To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Scout nags Jem about their game and they stop playing it so much, though Jem does decide that if Atticus tells them to stop playing it, they can just change the characters’ names and it’ll be okay. Dill agrees with Jem and frustratingly for Scout, the boys spend most of their time plotting in the tree house without her. This is especially frustrating since Dill asked Scout to marry him early in the summer and then seemed to forget about her. Scout starts spending time with Miss Maudie, who up to this point has only been a benign presence in her life. Scout and Jem have always been allowed to play on Miss Maudie’s property and eat her grapes, so they don’t speak to her much to preserve their relationship.
When the boys shut Scout out, it impresses upon her that no matter how hard she tries to not live up to Jem’s assessment that she’s being too girly, it’s impossible for her to succeed all the time. When Scout turns to Miss Maudie, however, it suggests that at least for Scout, being the victim of this kind of prejudice does give her the opportunity to expand her community and learn more about where she lives from Maycomb’s other residents.
Themes
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Miss Maudie is a widow who hates her house. She spends her day gardening and her evenings dressed beautifully. She tells Scout that nut-grass is the only weed she ever kills and allows Scout to inspect her bridgework (fake teeth), a gesture that makes them friends. Miss Maudie is kind to Jem and Dill, too, and she calls them to eat her exceptional cakes. Scout spends evenings on Miss Maudie’s porch, and one day they discuss whether Boo Radley is alive. Miss Maudie tells Scout that his name is Arthur and he’s not dead—they haven’t carried his body out yet. Scout shares that Jem thinks Boo’s body was stuffed up the chimney, which makes Miss Maudie declare that Jem is turning into Uncle Jack, a childhood friend.
Letting Miss Maudie in on Jem’s questionable beliefs about the Radley family shows that Scout truly trusts her and is willing to let her in on how she and Jem see the world. Miss Maudie, like Atticus, shows that she believes that the Radleys deserve respect and kindness, in particular when she corrects Scout to use Arthur’s name rather than the neighborhood nickname. The fact that she only knows Boo isn’t dead because he hasn’t been carried out, meanwhile, does betray that Miss Maudie finds the family mysterious and hard to understand.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Miss Maudie explains that Arthur just stays in the house. Scout wants to know why, so Miss Maudie explains that Mr. Radley was a “foot-washing Baptist.” This confuses Scout. Miss Maudie says that foot-washers think anything pleasurable is a sin, including her flowers—they take the Bible literally. Scout parrots that according to Atticus, God means loving people like a person loves themself, but Miss Maudie gruffly says that the Bible in the hands of some men is worse than a whiskey bottle in Atticus’s hands. Shocked, Scout insists that Atticus doesn’t drink, and Miss Maudie says that men like Atticus are better at their worst than others are at their best.
Here, Miss Maudie makes the case that it’s possible for different men to interpret something, like the Bible, in wildly different ways that in turn allow lesser men to excuse horrendous behavior. This, she suggests, also leads to prejudice and an inability to take pleasure in one’s life. When Miss Maudie holds up Atticus as an exceptionally moral and good individual, it asks the reader to think of him the same way and to take his assessments of others as truth.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Scout tells Miss Maudie about the rumors surrounding Boo, but Miss Maudie insists they all came from black superstitions and Miss Stephanie Crawford. She says that as a boy, Arthur always spoke kindly to her, but she has no idea what goes on behind closed doors. This again offends Scout, as Atticus treats her well inside, but Miss Maudie agrees with her and sends her home with pound cake.
Scout betrays her youth and innocence here when she mistakes Miss Maudie’s insinuation of abuse to be about Atticus, rather than about Mr. Radley. It suggests that she’s not entirely aware that other men, presumably like Mr. Radley, aren’t good or kind people like her father when they’re in private, no matter how upstanding they may seem in public.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
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The next morning, Dill and Jem rope Scout into joining them to give Boo Radley a note by dropping it through a broken shutter with a fishing pole. Dill will keep watch and ring a bell if anyone comes along. Scout is terrified, especially when Dill explains that they wrote that they’d like to buy Boo an ice cream and sit with him on the porch. They discuss the lengthy beard that Boo must have and Scout catches Dill in a lie about his father, but Jem stops their squabbling and sends them to their places.
The contents of the note suggest that Dill, at least, is starting to come around and acknowledge that Boo might not be a terrifying monster—he might be (and indeed, probably is) just another person who might enjoy an ice cream. This situates Dill as one of the least prejudiced characters in the novel, especially since this shows that he can reevaluate his ideas and come to a kinder way of thinking.
Themes
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Growing Up Theme Icon
The fishing pole is too short, so Jem struggles to get the note close to the window. Scout is looking down when the bell rings. She whips around expecting to see Boo, but instead she sees Dill ringing the bell at Atticus. Jem trudges out looking extremely guilty. Atticus tells the children to leave Arthur alone and let him live his life, even if it seems odd to them, and then tricks Jem into admitting that they’ve been performing the Radley family history all summer.
Atticus’s scolding shows again that in his mind, the Radleys are people, not something to gawk at as though they’re subhuman. Despite Dill’s understanding that Boo might be a person, the choice to pass this note via a fishing pole indicates that at least on some level, Dill is still terrified—too terrified to just leave the note at the door.
Themes
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Courage Theme Icon