Blogging To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapter 4
Catch up on parts 1 and 2 of Blogging To Kill a Mockingbird here!
Scout hates school the way I hate mint-flavored ice cream, which is to say very much, and passionately. (I understand that mint-flavored ice cream is a perfectly acceptable flavor of ice cream and that I am wrong to hate it, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing so.)
It’s chapter 4. When Scout’s not busy hating school, she spends most of her time eating things she finds in trees, apparently. One day on her way home, during her usual jaunt past the Radley place at breakneck speed, something shiny catches her eye. She doubles back and discovers two pieces of gum wrapped in tinfoil. They were placed in a tree on the far corner of the Radley property. Scout gives the gum a tentative lick, and when she doesn’t immediately drop dead, she shoves both pieces into her mouth.
This is alarming. I get that this is the 1930s, and for all I know children were just eating things they found of trees willy-nilly. But when I was a kid, I wasn’t even allowed to indulge in the spoils of trick-or-treating until my parents gave the okay. I was led to believe that all candy had at least a 60% chance of being poisoned, 90% if the candy in question was a Snickers bar. (In retrospect, I realize that my dad just liked Snickers bars.)
Jem understands this. When he learns where Scout found the gum, he makes her spit it out.
On the last day of school, Scout once again spots something shiny in the tree hole. She points this out to Jem, and they find two Indian-head pennies. They wonder who could possibly be leaving things in this tree on the Radleys' property, next to the Radleys' house, in full view of the Radleys' front window, making this the least mysterious mystery since “Why does Remus Lupin, otherwise known as Wolf McWolf, keep disappearing at the full moon?”
Now, the good news: Dill’s back for the summer. The bad news: there’s not much to do. Everyone’s already bored of playing make-believe, which is their go-to activity. As an alternative, Scout suggests they roll around in this spare tire they keep in the backyard, because it’s the Great Depression and rolling around in old tires for fun is just something kids do.
To me, this sounds like the opposite of fun, but then I don’t like to be dizzy. I’m the kind of person who says, “Here, I’ll hold your stuff,” at amusement parks while everyone else goes on rollercoasters.
As with most childhood pastimes, it’s all fun and games until someone has a swift and decisive brush with death. Jem pushes the tire too hard and sends Scout careening down the street like a runaway cheese wheel. She ends up in the Radleys’ front yard, terrified, dizzy, and probably seconds away from being eaten by the monster within. As soon as she comes to her senses, she gets up and runs.
Turns out, this bit of tomfoolery/this confrontation with Scout’s mortality was exactly what was needed to breathe life into their once-stale game of make-believe. The three of them begin acting out the story of Boo Radley. It’s a pretty ballsy move, turning one man’s troubled past into a whimsical game right there on the front lawn where everyone and his grandmother can see you, but Scout, Jem, and Dill do it anyway. I’m just saying, if you’re going to reenact the life of the friendly neighborhood lunatic, at least have sense enough to to be doing it secret.
One day, Atticus asks them if their game has anything to do with the Radleys. Jem, who was just pretending to stab Dill in the leg with a pair of scissors, is somehow able to look Atticus directly in the eye and say, “No.” Atticus doesn’t explicitly forbid them from playing, but Scout thinks they should stop anyway. Jem feels certain that Boo Radley died years ago, but Scout isn’t so sure: on the day her tire went rogue and dumped her into the Radleys’ yard, she distinctly heard the sound of someone inside the house laughing, which is information she really should have shared with Jem and Dill, I feel like.
Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.
THIS AND THAT
- In their game, Scout plays Mrs. Radley, Dill plays Mr. Radley, and Jem plays Boo. Scout also plays the judge in Boo’s trial, and Jem the sheriff, among other roles.
- Their game is so extensive that Scout mentions Atticus caught them playing it during “Chapter XXV, Book II.”
- Dill claims to be able to smell death (you know, as you do) because an old lady taught him how. This isn’t important to the plot or anything (OR IS IT?), I just love Dill.
Jem tells Scout to “quit being such a girl” a number of times. Insert discussion questions about gender stereotypes and the negative portrayal of femininity HERE.