To Kill A Mockingbird: Novel Summary: Chapters 3-4
Chapter 3: Terribly upset by the poor impression she made on Miss Caroline, Scout grabs Walter Cunningham and starts a fight. Jem stops the fight and invites Walter over to the Finch house for lunch. Walter agrees and the three of them make their way home. Calpurnia prepares a nice lunch for the family and gives Walter syrup on his request. Walter pours syrup all over his food and Scout, never one to hold her tongue, asks him "what in the sam hill he's doing" (30). Angry at Scout for reproaching an invited guest in such a manner, Calpurnia summons Scout to the kitchen and says, "'There's some folks who don't eat like us,' she whispered fiercely, 'but you ain't called on to contradict 'em at the table when they don't. That boy's yo' comp'ny and if he wants to eat up the tablecloth you let him, you hear?" (31). With this incident, Scout gets one of her first lessons in manners and humility when faced with people who are different from her.
The three children return to school. Scout arrives to find Miss Caroline in horror over a "cootie" in Burris Ewell's hair. The Ewells, who live behind the town dump, are the poorest people in the area. Bob Ewell, Burris' father, drinks up the money from their welfare check and let's the children run wild. They do not eat or bathe properly and they rarely attend school. One of Miss Caroline's pupils explains, "'He's one of the Ewells, ma'am.Whole school's full of 'em. They come first day every year and then leave. The truant lady gets 'em here 'cause she threatens 'em with the sheriff, but she's give up tryin' to hold 'em. She reckons she's carried out the law just getting' their names on the roll and runnin' 'em here the first day. You're supposed to mark 'em absent the rest of the year." (33). Miss Caroline shows concern for Burris but he angrily storms out of the classroom never to be seen in school that year again.
Miserable, Scout returns home from her first day of school and complains to Atticus that they're no longer allowed to read together. She argues that she should never have to go to school but Atticus encourages her to compromise: "If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?" (38). Scout enthusiastically agrees to continue going to school and Atticus holds his end of the deal by reading the newspaper to Scout and Jem before bedtime that night.
Chapter 4: Scout describes her first year of school as "an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics" (39). 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 a 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 gum.
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 an idea.
Dill arrives shortly from Meridian. As usual, the three friends play act stories that they have read. This summer, however, they find themselves bored with the stories they've already done and want to try something new. 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.