In To Kill A Mockingbird, what is significant about Jem's decision to make a lone, nocturnal return to the Radley house?
In Chapter 6, Jem loses his pants after he leaves them behind in the Radley yard while he is escaping. Later that evening, Jem makes the risky decision to return to the Radley yard to retrieve his pants. As he is getting ready to leave, Scout begs Jem not to go back to the Radley yard because she fears that Nathan Radley will shoot him. Jem then tells his sister why he is going back and says, "Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way" (Lee 35). Jem's reasoning as to why he decides to risk his life to get his pants depicts his loyalty and admiration for his father. Jem looks up to his father and will go to extreme lengths to avoid disappointing Atticus. Jem's feelings for his father and decision to return to the Radley yard are significant to his moral development throughout the novel. Lee depicts how Jem is growing into a conscientious young man who selflessly risks his life to not disappoint Atticus by returning to retrieve his pants.
Jem is beginning to show signs of growing up in chapter 6 where he decides to return to the Radley house alone to get his pants back. Not only does he show bravery in going alone, but he also demonstrates that not disappointing Atticus is more important than his own safety.
He returns from the Radley place with his pants, but he hides the fact that they have been mended for a while; he is obviously very worried by this fact. When Jem finally tells Scout about the pants, he wonders how it is that someone would know he was going to come back for the pants. Jem finding his mended pants is significant because it takes all the Radley games and fantasies and puts them into reality. Jem and Scout have now had real interaction with the inhabitants of the Radley house.