Naomi's Rough Draft Blog

Archive for the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Category

Summer is coming to a close- that’s some words that we don’t want to hear, especially for school kids; it means that homework is on the way (groan).

For Scout, it means that Dill is going back home (sniff) and that today’s the last day to spend time with him.  So of course, Atticus agrees that she and Jem can sit by Miss. Rachel’s (Dill’s aunt, the person he says with over summer) fish pool during that last day.  And, while talking, Dill asks to go for a walk.

Hmm . . . something’s suspitious here.  As Scout says, “Nobody in Maycomb just went for a walk.”  After probing, she finds out Jem’s into this too, and they’re going to peek into the window of the Radley house to try and see Boo.  So Scout comes along.

They crawl under the high wire fence surrounding the Radley place, and they’re in; so far so good.  But when Jem tries to open the gate to the house, it squeaks.

After much spitting (and dry mouths) he tries again, and the door opens silently.  They’re in the backyard!  Soon they reach the window, and Dill and Scout boost Jem up to it.

He sees . . . curtains.  So, despite Scout’s protests, Jem tries the window on the porch.  His steps don’t creak, thankfully, and he looks in quietly.

Scout sees a shadow that looks like a man with a hat on.  At first she thinks it’s a tree, but then it.  Starts.  Walking.  Towards.  Jem!

Dill sees it next, and when it’s standing right over Jem he finally spots it.

They run from the Radley place, out the gate, to the fence, running from the sound of a shotgun behind them!  When Jem crawls through the fence, his pants gets stuck, so he kicks them off and they all run to the schoolyard!

After catching their breath, they see people gathering outside the Radley place and decide to join them.  “They’ll think it’s funny if we don’t show up,” Jem says.  So they go, and hear that Mr. Radley (Nathan Radley) apparently shot at . . . a Negro.  Phew; they’re safe for now.

But then they notice Jem’s in his boxers “before God and everybody,” as Scout says.  Atticus asks where his pants are, but Jem can’t think of a good lie fast enough.  So Dill comes up with a good one: he won Jem’s pants in a game of strip poker.

Now, you have to remember that Scout and Dill were six and seven, and Jem was ten.  Good ages to be playing strip poker?  I think not.  Not to mention the townspeople don’t know what strip poker is.

But Miss. Rachel seems to know, and she marches Dill away, talking about how bad she’s going to punish him for playing strip poker.  Luckily they were playing with matches (well, in their lie, anyway) or they really would have had it.  Nevertheless, Atticus orders them not to play poker in any form again.

Later that night, Jem decides to go and get his pants, and to Scout’s relief he comes back alive, but he is very quiet for a week.  Scout reasons that if she had gone to the Radley place at 2AM, she would have been dead that afternoon.  So she leaves him alone.

Second grade starts, and reading is still forbidden in the classroom (as Scout says, “The second grade was as bad as the first, only worse- they still flashed cards at you and wouldn’t let you read or write.”)  One day, when Jem and Scout are walking home from school, he admits there’s something he didn’t tell her about the night he retrieved his pants.

When he went to get them, they were folded on the fence, not tangled in the wire.  And someone had sewed them, but the sewing was crooked, not like a woman’s sewing.

Hmm . . . could it have been Boo?

Later, when they’re walking home from school again, there’s something in the knot-hole again.  Scout pulls it out, and they’re . . . carved figures of themselves (yikes!  I don’t blame Scout for freaking out when she sees them).  They decide to write a letter to the person who’s leaving them the knot-hole gifts.

But the next day, the knot-hole’s filled with cement.  Nooo!

Upon asking Nathan Radley why, he tells them the tree’s dying and you plug them with cement when that happens.  When Jem asks Atticus, he says the tree doesn’t look dead, but Nathan Radley might know it better than he.

Will we get anymore “Boo Clues” or is this it?  If I didn’t know better I’d say Nathan’s trying to . . . hide Boo.  Hmm . . .

Rumors are funny things; they’re often blown out of proportion so much they’re not rumors anymore, they’re stories.  They’re often stretched so much, the real truth isn’t even part of it anymore.

Like I mentioned in What Can I Learn From A Girl Named Scout, Boo Radley was rumored to be a killer, but when Scout was walking home from school, she found some gum in a knot-hole.  And, of all places, the knot-hole of the tree on the Radley’s front yard (yikes!).

Scout’s comment is this: “I licked it and waited for a while.  When I did not die I crammed it into my mouth; Wrigley’s Double-Mint.”  Well, if she did die, the story would be blown to pieces.  Out main character can’t die in Chapter 4!

Jem’s opinion of the gum is very different: he tells Scout to spit it out (so she does; “The tang was fading, anyway” as she says).

The next day, they find (da-da-da-dum!) Indian-heads pennies in that knot-hole!  So, after talking about it for a while (maybe the knot-hole is someone’s hiding place, Scout says) they decide to take them.

Two days later, Dill arrives for the summer, and they’re all ready to play.  So, after an argument about Hot Steams (in which Scout disagrees with Jem), they decide to roll in the tire (One person climbs into a tire, and the other people push them).  Scout goes first, and Jem gets his revenge for her disagreeing with him about the hot steams- he pushes her right to the Radley’s front porch.  Scared to the bone, Scout runs back to Jem and Dill like her life depends on it.  But she doesn’t bring the tire with her.

Well, that game’s history.

So Jem decides to play a new, better game: the Boo Radley game.  They’re going to play back Boo’s (rumored) killing days.  Mu-ha-ha-ha!

So that’s the game they play for quite a while- until they see people starting to watch.  And when Nathan Radley passed by (not Boo) they would stop playing for a while, then resume the game.  That is, until, Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus, sees them playing.

He gives them a little talk, and they deny that their game has anything to do with the Radleys.  And Jem’s reasoning is this: since Atticus didn’t say they couldn’t play the game, that means they can play the game.

But Scout’s nagging gets the better of Jem, and they stop playing- for a while.  But then Jem and Dill start doing more things together, and Scout gets a bit jealous.  Here was Dill, the boy who had asked to marry her, spending more time with her brother!  So she spends her remaining nights that summer sitting with their neighbor, Miss. Maudie, on her porch.

When she asked Miss. Maudie if Boo Radley is even alive, we learn his first name is Arthur (a bit normal, don’t you think?).  And when he was a child, Arthur Radley was (much to this reader’s dismay) very polite and . . . sane.  Hmm. . .

The next morning, Scout wakes up to see Jem and Dill talking among themselves, again.  After a bit a probing, she finds out that they’re going to write a letter to Boo- er, Arthur– Radley.  But before they can, Atticus stops them.  As he says, “I’m going to tell you something and tell you one time:  stop tormenting that man.”  And Jem decides he doesn’t want to be a lawyer when he grows up.

Will they attempt to make contact with Boo- um, Arthur?  Will Dill come back for the next summer?  And will Jem spend a bit more time than Scout that in this part?

Find out in the next post!

In my literacy class, we’re reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  In the past, I read In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth.  In that book, a girl named Erin goes by bus to Harper Lee’s house, because To Kill A Mockingbird was all that connected Erin to her mother, who passed away when she was a child.

But did I know anything about To Kill A Mockingbird when I read that book?  Not really.  All I knew was that the main character was named Scout Finch.

Now, I’m reading the book at last.  And when I’m through, I’ll have to find In Search of Mockingbird and reread it, just to set things straight.

__________

The first sentence in the book was about a character breaking his arm.  Furthermore, we know hardly anything about that character.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Harper Lee was off to a bad start.

But as the story goes on, it gets more interesting.  And in the first chapter, we learn about Jem, Scout’s older brother (“four years my senior”, as Scout puts it), Atticus, Scout’s father and a lawyer, Calpurnia, their colored maid/cook, Boo Radley, a man who never leaves his house (and is rumored to be a killer), and Dill, a boy who comes to the town they live in, Maycomb, during the summer (and he asked Scout to marry him.  He’s only seven, by the way, and Scout is six).  Not to mention Jem touches the infamous Radley house as a dare.

Huh.  And so far, the mockingbirds are living on.

Soon enough, we see Scout at school, and it turns out she’s embarrassing the new teacher, Miss. Caroline, by knowing how to read and write, so she tells Scout not to read with her father anymore (I suppose Miss. Caroline was thinking, “I was supposed to teach these children those things!  They shouldn’t already know!”).

Later, a boy named Walter Cunningham is offered a quarter to buy lunch, and when he doesn’t take it, Scout pips in and tells Miss. Caroline why: The Cunninghams don’t take what they can’t repay, and Walter can’t repay the quarter.  Because of this knowledge (thus showing the teacher that she knows more, again) Scout gets whipped, first grade style: she gets hit on her hand with a ruler and is told to stand in the corner.  The unorthodox-ness of the whips send all the other children into hysterics, and I wouldn’t blame them if it was their first time seeing something as strange as that.

And what does Scout do to Walter later, as payback for getting hit with the ruler?  She “rubs his nose in the dirt” as Harper Lee puts it (Yes, she is a tomboy.  Future readers be warned).  So, as an apology, Jem invites Walter to dinner.  At the table, he puts maple syrup all over his vegetables, and I can’t help but agree with Scout for asking “what the sam hill he was doing”.

Well, Calpurnia asks to have a word with her, and Scout gets a word, all right.  And she has to eat her food in the kitchen (though least she didn’t have to face Walter again).

The next day is school- and cooties.  Miss. Caroline happens to be very afraid of the thing that comes out of Burris Ewell’s hair, and tells him to go home, take a bath, and come back the next day.  But we learn something about the Ewells: they only come to school one day, and don’t come back any of the others.  When Burris finally leaves, he says some words to Miss. Caroline that I would not want to repeat in this post.

And the best is yet to come: Atticus and Scout make a compromise that if she keeps going to school (because she does not want to go since Miss. Caroline is trying to stop their reading sessions), they will keep reading together.  Hooray!

__________

For your reading pleasure, I’ll try to get up to Chapter 9 this weekend (I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.  Ack!).  But the book’s very good, even though the birds are still breathing.  I hope to learn a lot more about Scout, Jem, and all the others in the next couple of chapters.

What can I learn from a girl named Scout?  Probably a lot more than the book’s letting on right now.


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