To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Unsurprisingly, Scout finds the Dewey Decimal System boring and finds school to be a waste of time. One day, while running past the Radley house on her way home, she spots a bit of tinfoil in the knothole of an oak tree on the Radley lot. Inside, Scout finds two pieces of chewing gum. It’s unclear at first who leaves her this gift. Jem doesn’t believe she found it and makes her spit it out when he gets home from school, but later, when they find more tinfoil with a pair of Indian head pennies, he becomes curious. He knows there aren’t many people who go by there (Cecil Jacobs walks a mile out of his way to avoid the Radley house), which makes it especially strange.

Two days after Jem and Scout find the Indian heads, Dill arrives from Meridian. He tells them a bunch of tall tales about seeing conjoined twins and riding with the train engineer, then pretends to predict the future. Jem scorns these superstitions, explaining to Dill about Hot Steams, which are spirits that can’t get to Heaven and hang around on Earth, trying to suck the life out of people who pass through them. Tired of talking and playacting, they decide to roll around in a spare tire, which leads to Scout accidentally rolling too fast onto the Radley property. When Scout recovers she runs out of the yard, leaving the tire for Jem to retrieve.

After this, the children act out a play, One Man’s Family, based on the rumors about the Radleys (in particular, Boo’s attack on Mr. Radley). Whenever Nathan Radley walks by, they pause in the middle of a scene so he won’t know what they’re doing. Atticus figures it out, though, and this is Scout’s second reason for wanting to quit the game—the first, she says, is the fact that when she rolled onto the Radley property, she heard someone inside the house laughing. She assumes this is Boo.


One example of this would be...

(The entire section is 670 words.)