In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, in Chap. Six, the neighbors gather to discuss the gunshot. What are some of the adult assumptions made?These assumptions are made by the adult community with...

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, in Chap. Six, the neighbors gather to discuss the gunshot. What are some of the adult assumptions made?

These assumptions are made by the adult community with regard to the shotgun episode as it relates to the children.

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booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, in Chapter Six, there are assumptions made by the adult community that are entertaining, and totally accurate to how things actually occur in "real life." (This is one of the elements that is so appealing about the novel: Lee's way of capturing a "slice of life" so accurately; it makes the novel timeless in several ways.)

When the kids return from their "excursion" to the Radley property, Jem is noticeably missing his pants. Scout thinks that they will be unable to avoid punishment, but Dill provides a cover-up story. He says that Jem lost the pants while they were playing strip poker at the fishing pool, where they had originally asked to go that night.

The first assumption that the adults make is based on Dill's expression—according to Scout, Dill's "fat cherub face grew rounder." A cherub is a kind of angel or a "beautiful, innocent child." The adults are initially placated by the seeming innocence that Dill displays. His excuse does ruffle Miss Rachel's feathers when she believes that he has been "gambling" at her fish pool, however, Atticus steps in and asks if they were playing with cards. When the adults are assured by Jem that there were no cards involved, they are relieved:

Matches were dangerous, but cards were fatal.

The adults see the situation as less threatening than it might have been, and are satisfied.

For once Atticus is not as sharp as he usually is with the kids, thinking that they have been at the fishing pool doing something they should not have, rather than being at the Radley's house (which is so much more their style), doing something they should not have done. In fact, Atticus comments that he has never heard about the kids playing strip poker before: like this is a one-time affair. The sense of the adults that it could always have been much more serious—like causing Mr. Radley to fire a gun at an "intruder"—allows them to be mollified with the story they are given. There is more than a little irony present in this situation.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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After the shotgun blast comes from the Radley house in the night because Dill has peered into the dark window and Nathan Radley has stepped outside with his gun, the adults of the neighborhood assemble to discuss this exciting occurrence. As there has been "a lady in the moon" on this particular night, the adults assume several things have happened.  Miss Maudie tells the inquiring Jem, "Mr. Radley shot at a Negro in his collard patch."  But, Miss Stephanie asserts that Mr. Radley has shot into the air and missed the Negro: 

"Seared him pale, though.  Says if anybody sees a white nigger around, that the one.  Says he's got the other barrel waiting ' for the next sound he hears in that patch, an' next time he won't aim high, be it dog, nigger, or--Jem Finch!  

Miss Stephanie has probably been spying out her window and seen the children coming down the street on their night adventure, for she calls out Jem's name to frighten him. This sly remark of Miss Stephanie causes Jem even more perturbation as he later reveals to Scout that he must return for his pants because Atticus has never caught him misbehaving and whipped him.  And, his pants--evidence of his having trespassed--are yet on the Radley's fence, proof that he and Dill have not been playing strip poker as Dill has prevaricated when the objective Atticus has simply asked Jem what has happened to his pants. 

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