To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 4 Summary

Instructor: Ann Morris

Ann has taught secondary language arts and has a master's degree in journalism.

In chapter three of To Kill a Mockingbird, we start to see how Atticus Finch, Scout's father, plays a central role in her moral development. Chapter four is set mainly in the summertime when Dill returns to Maycomb and reignites his fascination with Boo Radley.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin attended school only from the ages of eight to ten? Abraham Lincoln educated himself by reading books. And Thomas Edison, whose early teachers labeled him as slow, was taught mainly by his mother and himself. In chapter four of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout tells us that Atticus, like these three influential Americans, did not develop his intellect by attending school. Rather, he read voraciously and taught himself.

Atticus educated himself by reading.
Atticus educated himself by reading.

Scout ponders the fact that Atticus is very knowledgeable and has a successful career as a state legislator, despite the fact that he did not attend school. She then looks at the 'treadmill of the Maycomb County school system' and feels cheated. She's not sure what's missing from her formal education, but she knows she's not learning much at school. She learns everything she knows by reading at home. Clearly, author Harper Lee is expressing some of her own critical views on public education.


In Chapter four, summer has finally come. Harper Lee uses metaphors to describe the kids' favorite season of the year: summer. A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things. It's like a simile, but it doesn't use the word like or as. Here's an example of a simile: She looked like a princess. To turn that into a metaphor, say, 'She was a princess.' So anyway, Scout says that summer 'was a thousand colors in a parched landscape.'

Scout describes summer as a thousand colors in a parched landscape.
Scout describes summer as ~

Every time Scout and Jem pass the Radleys' home, they run at full speed. One day, Scout spots a shiny object wedged into a knothole in an oak tree on the edge of the Radley property. She investigates and finds two sticks of gum. She inspects the gum, finds it satisfactory, and chews a piece. When Jem returns home from school, he's appalled that Scout would not only take, but eat, something from the Radley home. He reminds her of the rumor that if she even touches a tree on their property she will die.

On the last day of school, Scout and Jem find a shiny box in the Radleys' tree. It's made out of gum wrappers and holds two shiny pennies. Jem decides that they will keep the money until they find the rightful owner.

Dill's back!

That's right. Dill returns to Maycomb for the summertime. The kids' imaginations are so alive in this chapter. For example, Dill says his father is president of the L & N Railroad. They plan to role play a drama Dill likes, and Jem explains what happens to people who can't quite make it to heaven: They haunt their property and suck people's breath.

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