Please explain what themes are evident in chapters 7 and 8 of To Kill A Mockingbird.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapters 7 and 8 of Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird are filled with coming-of-age experiences for Jem and Scout. The story is called a bildungsroman, which means the development and education of the protagonists are part of the central theme. Jem and Scout are still learning about Boo Radley and Jem seems to know more than his sister. He's learning that Boo might be more of a friend than a ghost because they've been finding gifts in the Radley's tree (knothole); and Jem found his pants mended after getting them caught and forsaken on the Radley's fence. Jem therefore decides to write a thank you letter to whomever has been leaving them gifts in the tree, but he suspects that it is Boo and really wants to show his appreciation. However, just before they want to give him the letter, Mr. Nathan Radley fills the hole up with cement claiming that the tree is dying. This is a life lesson to the children that sometimes, just when we are about to achieve a goal or get what we want, it is stripped away from us and we are left with disappointment. Scout cries and Jem tells her not to worry, but their friendship and communication with Boo has been stopped.

Next, in chapter 8, the children are enjoying their friendship with Miss Maudie and their first experience with snow falling in Maycomb. Unfortunately, Miss Maudie's house is claimed by a house fire during the night. While the kids are watching the fire in front of the Radley house, Boo wraps a blanket around Scout. They discover it later and Jem says to her, "Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you" (72). Ironically, the kids lose a second chance to communicate with Boo. They were so close, yet so far away! But they experience another minor disappointment. In each case, too, there is an element of irony that keeps them from achieving their goals. 

Even though there are unexpected outcomes (irony) and disappointment in these two chapters, there are other themes of hope and love that can be sensed. For instance, when Scout cries about the knothole being filled with cement, her brother sweetly comforts her with love and hope by saying, "Don't you cry, now, Scout. . . don't cry now, don't you worry" (62).

Then, when Scout talks to Miss Maudie after the fire, Maudie says the following:

"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" (73).

It's interesting to note that both Maudie and Jem tell Scout not to worry, which can be a theme as well. When times get tough, difficult, or disappointing, don't worry

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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