What is significant about the town's conclusion regarding the disturbance at the Radley place in chapter six?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Jem, Scout, and Dill trespass onto the Radley property on the night that summer vacation ends, Mr. Nathan Radley hears a noise in his backyard and shoots a bullet into the air to scare them off. His explanation to the neighbors is that he was shooting to scare off a black man who had been in his yard. Miss Stephanie quotes Mr. Nathan Radley as follows:

"Mr. Radley shot at a Negro in his collard patch... shot in the air. Scared him pale, though. Says if anybody sees a white ni***r around, that's the one. Says he's got the other barrel waitin' for the next sound he hears in that patch. . ." (54).

Not only do a few neighbors participate in racist talk, but Mr. Radley's explanation shows that he would be forgiven by people if he mentions that he was defending his property and himself from a black man. This suggests that loyalty lines are thick between the races and almost anything can be forgiven if the discrepancy is between a white man and a black man. Also, because Nathan Radley is white, anything he says is taken as truth without anyone checking for facts or evidence regarding the incident. This event reflects the same mentality of the community when Bob Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter. Bob Ewell expects to be believed without having to prove his accusation because he is white and Tom is black.

Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All the neighbors assume that the Radley place was being burglarized by a black man and that he was scared off by Radley's gunfire. They nonchalantly or casually figured that if he returns, Radley will finish him off. This conclusion is significant because it shows that the townspeople assumed that all the illegal activity happening in town was caused by colored people. They had not actually seen the "burglar" but automatically assumed he was black. In all actuality, "he" was Scout, Dill, and Jem, three white children. This incident exemplifies the town's fears, stereotypes, and racist attitude.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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