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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE STORY

PART ONE

CHAPTER 8

That winter, for the first time in more than a hundred years, snow falls in Maycomb County.

At first, the snowfall is a great treat. Although there is not enough snow to make a real snowman, Jem figures out a way to make a snowman out of mud and then cover it with a thin layer of snow.

But that same night, the unusual cold becomes the indirect cause of a tragedy. In an attempt to keep her house plants from freezing, Miss Maudie leaves the flue of her kitchen stove open when she goes to bed. Her house catches fire and burns to the ground.

While Jem and Scout are outside in the freezing cold watching the neighbors rescue furniture from Miss Maudie's burning house, someone sneaks up behind Scout and places a blanket around her shoulders. In all the excitement, Scout doesn't even realize that this has happened until Atticus notices the blanket and wonders where it came from. Jem is the first to figure out that the blanket can have come only from Boo Radley, since he was the only person in the neighborhood who wasn't helping out at the scene of the fire.

Scout is terrified at first by the thought that Boo Radley was actually able to sneak up behind her without her knowing it. Jem, however, explains what he has known for some time- that Boo Radley is really a kind, gentle person in spite of his strange ways. Jem even convinces his father that they had better not return the blanket, in case Nathan Radley decides to punish his brother for giving it away.

After this chapter you won't hear any more about Boo Radley for some time. In one way the mystery surrounding Boo has been resolved. Both Jem and Scout have learned to understand that he is a real human being, with feelings just like anyone else's, not a figure of fun or a spooky villain. They have been able to follow Atticus' advice not to judge a person until you have seen things from his or her point of view.


NOTE:

Are you satisfied with this resolution? You may have noticed that it never seems to occur to any of the adults in the neighborhood that perhaps they ought to do something to help Boo Radley. Even though everyone knows that Boo's brother Nathan is a mean man, and probably partly responsible for Boo's fear of going outside, no one in Maycomb would think of interfering in what they see as a family matter. This attitude is typical of the small-town mentality. There is not much privacy in a small town to begin with, and the citizens may fear that if they were ever to start meddling in other families' private affairs life would become unbearable.

As the story goes on you will see that there are times when the author is very critical of this mentality. The people of Maycomb are portrayed as cowards for sitting by and refusing to interfere with injustice simply because they are lazy or afraid of making enemies. On the other hand, there are times when the author seems to accept this way of thinking, and even to approve of it. You will have to decide for yourself whether you agree with the neighborhood's "kindness" to Boo Radley.  

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© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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