his story. Miss Maudie has only contempt for the superstitious view of Boo: he is no demon, and she knows that he is alive, because she hasn’t seen him “carried out yet.” From her point of view, Boo was a nice boy who suffered at the hands of a tyrannically religious family. He is one of many victims populating a book whose title, To Kill a Mockingbird, suggests the destruction of an innocent being. In fact, as a sweet, young child apparently driven mad by an overbearing father obsessed with sin and retribution, Boo epitomizes the loss of innocence that the book, as a whole, dramatizes. For the children, who first treat him as a superstition and an object of ridicule but later come to view him as a human being, Boo becomes an important benchmark in their gradual development of a more sympathetic, mature perspective.

In these chapters, the first person other than Atticus to display a sympathetic attitude toward Boo is Miss Maudie, who, like Boo, emerges as an important character in this section. Miss Maudie is one of the book’s strongest, most resilient female characters. One of the few people in the town who share Atticus’s sense of justice, she is also Scout’s closest friend and confidante among the local women. Atticus’s wife is dead, leaving Scout with Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra as her principal maternal figures. Whereas the latter provides a vision of proper womanhood and family pride, the former offers Scout understanding instead of criticizing her for wearing pants and not being ladylike. Miss Maudie is a stronger role model for Scout: she serves as a conscience for the town’s women, just as Atticus does for the men, and her sharp tongue and honesty make her the opposite of vapid gossips like Stephanie Crawford.