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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What assumptions do the adults reveal during the scene where the neighbors discuss the gunshot in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In the sixth chapter of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, some of the Maycomb adults make assumptions about Nathan Radley’s reason for firing his gun and what Jem, Scout, and Dill were doing just before the gunshot.

Jem, Scout, and Dill try to look into the Radley house via a loose shutter, hoping to get a look at Boo. The kids are startled by a shot from Nathan’s gun. As they are fleeing from the Radleys’ yard, Jem’s pants get caught on a gate, and he removes them to break free.

When the kids sneak their way into the group of adults who have gathered to discuss the gunshot, Jem is without his pants. No one notices at first because they are busy talking about the gunshot, which Miss Maudie claims was aimed at a “Negro in [Nathan’s] collard patch.” Miss Stephanie chimes in and says the shot scared the “Negro” but did not hit him.

The adults realize Jem is not wearing pants. Dill swiftly concocts a cover story and says that he won Jem’s pants in a game of strip poker. Miss Rachel believes the kids were gambling near her fish pool. Atticus asks the kids if they were playing with cards and is relieved to hear they were not.

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