To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

Harper Lee

Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

That summer, Dill proposes to Scout and then forgets about it. Despite Scout’s attempts to jog his memory by beating him up, Dill ignores her and grows closer and closer to Jem. This frees her to spend more time with their neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, a middle-aged woman who likes to garden and lets the Finch children run through her yard as much as they like as long as they don’t disturb her azaleas. Miss Maudie knew Scout’s uncle, Jack Finch, a strange man who proposed to her every Christmas by shouting across the street. She never married him and is, in fact, a widow, having been married to a man we never meet, but that doesn’t stop Uncle Jack from trying to get her goat, so to speak.

One evening, Scout asks Miss Maudie if Boo is alive, and she explains that his real name is Mr. Arthur Radley and that of course he’s alive. His father, Mr. Radley, was a foot-washing Baptist (as opposed to a regular Baptist like Miss Maudie), and this appears to have had some effect on Boo, though it’s unclear what it is, exactly. According to Miss Maudie, most of the gossip about Boo comes from Stephanie Crawford and the African American community, which is commonly believed to be more superstitious than the rest of Maycomb. Miss Maudie didn’t put any stock in this gossip, though.

The next morning, Jem and Dill tell her about their cockamamie plan to send Boo a note through the broken shutter on the side of the Radley house. Jem plans to do this by sticking the note to an old fishing pole and trying to drop it onto the windowsill. This is, unsurprisingly, ineffective, and Atticus catches them in the act. He gives them a long lecture about not tormenting Boo, and then uses his skill as a lawyer to trick the truth about the play out of Jem. Jem, who used to say that he wanted to be a lawyer like Atticus, waits until Atticus is out of earshot to yell that he isn’t so sure he wants to be a lawyer after the way Atticus treated him.

Allusions

The Second Battle of the Marne (July 15 - August 6, 1918). Unbeknownst to the Germans, this was to be their last major offensive of World War I and would mark the beginning of the Allied advance. About one hundred days after the battle, the Armistice that ended the war was declared. This was a particularly bloody and important battle, and the fact that Scout compares it to Miss Maudie’s war against nut grass reflects the sheer level of intensity that Miss Maudie brings to this endeavor. It’s also a pithy observation that suggests that, in spite of Scout’s evident boredom in the classroom, she did, in fact, learn something.

Idioms

One example of an idiom is “get your goat,” which Uncle Jack uses in reference to his (repeated) proposals to Miss Maudie, whom he likes to tease (unsuccessfully, Scout says).

Metaphor

Miss Maudie tells Scout that foot-washing Baptists think "women are a sin by definition." This is untrue, of course, but it's still a metaphor because it equates two unlike things, women and sin, in an attempt to demonstrate how these foot-washers think and feel.

Personification

One example of this would be Miss Maudie telling Scout that the Radley house is a "sad house," meaning that it's not the fearsome place Scout believes it to be. It's "sad" because the things that happen inside it are sad or elicit pity from Miss Maudie.

Themes

Gossip. In this chapter, Miss Stephanie Crawford becomes a more prominent force within the Maycomb gossip mill. We'll later discover that she is in fact the biggest gossiper in town, but for now, she's just a source of amusement. When Miss Maudie asks her if she made room for Boo in bed, Scout misses the sexual implication and just thinks that it's Miss Maudie's voice that shuts Stephanie up for a while.

Sin. Miss Maudie tells Scout that foot-washers believe "women are a sin by definition." This won't be the last time we hear that something is a sin. Mr. Radley believed that anything that's "pleasure is a sin." Atticus thinks that it's a "sin to kill a mockingbird." The question of what is and isn't right in the eyes of God preoccupies many characters in the novel and establishes a kind of moral high ground that others either ignore or aspire to, depending on their own definition of sin.