In Chapter 4, what character traits do Jem and Scout illustrate in their ambivalence to take the Indian-head pennies?

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 4, Jem and Scout find two shiny Indian-head pennies in the knothole of the Radley tree. Scout asks her brother if he thinks the knothole is someone's hiding place, and Jem tells her that grown-ups don't have hiding places. Interestingly, the children do not immediately take the Indian-head pennies and instead think about whether or not the pennies belong to somebody else. When Jem cannot think of who the Indian-head pennies possibly belong to, he tells Scout that they will keep the pennies until school starts. When school begins, Jem plans to ask his classmates if the Indian-head pennies belong to any of them. If nobody claims the pennies, Jem and Scout plan on keeping them. Their thought process when finding the Indian-head pennies illustrates their morally upright characters. They understand that it is wrong to take something that does not belong to them, which is why they are ambivalent about keeping the coins. Jem and Scout's decision to ask around displays their thoughtful, respectful personalities. Both children are considerate and virtuous individuals. 

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renelane's profile pic

renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Jem and Scout find the pennies in the tree. Indian head pennies are supposedly good luck, so it is understandable that the children would be excited and motivated to take the pennies. Yet, they also know right from wrong, and they know that these pennies are someone else's property, and taking them from someone else is stealing. The fact that they are hesitant to take them shows them to have a strong moral background, and a good sense of right and wrong.