In chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, what is the main idea in those chapters?

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Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is so complex that there seems to be multiple themes going on at one time. When considering the main idea, or theme, in a work of literature, take the events that occur and see what they all have in common. The main idea or theme for chapters 4, 5, and 6 centers around the mysterious Boo Radley. First, Dill and Jem are determined to get the neighborhood phantom to come out of his house and they resort to adventurous scheming; next, the kids act out the story of the Radleys in their front yard; then, Scout has a down-to-earth talk about the Radley family with Miss Maudie; and finally, these chapters also consist of Scout and Jem finding little treasures in the knothole in the Radley tree. 

When Atticus finds out that the kids are in fact acting out the neighbors' lives in their yard, he lays into them as follows:

"What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay inside his own house he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children, which was a mild term for the likes of us. . . Furthermore, had it never occurred to us that the civil way to communicate with another being was by the front door instead of a side window?" (49).

This lecture doesn't stop the kids completely because Jem sneaks over one night to peak into the house and Nathan Radley scares him away with a shotgun. Jem's pants get caught in the fence as he runs away and must go back for them after Atticus goes to sleep. Jem realizes that he is the subject of a kindness when he discovers that his pants are mended when he returns for them.  If all the events and lectures are added together, and the growth of the children is assessed, the children learn lessons of tolerance, patience, and respect for others and not to listen to gossip or to perpetuate neighborhood legends.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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