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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How is Atticus' advice from Chapter 3 of To Kill a Mockingbird taken or ignored in Chapter 4?

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

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Atticus's advice to "climb into [someone's] skin and walk around in it" is ignored in chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout contributes to rumors about Boo Radley and does not take Boo's feelings into account. If Scout had followed Atticus's advice, she would not have joined Jem and Dill's cruel game.

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In chapter 4, the children reenact various scenes from Arthur "Boo" Radley's life story in a game they call One Man's Family. The scenes and stories they act out are entirely based on neighborhood legend and bits of gossip they learn about the Radley family. Jem and Dill are both fascinated with Boo and enjoy the idea of acting out of his life story in the front yard. Despite their enthusiasm, Scout is hesitant to participate in the game and fears for her life. However, Jem assures her that Boo has been dead for quite some time and Scout agrees to play the role of Mrs. Radley. As the summer progresses, the children perfect their drama and act out well-known scenes like the time Boo Radley stabbed his father in the leg with scissors.

Although the children are aware that their actions are offensive to the Radley family, they continue to play the game. The fact that they stop playing whenever Nathan Radley leaves his home or Atticus approaches proves that they know their game is insensitive and rude. Despite Atticus's enlightening lesson on perspective in the previous chapter, Scout does not heed his advice and refrains from considering their behavior from Boo's point of view. Jem, Scout, and Dill fail to exercise perspective by participating in the insensitive game, which perpetuates the unflattering reputation of the Radleys. Although the children fail to exercise perspective in chapter 4 while playing One Man's Family, they gradually develop into sympathetic, morally upright adolescents, who are considerate of others and understand the importance of protecting innocent people.

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Following Scout's rough first day of school in chapter three, Atticus teaches her an important lesson on perspective and encourages her to view situations from other people's point of view in order to better understand them. Scout eventually follows her father's advice and exercises perspective throughout the novel, but she neglects his lesson in the following chapter.

In chapter four, Jem creates a game entitled "One Man's Family," where they reenact Boo Radley's life story in their front yard. Scout is reluctant to play the game because she fears that Boo will murder them at night, but she eventually participates by playing the role of Mrs. Radley. One day, Atticus comes home and catches the children playing the game. The fact that Scout does not take into consideration Boo Radley's feelings and unknowingly contributes to the negative, unfair rumors surrounding him illustrates that she does not follow her father's advice and exercise perspective. If Scout were to follow her father's advice, she would refrain from joining in the game and encourage Jem and Dill to stop.

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In Chapter 3 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus gives Scout some words of wisdom when he says, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Later in the novel, Scout matures and begins to more deeply understand the words of her father. However, in Chapter 4, Atticus's words are clearly ignored.

One day after drinking lemonade, Jem decides that he, Scout, and Dill will play a new game. He calls the game "Boo Radley," and it consists of the children acting out scenes as the Radley family members. Along with various smaller roles, Scout plays Mrs. Radley, Dill has the part of Mr. Radley, and Jem takes the role of Boo for himself. According to Scout, their "melancholy little drama" continues to progress, as dialogue and other changes are added. One day, after Atticus sees their play in action, Scout decides she would like to stop playing the game for two reasons. One of these reasons is because she doesn't want to get caught by Atticus. The second reason is because earlier that day, when she rolls in the tire to the Radley steps, she hears laughing from inside the Radley house. In her mind, this proves Boo's existence.

While Scout ignores her father's words in Chapter 4, the reader sees evidence later in the story that Scout does in fact consider his words. In Chapter 26, Scout shares that she "sometimes felt a twinge of remorse" for playing the "Boo Radley" game and for participating in other activities at the expense of the Radley family. While Atticus's words may not have had much impact on her in Chapter 4, she eventually realizes that there is truth in what he says.

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In Ch. 4, Jem, Scout, and Dill are all bored out of their minds and looking for things to keep them entertained during summer break. Then, Jem comes up with a game, the Boo Radley game, and this game ends up becoming the focus of each of their summer days until they get caught one day by Atticus, who disapproves because it clearly ignores the advice he gave in Ch. 3.

The game involves the kids acting out the gossip that has been told over the years about the Radleys. One of the stories is that Boo stabbed Mr. Radley and yet another has Boo biting off the finger of his own mother.

"As the summer progressed, so did our game. We polished and perfected it, added dialogue and plot until we had manufactured a small play upon which we rang changes every day."

Of course, none of these stories are flattering, probably none of them are true, and most importantly the kids are being insensitive by turning a perfect stranger's life into their game of pretend each day. It shows their lack of understanding for Boo and his family, and their inability yet to understand his point of view. 

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