What new game do Dill, Scout, and Jem play in To Kill a Mockingbird?
In chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Dill returns to Maycomb for the summer, much to the excitement of Scout, who associates the season with her friend. However, Dill, Jem, and Scout soon grow tired of playing their standard game, "Tom and Sam and Dick." Scout is tired of playing Tom Rover, Dill is tired of being the "character man," and Jem is tired of making up new games to entertain the others. They play a different game, in which Scout climbs inside an old tire and Jem rolls her down the street, yet this does not provide lasting entertainment either.
Finally, Jem announces that they are going to play a new game—"something new, something different" called "Boo Radley." In this game, the children act out Boo's life. Scout plays Mrs. Radley, a role which tasks her with sweeping the porch. Dill plays Mr. Radley, and he must walk up and down the sidewalk coughing. Jem plays Boo, which necessitates him laying under the front steps and occasionally howling. The game eventually becomes more polished, with dialogue added and an actual narrative to be followed. Scout describes it as a "melancholy little drama, woven from bits and scraps of gossip and neighborhood legend." The children also assume more minor roles throughout their play, including: the boys who got into trouble, the probate judge, the sheriff, various townspeople, and Miss Stephanie Crawford. The climactic scene of this game involves Jem pretending to plunge Calpurnia's scissors into Dill's thigh.
Eventually, Scout wants to quit the game, claiming that Atticus's arrival and the laughter she hears coming from inside the Radley's house is enough to scare her off.
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In chapter four, Dill, Jem and Scout begin playing the new game that involves a drama of acting out the family life of the Radleys. Jem becomes Boo Radley. Dill is old Mr. Radley, and Scout becomes Mrs. Radley. The three of them reenact all the gossip about the Radleys that had been passed down through the years:
It was a melancholy little drama, woven from bits and scraps of gossip and neighborhood legend: Mrs. Radley had been beautiful until she married Mr. Radley and lost all her money. She also lost most of her teeth, her hair, and her right forefinger (Dill's contribution. Boo bit it off one night when he couldn't find any cats and squirrels to eat.); she sat in the living room and cried most of the time, while Boo slowly whittled away all the furniture in the house.
Dill, Jem, and Scout play this game over the summer. The new game involves not only the community gossip, but it involves the children's additions to the legends. The children are so involved in their drama until they pass many hours playing this new game. They do not really think that their new game could be interpreted as disrespectful to the Radleys. They have begun to think of the Radleys as fictional characters:
This shows that they regard the family as almost fictional. They give little thought to the fact that their game may be hurtful to thinking, feeling humans behind the Radley windows.
When Atticus asks if their drama has anything to do with the Radleys, "Jem denies that it does and Atticus goes inside." At least, this indicates to the children that Atticus would not be pleased with their new game. Still, they play their new game because they are fascinated with the beings who live in the Radley house.
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