To Kill A Mockingbird: Novel Summary: Chapters 5-6
Chapter 5: Chapter Five opens with Scout lamenting over Jem and Dill's growing relationship, "Dill was becoming something of a trial anyway, following Jem about. He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then promptly forgot about it.I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem" (48). 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 tomboy ways.
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 Boo. After Scout recounts all of the wild details she's heard about Boo, Maudie answers, "That is three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford [the town gossip].Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while" (52).
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: "Son.I'm going to tell you something and tell you one time: stop tormenting that man. That goes for the other two of you" (56). Atticus issues his final warning and scold the children for the "Boo Radley" play 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.
Chapter 6: In recognition of Dill's last night in Maycomb and the end of summer vacation, the children decide to try to see Boo Radley one more time. They wait until nightfall then sneak out behind the Radley house through the collard patch. Slowly, the threesome make their way to the back porch and Jem, brave as ever, volunteers to climb the porch to peer in the back window. A few minutes after he positions himself under the back window the shadow of a man crosses the porch. Steadily, the shadow moves from one side of the porch to the other, stopping over Jem as Scout and Dill watch in terror. As the shadow disappears the children race away from the house in complete fear. Dill and Scout clear the Radley back fence but Jem, larger than his playmates, gets stuck under the fence as shotgun fire rings out above. Dill and Scout rush back to help Jem out of his trousers. With Jem in his underwear, the three dash safely back to the Finch house, leaving Jem's pants stuck to the Radley fence. Alarmed by the shotgun blasts, neighbors gather in front of the Radley house. Nathan Radley, Boo's brother explains that he fired at some Negroes trying to steal from his collard patch. The children join the growing crowd. Atticus notices Jem standing in his underwear and asks him to explain himself. Dill interjects with a story of Jem losing his pants in a game of strip poker and the three temporarily escape punishment. That night, however, Jem frightens Scout as he ventures back to the Radley house after bedtime to retrieve his trousers.