In Chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird, the children played a game called "Boo Radley." Give a brief outline of the game and how it develops, and describe Attitcus' reaction when he sees them playing it.

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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird can be read as a story about parenting. Lee draws the character of Atticus Finch in such an endearing manner as to make him as memorable as the first person narrator, Scout Finch.

It is Atticus’s parenting style that makes him such a rich character. He seems to treat his young children almost as equals, while imbuing them with his own particular brand of open-mindedness and sensitivity. Scout learns very much as a young girl over the course of the story, and most of that knowledge is gained from her father Atticus.

When Scout, Jem, and Dill play an imaginative game called Boo Radley, Atticus’ methods are shown in an understated manner. When he discovers the children playing the game, this is all that happens:

“Does this by any chance have anything to do with the Radleys? I hope it doesn’t,” he [Atticus] said shortly, and went inside the house.

That’s it. But he knows that the game does, in fact, involved the Radleys. However, instead of being overbearing, he gets the kids to think out the situation and then decide, for themselves, to stop playing the disrespectful game.

The resulting question that readers might ask themselves is, “Would this really work?” Can children be disciplined and influenced in such a “hands off” manner?


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In chapter 4, Jem tells Scout and Dill that he has a new, exciting game that they are going to play. Scout describes the game as a "melancholy little drama" based on the rumors and gossip surrounding Boo Radley's life. Essentially, the children depict scenes throughout Boo's life and entitle the play "One Man’s Family."

Scout plays the role of Mrs. Radley, and all she has to do is act like she is sweeping the porch. Dill plays the role of Mr. Radley, and he walks up and down the sidewalk coughing. Jem plays the role of Boo Radley, and he climbs underneath the porch to howl and shriek from time to time. Scout mentions that as the summer progressed, their game expanded and they began to add scenes and dialogue. Some of the added scenes include Mrs. Radley's background and the time Boo and the Cunningham boys got into trouble. Scout also recalls "Boo's big scene," where Jem sneaks into the house to grab scissors and acts like he stabs Dill in the leg, which is a reenactment of Boo's assault on his father. 

Scout mentions that one day, they are in the middle of playing the game, when Atticus arrives home and sees them playing. When Atticus asks Jem what they are playing, Jem attempts to conceal the truth by telling his father, "Nothing." Atticus then takes the scissors from Jem and asks if their game has anything to do with the Radleys. Jem turns red and tells his father "No." When Atticus enters the home, Jem tells Scout and Dill that they can continue playing the game because Atticus never told them directly not to stop playing.

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To while away their free time during the boring summers in Maycomb, the children turned to play-acting. They had been acting out imaginary scenes of the Rover Boys--Tom, Sam and Dick--but Scout was tired of that, so she asked Jem to invent a new game. He decided that they should act out scenes from the life of Boo Radley. Scout was assigned the role of Mrs. Radley, one that at first she refused to play. Dill would be Mr. Radley, and Jem would play Boo. Scout mostly swept the porch; Dill walked up and down the sidewalk and coughed; and Jem shrieked and howled from under the porch.

    As the summer progressed, so did our game. We polished and perfected it, added dialogue and plot until we had manufactured a small play upon which we rang changes every day.

Dill was a "villain's villain," playing any character that Jem assigned. Scout expanded to various female roles (though she claims it "wasn't as much fun as Tarzan"), while "Jem was a born hero." When Atticus found out what they were doing, he strongly discouraged their production. But the children had another audience: From inside the Radley house

... I heard another sound... Someone inside the house was laughing.

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