Why does Scout quiz Atticus about his visit to the Radleys' house in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 8 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the coldest winter of Maycomb since 1885 sets in, bringing with it snow and the death of Old Mrs. Radley. Scout narrates that Mrs. Radley's death barely caused a stir in the neighborhood since no one ever saw her, "except when she watered her cannas." Upon her death, Atticus visits the Radleys' house to pay his respects. When he returns, Scout, at Jem's prompting, attempts to quiz Atticus about his visit and what the Radleys are like.

The main reason why Scout and Jem quiz Atticus upon his return is because they are curious about the mysterious Radleys and want to confirm some of the rumors they have learned. In particular, they want to confirm Arthur's rumored insanity, whom the children call Boo. Jem and Scout, based on rumors, speculate that Boo caused Mrs. Radley's death by either driving her insane or by murdering her; therefore, the first question they ask Atticus upon his return concerns the cause of her death, as we see from Scout's following narration:

Jem and I decided that Boo had got to her at last, but when Atticus returned from the Radley house he said she had died of natural causes, to our disappointment. (Ch. 8)

Scout and Jem next try to assuage their curiosity concerning what Arthur looks like. Jem insists that Scout should be the be the one to ask Atticus about Arthur's looks since she's the youngest; therefore, Atticus would be more lenient towards her curiosity. So, Scout next asks, "Atticus, ... did you see Mr. Arthur?," but all she receives in reply is a stern look from Atticus and the words, "I did not." After that, the children must admit defeat in assuaging their curiosity; Jem warns that they had better not push Atticus any further because Jem suspects Atticus knows a lot more about their summer activities than he lets on.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question