What are the consequences Maycomb's children face in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though Scout, Jem, and Dill undertake many devious deeds in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the only consequences they face are lessons learned in life such as the need to respect others. The reason why they face no further consequences is because Atticus is a firm believer in allowing children to grow and learn at their own pace.

Scout, Jem, and Dill particularly behave deviously when they start trying to entice their reclusive neighbor Arthur Radley, whom they call Boo Radley, out of his house. Their devious deeds involve betting each other to touch the Radleys's house, using a fishing pole to try and leave a letter on a window sill of the Radley Place, inventing a game of mockery in which they enact all the rumors and myths they've heard surrounding Arthur's life, and even trespassing on the Radley property to try and get a look at Arthur through a window at night. Although on the night they trespass, they hear Arthur's brother, Nathan Radley, firing shots, they make it off the property unharmed. Hence, the true consequences of their actions don't come until, as they begin to understand Arthur more and more, they realize how disrespectful they have been through their actions and feel remorseful.

They begin to understand Arthur more and more when they begin to realize he is leaving them gifts in the knothole of an oak tree on the Radleys' property and performing acts of kindness such as mending Jem's torn trousers and wrapping Scout up in a blanket as she and Jem stand in front of the Radley gate in the freezing wee hours of the morning as Miss Maudie's house burns. Due to these acts of kindness, the children come to realize Arthur is not the monster they assume he is but rather a very caring and benevolent person.

Jem's sense of guilt for their actions is reflected when he cries once he realizes he has no way of thanking Arthur, of showing kindness in return, because Nathan had sealed up the knothole in the oak tree. Later, Scout reflects on her own sense of guilt as she walks past the Radley Place on her own once she starts the third grade:

I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley--what reasonable recluse wants children peeping through his shutters, delivering greetings on the end of a fishing-pole, wandering in his collards at night? (Ch. 26)

Scout's remorseful thoughts show us just how much the children feel guilty as a consequence of their actions because they have learned the necessity of being respectful towards others.