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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How have Jem and Scout's life changed since the fire at Miss Maudie's house?

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Before Miss Maudie's house caught on fire, the children were terrified of their neighbor Boo Radley. Scout refers to him as the "malevolent phantom" who is responsible for all small crimes in Maycomb County. The children believe the negative rumors about Boo and let their imaginations run wild. While Scout and Jem are standing in the Radley yard watching the fire, Boo Radley quietly sneaks up behind Scout and puts a blanket over her shoulders to warm her. The next morning, the children are eating breakfast when Atticus notices the blanket wrapped around Scout. He asks them whether or not they stayed in the yard, and Scout and Jem swear they didn't leave. Atticus comments,

"Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight, in one way or another." (Lee 95)

Jem understands that Atticus is suggesting that Boo Radley gave Scout the blanket and begins to tell him about their adventures and the gifts in the knothole. Atticus laughs and tells Jem that they should probably keep the blanket to themselves and maybe Scout can possibly thank him herself. Scout is confused, and Atticus says,

"Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you." (Lee 96)

Scout mentions that her stomach turns, and she almost throws up. Atticus tells Jem that he doesn't want him getting any more crazy ideas that involve Boo Radley, and Jem says, "I ain't gonna do anything to him." (Lee 96) Scout mentions that she saw the "spark of fresh adventure leave his eyes."

Following this event, Jem and Scout start to view Boo Radley in a different light. They used to fear Boo Radley, but after finding gifts in the knothole and Jem's pants mended, they begin to think differently about him. After they realize that he was acting in Scout's best interest by covering her up, they put all the pieces together. When Scout mentions that the "spark of fresh adventure" leaves Jem's eyes, she is conveying that Jem understands Boo is not a threat, and he is no longer interested in attempting to bother him. The children no longer fear Boo Radley, and later on in the novel Scout realizes that Boo is simply a caring, shy individual. After Maudie's house burns down, the children's attention shifts from Boo's mysterious nature, to their father's defense of Tom Robinson and the delicate race relations throughout Maycomb.

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