In the story, Jem writes a note to the mysterious Mr. Radley, to invite him out for a dialogue about the intricacies of his daily life. Jem promises Mr. Radley some ice-cream if he obliges him with his request. Seeing a shutter loose at the Radley home, Jem decides to leave his note pinned to the window. With the aid of an old fishing pole, Jem thinks that he will be able to pin the note securely without getting too close to the house.
Not only is Jem unsuccessful in his efforts, he ends up being caught by Atticus, who is very angry at the children's antics. He tells the children that Mr. Radley deserves a measure of privacy, without being accosted by prying, young neighbors. Atticus also asserts Mr. Radley's right to decide whether he will live a secluded lifestyle or a sociable one. He admonishes Jem and Scout to show Mr. Radley the same regard for his privacy as he, Atticus, shows them at home.
Furthermore, the children should also consider that Mr. Radley may view his own lifestyle choices as perfectly ordinary, despite the children's thoughts otherwise. Atticus tells Jem to observe the rules of polite society and to refrain from trying to make social connections through side windows. Finally, he orders the children not to go back to the Radley property without prior invitation. He ends his speech by warning the children to refrain from playing silly games or to appear as if they are making fun of Mr. Radley.