What is the conflict in Chapters 6-9 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflicts in Chapters 6-8 concern the children's all-consuming desire to get a glimpse of Boo Radley and the eventual realization that he is a friend--not a monster--deserving of the privacy that Atticus has so emphasized. In Chapter 6, the children make their nighttime raid on the Radley's back porch, only to be frightened away by Boo's shadow. The shadow disappears without bothering the children, and when Jem returns to the fence to retrieve his lost pants, a surprise from Boo is awaiting him. In Chapter 7, more gifts are found in the secret knothole, and the children come to see that they could only come from Boo. But their budding friendship with the unseen spectre suddenly ends when Boo's brother, Nathan, cements the knothole, preventing any further contact between Boo and the children. When Jem discovers that the tree is healthy--and that Nathan has closed the knothole to prevent Boo's communication with the children--he learns another harsh lesson about the Radleys' sense of justice and their cruel style of family punishment. Miss Maudie's house fire in Chapter 8 serves as a means for Boo to see his young friends once again. When Scout discovers a blanket across her shoulders, Atticus explains that it could have only come from Boo. Both of the children are bewildered: Scout nearly becomes sick at the thought:

     My stomach turned to water and I nearly threw up...

Jem can no longer contain himself, revealing to Atticus all of the children's secrets.

     Jem seemed to have lost his mind. He began pouring out our secrets right and left...

Jem finally understands that Boo is not to be feared, and he promises that

"I ain't gonna do anything to him..."

Chapter 9 actually serves as a transitional chapter, leaving the children's quest to see Boo behind and introducing more information about Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson. Just as the children have given up trying to lure Boo into the open, Scout has finally taken her father's advice and walked away from a fight--her first time ever--with Cecil Jacobs. But when Scout's cousin Francis accuses Atticus of the same things as Cecil, she relapses, and she

... split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth.

The children are able to give up Boo, but insults about Atticus will still bring out their anger in the ensuing chapters.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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