What is Chapter 28 about in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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Scout and Jem are attacked on their way home from the Halloween pageant. 

In Chapter 28, Jem and Scout are going to the Halloween pageant.  Jem is carrying Scout’s ham costume, and it is dark.  Atticus is not with them.  They are feeling very mature, laughing about how they used to be childish when they talked about hot steams and tried to make Boo Radley come out. 

We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had
vanished with our years as mist with sunrise. (Ch. 28)

When they arrive, they meet Cecil Jacobs and Jem gives Scout 30 cents to spend at various Halloween activities at the carnival.  Then Scout performs as a ham in the pageant about Colonel Maycomb, the town’s founder.  Scout misses her cue, and later Mrs. Merriweather scolds her for ruining the pageant.  Embarrassed, Scout decides to keep her costume on for the walk home.  During the walk, they realize she has forgotten her shoes.

As they are walking home, Jem thinks that he is being followed.  He says that Scout is easy to see because the fat streaks in her costume are painted so that they shine.  They think Cecil Jacobs is the one following them at first.  When Jem realizes they are in real danger, he shouts to Scout to run.

Scout attempts to get away, but they are attacked.  Then their attacker is attacked.  Everything happens in the dark and Scout can’t see anything in her costume.  It is confusing for her.

We were nearly to the road when I felt Jem's hand leave me, felt him jerk backwards to the ground. More scuffling, and there came a dull crunching sound and Jem screamed. (Ch. 28)

When Scout and Jem get home, Scout realizes that Jem’s arm is dangling at a weird angle.  Atticus calls for a doctor, and Aunt Alexandra calls for the sheriff.  Scout asks Atticus if Jem is dead, and is told he is only unconscious.    Bob Ewell is the one who is dead.

At this point, nobody really knows what is going on.  It is not revealed until later that it was Arthur “Boo Radley” who saved Scout and Jem by killing Bob Ewell.  At first, Atticus thinks that Jem is the one who killed him, but then Heck Tate and Bob Ewell acknowledge that Boo Radley does not need the publicity, so they decide to say that Ewell fell on his knife.

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