Chapter 8 - Is the fire at Maudie's house important to the plot of the novel?  Why or why not?

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Chapter eight of the novel is significant to the plot as a whole for two reasons: it gives us further insight into the strength of character of Miss Maudie, and it illustrates more broadly that Boo Radley is much more than the monster he has been portrayed to be.

Miss Maudie fiercely protects her garden, and is wrapping her azaleas to protect them from frost on the afternoon of the fire. The children are therefore surprised when she seems energized rather than devastated at the loss of her home –

    ‘Don’t you worry about me, Jean Louise Finch. There are ways of doing things you don’t know about. Why, I’ll build me a little house and take me a couple of roomers and –gracious, I’ll have the finest yard in Alabama.’

Miss Maudie is more concerned about the effect of the fire on the community than the loss of her home. The incident illustrates her understanding that community is people, not possessions.

When the blanket is found around Scout’s shoulders, both the children and Atticus are aware of the good qualities of Boo Radley, who had sneaked out during the commotion to offer comfort to those who showed him friendship. It is the first time that Jem tells his father of their exchanges with Boo-

     …omitting nothing, knot-hole, pants and all.

Both children are reassured that he does not seem angry, and he appears to give his blessing for their kind treatment of him-

     ‘Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up.’

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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