Structure/ GamesI get hypnotized by questions of structure, and by how the smaller sections of works relate to the larger section. I am therefore interested in how the games the kids play relate to...

Structure/ Games

I get hypnotized by questions of structure, and by how the smaller sections of works relate to the larger section. I am therefore interested in how the games the kids play relate to the novel's themes. How do the ways they imagine Boo Radley, how they dare one another to touch the house, and other invented games relate to other elements of the novel?

Any ideas?

Greg

Asked on by gbeatty

8 Answers | Add Yours

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

To me, the games demonstrate the children's trying to understand the adult world. They re-enact movies, but also Boo Radley's story. They are putting themselves in the adult world. The games stop when they become part of the adult world for real, when the trial starts and they start to learn the truth.
accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I wonder whether the game-playing that the kids indulge in is actually used as a parallel between how other adults objectify, vilify and reject other adults. The game-playing is built upon ignorance, half-truths, myths and stories that the kids twist to create a bogey-man, which is of course what other characters do with blacks.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

The poster who mentioned Atticus shooting the rabid dog and Scott dispersing the mob caused me to make a connection I hadn’t made before. The rabid dog and the crowd were no so very different. Both were hulking, unthinking entities.

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In high School our teacher told us that the rabid dog was a symbol of predjudice and that Atticus was trying to keep his  children from its effects.  She is the only teacher who mentioned that.  We still need to protect our children from its ravages.  I see little progress in this regard.

madre wrote, "

In high School our teacher told us that the rabid dog was a symbol of predjudice and that Atticus was trying to keep his  children from its effects.  She is the only teacher who mentioned that.  We still need to protect our children from its ravages.  I see little progress in this regard."

 Well, I'd like to think I see some: openly lynching people is less common in this country.

 However, the point more specific to the book is certainly correct: the dog works as a symbol of the threat of prejudice and violence. That said, the dog is more than that, and less. On one level, it is just a dog, and what it represents is Atticus stepping up to do the manly thing, the sort of thing Scout always wanted him to do. On another, it is any threat, and he shows himself willing to literally put himself between threats and Scout.

Greg

 

gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would agree with these fine points, and I would also add that in several of the novel's pivotal moments, skills learned in games decided the day.

I'm thinking of Atticus shooting the rabid dog--he drew on his childhood activities there--but also when Scout persuaded the would be mob to disperse in front of the jail. Her many stories told at home, and the practice of imagining another's perspective, serve her well here.

Greg

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Jung would suggest that in such imaginary games, children--as well as adults--confront their shadow self, that part of each of us we fear and deny.  Richard Wright's Native Son shows this shadow self in terms of race in that Bigger confronts the white perception of  him, which he then capitulates to rather than acknowledge and grapple with in a functional way. The children probably see Boo as embodying such a shadow, the archetype of the monster (as Jamie explains), that defines the boundaries of the known and permissible vs the unknown and forbidden. If they touch that monster, they claim it and therefore defuse its danger. Bob Ewell, in finding his shadow in Tom, projects onto him all of his own self-loathing and in that way "pretends"--plays a dangerous game that tries to redefine reality in terms of his own self-interest.

Great question, Greg.  I would guess you have "played" with this concept of structure and games in Lord of the Flies, where it is most conspicuous. 

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Game playing is a central theme, I would say.  All of the characters engage in pretend play of some sort, but only those who recognize boundaries of play will be successful in life. 

Of course, it is childish fun to imagine the unknown as monsterous, scaring oneself and others with ever-increasing horrors.  When Jem, Scout, and Dill play at imagining Boo, they decide that Boo "was about six and a half feet tall, judging him from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands are blood-stained - if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time."

Unfortunately, people like the Ewells never learn the distinction btwn play and reality.  They too imagine African-Americans like Tom to be gruesome, inhuman monstrosities.  When they fail to recognize the consequences of their play-acting, tragedy results.

From the lesson Scout and Jem learn about boundaries of play and pretend fromthe injustice of Boo, they are able to stop the game playing before it gets out of hand.  They learn the difference btwn fantasy and reality. 

I'm sure there are plenty of other people who can comment on the role of gaming, but I'm running out of room on this thread! 

madre's profile pic

madre | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

In high School our teacher told us that the rabid dog was a symbol of predjudice and that Atticus was trying to keep his  children from its effects.  She is the only teacher who mentioned that.  We still need to protect our children from its ravages.  I see little progress in this regard.

We’ve answered 318,916 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question