What was the condition of Jem's pants when he found them and why did their condition frighten him further in To Kill a Mockingbird

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Jem, Scout , and Dill were fooling around by trespassing into the Radley property, they got a scare when there was a gun shot. As expected, the children fled in a hurray. However, Jem was stuck. His pants were caught in the fence. So, he had to run...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

When Jem, Scout, and Dill were fooling around by trespassing into the Radley property, they got a scare when there was a gun shot. As expected, the children fled in a hurray. However, Jem was stuck. His pants were caught in the fence. So, he had to run away without his pants. Here is what the text says:

Jem held the bottom wire; 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.

Jem was afraid that he was going to get in trouble from Atticus, but he managed to dodge him. However, what made him afraid and perplexed was when he found his pants mended. The natural question was who mended the pants. The logical answer was Boo. That Boo would do such a thing frightened the children, because the implication was that Boo knew what they were up to. Boo was watching them. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Jem goes back to get his pants at the Radley house he finds them mended. He expected to find the pants where he left them but instead finds them folded neatly and hung over the fence. 

The mending was done by an inexpert hand, indicating that a man may have fixed Jem's pants. 

This state of affairs is alarming to Jem because it signals that fact that someone (probably Boo Radley) knew that Jem had come into the yard and knew that he would come back. 

When the Nathan Radley's shot goes off and the neighborhood comes running, Radley tells people a story that is not true. Jem is content at first to believe that no one knew who was really in the Radley yard. 

Finding the pants mended and waiting for him, Jem realizes that someone did know who had been there and, beyond that, knew Jem well enough to predict he would return for his pants.

His adventure was not as secret as he had hoped. He now worries that Boo Radley knows who was attempting to spy on him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jem is frightened when he gets his pants back because they have been mended, irregularly, and he is pretty sure Boo Radley did it.

Jem loses his pants when he is trying to spy on the Radley House, "struggling in the fence, kicking his pants off to get loose" (ch 6).

He is afraid to go back because Nathan Radley supposedly will shoot whoever comes by.  Jem knows he has to get the pants though, because if he doesn’t Nathan Radley will find them and tell Atticus, and he will know that Jem was snooping around.

Jem, Dill, and Scout are fascinated with the Radley place, and Boo Radley in particular.  On this night, Jem snuck onto the porch and lost his pants, and then told Atticus and the neighbors that he lost them playing poker with matches, because he would get in less trouble for matches than cards.

Jem does not want Atticus to find out about the pants because he knows Atticus will be disappointed in him.  When he gets the pants back, he realizes that they have been mended.

They'd been sewed up. Not like a lady sewed 'em, like
somethin' I'd try to do. All crooked. It's almost like-" (ch 7)

Jem is shocked and frightened because he thinks that someone is in his head, knowing what he will do before he does.  The fact that anyone, especially Boo Radley, knew him that well frightens him.  

Later, Jem has a change of heart.  When Scout finds a blanket on her shoulders as Miss Maudie’s house is on fire, he begs Atticus not to tell on Boo.  He appreciates that Boo has done nothing but try to help them, and was trying to keep Jem out of trouble when he mended the pants.  It is a nice gesture from Boo, and we begin to see him differently as well.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"When I went back. . . they were folded across the fence. . . like they were expectin' me. . . And something else—They'd been sewed up. Not like a lady sewed 'em, like somethin' I'd try to do. All crooked. It's almost like—somebody knew you were comin' back for 'em. . . Like somebody could tell what I was gonna do. Can't anybody tell what I'm gonna do lest they know me, can they, Scout?" (58).

The above passage shows Jem telling Scout more than just the facts of finding his pants mended. Jem realizes that it was most likely Boo who had done him the favor of freeing and mending his pants. This is ironic because previous to this episode, the kids thought they were spying on Boo, or at least trying to do so, but in reality, he was watching them. By watching the kids from his house, probably every summer—year in and year out—Boo would certainly get to know the personalities of Jem, Scout, and Dill. Jem must feel frightened about this situation, or at least a little taken aback, because of the irony.

Another thing that Jem discovers is that Boo understands what's going on in the neighborhood, with the kids, and life in general. He is probably more shy than he is crazy. Because of all the rumors and superstitions thrown around town about Boo, it would seem as if he was someone who didn't know the difference between right and wrong, or cause and effect. But as we can see above, he is intelligent and understands enough even to help others.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The episode you are talking about happens in Chapter 6.  In it, Jem gets his pants stuck in the fence at the Radleys' and has to leave them there so he can escape.

When he comes back in the night to get them, they have been taken out from under the fence.  They have been sewn up (but not very well) and they have been folded and left for him.

Jem does not tell Scout that this has happened until the next chapter.

This episode is important because it implies that Boo is not just some scary creature but is actually kind and thoughtful.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on