In "To Kill a Mockingbird", what happened to Jem's pants and why?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem loses his pants running away from the Radley property after trying to spy on Boo Radley. Later that night, he returns to find them mended and folded at the spot where he lost them.

When Jem, Scout, and Dill decide they want to see Boo Radley, they sneak onto the Radley property. Nathan Radley shoots at them -- unaware of who they are -- and they flee under a fence to escape. Jem's pants are caught on the fence. Scout says:

Dill and I rolled through and were halfway to the shelter of the schoolyard’s solitary oak when we sensed that Jem was not with us. We ran back and found him struggling in the fence, kicking his pants off to get  loose. He ran to the oak tree in his shorts.

When they escape, they come upon a group of people discussing what happened on the Radley property. Atticus, Jem's father, asks where his pants are. Dill says he won them in a bet. Jem chimes in and confirms the story.

Not wanting Atticus to know they lied, Jem sneaks out that night to get his pants back. Scout waits nervously, saying:

There he was, returning to me. His white shirt bobbed over the back fence and slowly grew larger. He came up the back steps, latched the door behind him, and sat on his cot. Wordlessly, he held up his pants.

The next day, Jem tells Scout that when he arrived, his pants were mended and folded -- like someone knew he was coming back for them. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6, the children decide to go on a nighttime raid into the Radley's yard in hopes of sneaking a peek at the mysterious Boo Radley. Their plan is interrupted when Nathen Radley hears them and comes outside to see who is sneaking around in his yard. Nathan ends up shooting his gun into the air and scaring the children. During their escape, Jem's pants get caught in the Radley fence, and he is forced to leave them behind. Later that night, Jem decides that he has to go back to retrieve his pants because he fears that he will let his father down if Atticus finds out he was the one sneaking around in the Radley's yard. Strangely, when Jem arrives back at the Radley yard, his pants are mended and folded across the top of the fence. The next chapter, Jem explains to Scout that his pants were neatly folded as if someone was expecting him to come back for them. The children ponder about who would have been responsible for this but do not conclude that Boo Radley had anything to do with it.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem loses his pants as he is fleeing from the scene of the Radley House late at night with Scout and Dill. He leaves the pants, which got snagged on the bottom of the property fence, only to find them neatly folded and left for him on the fencepost the next day.

The children had gone to the house out of morbid curiosity, trying to sneak a peek at Boo Radley, or further investigate the enigma of the Radleys themselves. When they are heard, Nathan Radley fires a shot in the air over the kids, suspecting that they are prowlers.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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