In To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem tells Scout something strange about getting his trousers back.  What is this?

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poetrymfa's profile pic

poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Chapter Six of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem, Scout, and Dill sneak onto the Radley's property and try peeking through the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of Boo. However, they are frightened off by the shadow of a man and the sound of a shotgun. They make their escape by crawling under a fence next to the school, but Jem loses his trousers in the process. Later that night, Jem decides to go back to retrieve them so that there will not be any evidence that the children were ever there.

In Chapter Seven, Jem ultimately confesses that there was something he had not told Scout about that night: when he went back to retrieve his trousers, he discovered that someone had untangled them and folded them neatly, draping them across the fence as if they expected Jem to return. The hole in the trousers had also been mended, albeit quite poorly, with stitches that were crooked and unlike any kind of handiwork of a woman. This discovery frightens Jem, who says to Scout:

[It was] like somebody was readin' my mind... like somebody could tell what I was gonna do. Can't anybody tell what I'm gonna do lest they know me, can they, Scout? 

Scout simply replies to this question:

Can't anybody tell what you're gonna do lest they live in the house with you, and even I can't tell sometimes. 

katemschultz's profile pic

katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

When Jem, Scout and Dill ran away from the Radley place (after Nathan started shooting), they needed to crawl under a fence, and Jem's pants got caught and torn. He undressed and left them there rather than get caught and get in trouble.

Being either brave or foolish, he goes back later that evening, when he and Scout are supposed to be asleep and Atticus is asleep. Jem is frightened because when he goes back to get his pants, they are neatly folded over the fence for him--as if someone knew he would come back for them. Upon further inspection, he finds that they have also been sewn, but not by someone with professional experience. He describes the stitches as looking crazy, like a child did them.


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