What are examples of dramatic irony in chapters 8, 9, or 10 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dramatic irony occurs when, due to the unfolding action, a reader or audience gains more understanding of a character's situation than the character currently has. Harper Lee especially creates dramatic irony in Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird through Scout's and Jem's limited understanding of what Arthur (Boo) Radley giving Scout the blanket signifies.

After the fire is put in out in Chapter 8, Jem is the first to realize that the mysterious woolen blanket Scout is wearing wrapped around her shoulders must have been given to her by Arthur Radley. However, despite his realization, Jem is still unable to see Arthur as the caring, albeit reclusive, man the reader is beginning to see him as. Jem does not yet see him as caring; however, he is beginning to see him as harmless but still insane, as we see in Jem's ramblings about Arthur to Atticus:

'... Mr. Nathan put cement in that tree, Atticus, an' he did it to stop us findin' thingsā€”he's crazy, I reckon, like they say, but Atticus, I swear to God he ain't ever harmed us, he ain't ever hurt us.' (Ch. 8)

In contrast, the reader has reasons to doubt Arthur's insanity due to the kind things the reliable character Miss Maudie has to say about him earlier in Chapter 5. Therefore, in contrast to Jem, the reader is beginning to see Arthur not as someone who simply won't harm the children, as Jem sees, but as one who genuinely cares for the children and wants to express his sentiment in any quiet way he can.

In contrast to Jem, Scout, being the youngest, is very slow to understand who gave her the blanket. Plus, she understands even less about what the the gift of the blanket signifies than Jem does; in contrast to Jem, Scout still sees Arthur as someone to be terrified of. Scout's unawareness is revealed when, after her father says, "Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up," Scout blankly replies, "Thank who?" (Ch. 8). Furthermore, her continued terror of Arthur is revealed when, after Jem explains Boo Radley put the blanket around her, she describes that her "stomach turned to water and [she] nearly threw up when Jem held out the blanket and crept toward [her]." However, unlike Scout, the reader, at this point in the story, knows that the children have no reason to fear Arthur Radley.

Since the reader understands far more about Arthur Radley by Chapter 8 than either Jem or Scout, we know that author Lee uses the incident concerning the blanket to build dramatic irony.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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