The chapter opens with the introduction of the narrator, Scout (Jean Louise) Finch, her older brother Jem (Jeremy), and their friend and neighbor, Dill (Charles Baker Harris). Next, Lee provides an overview of Finch family history. Their ancestor, a Methodist named Simon Finch, fled British persecution and eventually settled in Alabama, where he trapped animals for fur and practiced medicine. Having bought several slaves, he established a largely self-sufficient homestead and farm, Finch's Landing, near Saint Stephens. The family lost its wealth in the Civil War.
Scout's father, Atticus Finch, studied law in Montgomery while supporting his brother, John "Jack" Hale Finch, who was in medical school in Boston. Their sister Alexandra remained at Finch's Landing. Atticus began his law practice in Maycomb, the county seat of Maycomb County, where his "office in the courthouse contained little more than a hat rack, a spittoon, a checkerboard, and an unsullied Code of Alabama." His first case entailed defending two men who refused to plead guilty for second-degree murder. They instead pled not guilty for first-degree murder, and were hanged, marking "probably the beginning of my father's profound distaste for criminal law."
Scout then describes Depression-era Maycomb, "an old tired town when I first knew it", summer heat and slow pace of life. She notes, "There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County". Scout describes as her father as entirely "satisfactory," and her family's black cook, Calpurnia, as strict and "tyrannical." Scout and Jem's mother died of a heart attack when Scout was two and she has no memories of her. However, Jem can remember his mother and Scout notices that he is occasionally nostalgic about her. The novel takes begins during the summer. Scout is almost six, and Jem is almost ten.
Once this background picture is complete, the real narrative begins with the first meeting of Scout, Jem, and "Dill", a feisty, imaginative boy who is nearly seven but very small for his age Dill defends his height saying, "I'm little but I'm old". From Meridian, Mississippi, Dill will be spending the summer at the nearby house of Miss Rachel Haverford, his aunt. He impresses the Finch children with his dramatic recounting of the movie Dracula, which wins him their respect and friendship. The three engage in summertime play activities of improving the Finch tree and acting out the plots of several of their favorite books. Scout notes that Dill proves to be, "a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies."
By late summer, having exhausted these pursuits, the children turn their thoughts to the mysterious Radley place, down the block from the Finch house. The Radley house is said to contain a "malevolent phantom" by the name of Boo Radley. Though the children have never seen him, rumors abound that he is over six feet tall, has rotten yellow teeth, popping eyes and a drool, and eats raw animals. Whenever strange things happen in the neighborhood, Boo is often blamed. Boo's story is an extension of the strange Radley family, who have always disregarded local custom by "keeping to themselves." Prior to his death, Mr. Radley, Boo's father, had only been seen on his daily trip to collect groceries from 11:30am-12pm, and the family worshipped together in their own home on Sundays. Their youngest son, Arthur, who the children call Boo, apparently mixed with "the wrong crowd," a gang of boys who were finally arrested and brought to court after driving an old car through the town square and locking Maycomb's beadle in an outhouse. Though the other boys were sent to industrial school for punishment, and ironically received excellent educations, Arthur Radley's family preferred to keep him hidden inside the home. After fifteen years living at home, the thirty-three-year-old Boo is rumored to have stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors and then quietly continued about his business of cutting out newspaper articles. Refusing to permit his son to be deemed insane or charged with criminal behavior, Mr. Radley allowed Boo to be locked up in the courthouse basement: "the sheriff hadn't the heart to put him in jail alongside Negroes". Boo was eventually brought back to the Radley home. After Mr. Radley's death, his older brother Nathan arrived to continue to watch over Boo and keep him inside and out of sight.
Dill develops an insatiable curiosity about Boo, and wants to lay eyes on this strange "phantom," who is said to walk about at night looking in windows. Dill dares Jem to go inside the boundary of the Radleys' front gate. After three days of hedging, Jem's fear of Boo succumbs to his sense of honor when Dill revises his terms, daring Jem to only touch the house. Jem finally agrees to do this. He runs, touches the house, and the three scramble back to the Finches' porch, where looking down the street to the Radley house "we thought we saw an inside of a shutter move. Flick - and the house was still."
The summer is over, and September has arrived. Dill has returned to his family in Meridian, and Scout eagerly awaits her first day of school. She is excited about the prospect of finally starting school, but her first day of first grade leaves her extremely disappointed. Her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, is 21 years old and new to the Maycomb County schools. Miss Caroline is from the richer and more cultured North Alabama, and does not understand the country ways of Maycomb.
To begin the day, Miss Caroline reads a saccharine children's story about cats, which leaves the children feeling restless. Scout explains, "Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and flour-sack-skirted first graders were immune to imaginative literature." Half of these children had failed first grade the year before. Therefore, when Miss Caroline writes the alphabet on the board and Scout reads it through easily, then reads from her reader and from the local paper, Miss Caroline forbids Scout to let Atticus teach her to read anymore. Rather than congratulating Scout on her knowledge, Miss Caroline believes Scout is being taught incorrectly and tells her not to read at home anymore. Scout explains she doesn't remember learning how to read, but it seems she always knew how. When Miss Caroline forbids her to continue reading, she realizes how important it is to her: "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."
At recess, Jem listens to Scout's complaints and tries to reassure her, explaining that Miss Caroline is introducing a new teaching technique which he calls the Dewey Decimal System. Back in class, Scout gets bored and starts writing a letter to Dill, but is criticized again by her teacher for knowing how to write in script when she's only supposed to print in first grade. Scout blames Calpurnia for teaching her how to write in script on rainy days.
At lunchtime, Miss Caroline asks everyone who isn't going home for lunch to show her their lunch pails. One boy, Walter Cunningham, has no pail and refuses to accept Miss Caroline's loan of a quarter to buy something with. Miss Caroline doesn't understand his refusal, and a classmate asks Scout to help explain. Scout tells Miss Caroline that Walter is a Cunningham, and thinks that explanation should be enough. After realizing Miss Caroline doesn't know what that means, Scout explains that the Cunninghams don't accept other people's help, and just try to get by with what little they have. Scout mentally recollects how Mr. Cunningham, when entailed, repaid Atticus for his legal services by giving the Finch family hickory nuts, stove wood, and other farm produce. The Cunninghams are farmers who don't have actual money now that the Depression is on. Many professionals in the town charge their country clients in farm produce rather than monetary currency. When Scout explains that Walter can't pay back the lunch money Miss Caroline offered, the teacher taps Scout's hand with a ruler and makes her stand in the corner of the room. Scout and the children are puzzled by this very unthreatening form of "whipping," and the entire class laughs until a locally-born sixth grade teacher arrives and announces that she'll "burn up everybody" in the room if they aren't quiet.
The first half of the day ends, and on her way out of the classroom, Scout sees Miss Caroline bury her head in her arms as the children leave the room. However, Scout doesn't feel sorry for her considering her unfriendly treatment that morning.
Jem invites Walter Cunningham over for lunch when he finds out that the boy doesn't have any food. Walter hesitates but then takes Jem up on the friendly offer. At the Finch house, Atticus and Walter discuss farming, and Scout is overwhelmed by their adult speech. Walter asks for some molasses and proceeds to pour it all over his meat and vegetables. Scout rudely asks him what he's doing and Calpurnia gives her a lecture in the kitchen about how to treat guests - even if they're from a family like the Cunninghams.
Back at school, there's a big scene when Miss Caroline screams upon seeing a louse ("cootie") crawl off of the head of one of the boys in the class. This boy, Burris Ewell, comes from a family so poor that Atticus says they "live like animals." Their children come to school on the first day of the year and then are never seen again. The children inform their teacher of this, explaining that "He's one of the Ewells." Miss Caroline wants Burris to go home and take a bath, but before he leaves the room for the rest of the year, he yells crude insults at her and makes her cry. The children comfort her and she reads them a story.
Scout feels discouraged returning home from school. After dinner she tells Atticus she doesn't want to go back. Atticus asks her to understand the situation from Miss Caroline's point of view - Miss Caroline can't be expected to know what to do with her students when she doesn't know anything about them yet. Scout wants to be like Burris Ewell and not have to go to school at all. As Atticus explains, the town authorities bend the law for the Ewells because they'll never change their ways - for instance, Mr. Ewell can hunt out of season because everyone knows he spends his relief checks on whiskey and his children won't eat if he doesn't hunt. Atticus teaches Scout about compromise: if she goes to school, Atticus will let her keep reading with him at home. Scout agrees and Atticus reads to her and Jem from the papers.
School continues; the year goes by. Scout doubts that the new educational system is really doing her any good - she finds school boring and wishes the teacher would allow her to read and write, rather than ask the children to do silly activities geared toward "Group Dynamics" and "Good Citizenship." One afternoon, as she runs past the Radley house, she notices something in the knot-hole of one of the oak trees in the front yard. She investigates further and finds two pieces of chewing gum. Scout is careful, but eventually decides to chew them. Upon learning she is chewing found gum, Jem makes her spit it out. Later, toward the end of the school year, Jem and Scout find two polished Indian-head pennies, good luck tokens, inside the same knothole. The children don't know if the knothole is someone's hiding place or if the pennies are a gift, but decide to take them and keep them safely at the bottom of Jem's trunk.
Dill comes to Maycomb for the summer again, full of stories about train rides and his father, whom he claims to have finally seen. The three try to start a few games, but quickly get bored. Jem rolls Scout inside an old tire, but he pushes so hard that it ends up in the Radley's yard. Terrified, Scout runs back home, but leaves the tire behind. Jem has to run into the yard and retrieve the tire. Dill thinks Boo Radley died and Jem says they stuffed his body up the chimney. Scout thinks maybe he's still alive. They invent a new game about Boo Radley. Jem plays Boo, Dill plays Mr. Radley, and Scout plays Mrs. Radley. They polish it up over the summer into a little dramatic reenactment of all the gossip they've heard about Boo and his family, including a scene using Calpurnia's scissors as a prop. One day Atticus catches them playing the game and asks them if it has anything to do with the Radley family. They deny it, and Atticus replies, "I hope it doesn't." Atticus's sternness forces them to stop playing, and Scout is relieved because she's worried for another reason: she thought she heard the sound of someone laughing inside the Radley house when her tire rolled into their yard.
Jem and Dill have become closer friends, and Scout, being a girl, finds herself often excluded from their play. Dill, in childish fashion, has decided to get engaged to Scout, but now he and Jem play together often and Scout finds herself unwelcome. Instead of playing with the boys, Scout often sits with their neighbor, the avid gardener Miss Maudie Atkinson, watches the sun set on her front steps, or partakes of Miss Maudie's fine homemade cake. Miss Maudie is honest in her speech and her ways, with a witty tongue, and Scout considers her a trusted friend. Scout asks her one day about Boo Radley, and Miss Maudie says that he's still alive, he just doesn't like to come outside. She also says that most of the rumors about him aren't true. Miss Maudie explains that the Radleys are foot-washing Baptists - they believe all pleasure is a sin against God, and stay inside most of the time reading the Bible. She says that Arthur was a nice boy when she used to know him.
The next day, Jem and Dill hatch a plan to leave a note for Boo in the Radley's window, using a fishing line. The note will ask him to come out sometimes and tell them what he's doing inside, and that they won't hurt him and will buy him ice cream. Dill says he wants Boo to come out and sit with them for a while, as it might make the man feel better. Dill and Scout keep watch in case anyone comes along, and Jem tries to deliver the note with the fishing pole, but finds that it's harder to maneuver than he expected. As he struggles, Atticus arrives and catches them all. He tells them to stop tormenting Boo, and lectures them about how Boo has a right to his privacy, and that they shouldn't go near the house unless they're invited. He accuses them of putting Boo's life history on display for the edification of the neighborhood. Jem says that he didn't say they were doing that, and thus inadvertently admits that they were doing just that. Atticus caught him with "the oldest lawyer's trick on record."
It is Dill's last summer night in Maycomb. Jem and Scout get permission to go sit with him that evening. Dill wants to go for "a walk," but it turns into something more: Jem and Dill want to sneak over to the Radley place and peek into one of their windows. Scout doesn't want them to do it, but Jem accuses her of being girlish, an insult she can't bear, and she goes along with it. They sneak under a wire fence and go through a gate. At the window, Scout and Jem hoist Dill up to peek in the window. Dill sees nothing, only curtains and a small faraway light. The boys want to try a back window instead, despite Scout's pleas to leave. As Jem is raising his head to look in, the shadow of a man appears and crosses over him. As soon as it's gone, the three children run as fast as they can back home, but Jem loses his pants in the gate. As they run, they hear a shotgun sound somewhere behind them.
When they return, Mr. Radley is standing inside his gate, and Atticus is there with various neighbors. They hear that Mr. Radley was shooting at a "white Negro" in his backyard, and has another barrel waiting if he returns. Dill makes up a story about playing strip poker to explain Jem's missing pants, and Jem says they were playing with matches rather than cards, which would be considered unforgivable. Dill says goodbye to them, and Jem and Scout go to bed. Jem decides to go back and get his pants late that night. Scout tries to persuade him that it would be better to get whipped by Atticus than to be shot and killed by Mr. Radley, but Jem insists on going. Jem explains that he's never been whipped by Atticus and doesn't want to be. Jem is gone for a little while, but returns with the pants, trembling.
The first chapter's emphasis on family history and stories within stories describes the rigid social ties that hold society together in the little town of Maycomb, Alabama, and the inescapable links that tie an individual to his or her family or clan. The book opens by mentioning how at age twelve, Jem broke his arm. The narrator notes that the remainder of the book will explain how this injury occurred, and the novel concludes with this event. From the outset, through historical analysis, the novel tries to conclude how "this particular situation" arose. The children's attempt to trace the main incident in the novel (Jem's broken arm) back to its roots, leads them to wonder whether it all began when Dill first arrived in Maycomb and became their friend, or whether the real origins lie deeper in their ancestral history and the chance events that brought the Finch family to Maycomb. Their debate speaks to deeper fundamental issues on the nature of human good and evil, and the old "nature vs. nurture" debate. Dill, the new kid in town, represents an outside influence upon the children that affects them deeply, whereas the family history Scout recounts is a more inexorable pattern which existed long before the children were born. Atticus tells Jem and Scout that patterns of history, family, identity, and temperament, both new and old, help make an individual.
Scout narrates the book in the first person, but in the past tense. Her voice and viewpoint offer a glimpse of local events and personalities through the lens of childhood, which may not always grasp the entire story. She often looks up to Atticus, who always displays an upright, solidly moral response for his reactions to events. However, Scout's voice often assumes a mature tone when she writes from a more distant time, speaking of the town and its people in the far-off past tense and offering explanations for outdated terms ("Mr. Radley 'bought cotton,' a polite term for doing nothing"). This narrative device allows the reader to understand more about some of the events that Scout recounts than the young narrator is completely aware of.
The Radley house is old, dark, closed-off, and uncivilized in contrast to the rest of the neighborhood: once white, it is now a slate-gray color, with rotten shingles, little sunlight, overgrown yards, and a closed door on Sundays. The Radleys are also differentiated from the community by their willful isolation from the usual patterns of social interaction, which causes the town to ostracize them and unreasonably turn the mysterious Boo into a scapegoat for any odd and unfortunate circumstances that occur. For instance, when various domesticated animals are mutilated and killed, townspeople still suspect Boo even after Crazy Addie is found guilty of this violence. This foreshadows the town's treatment of Tom Robinson later in the book - they will find him guilty despite rational evidence to the contrary.
Scout describes the Radleys' tendency to "keep to themselves" a "predilection unforgivable in Maycomb. They did not go to church, Maycomb's principle recreation, but worshipped at home." Her choice of the word "recreation" to describe church worship hints toward the townspeople's ethical hypocrisy, especially in its close conjunction with the idea of forgiveness, a major Christian virtue. Going to church may not guarantee that people will uphold the virtues of Christianity when worship is reduced to a social event and the laws of society have more bearing upon what is "forgivable" than the laws of the church. This idea is fleshed out in more detail in Chapter 24, in which women from Maycomb's Missionary Society display equal doses of religious "morality" and outright racist bigotry.
To the children, Boo is only what they have heard from popular legend, and interpreted in their own imaginations. Scout's retelling of Jem's description of Boo shows how her young mind could not yet distinguish between fact and fiction. Jem explains that Boo, "dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were blood-stained - if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off." The children's acceptance of such superstitions as the permanence of raw animal blood shows that they are equally susceptible to accepting the local gossip about the mysterious Boo, as evidenced by Scout's evaluation of Jem's description as "reasonable."
The childish perspective, however easily misled, is also shown in this chapter to probe closer toward truth than the adults are capable of. Dill's comment, "I'm little but I'm old," explains why his height seems disproportionate to his maturity, but also symbolically suggests that "little" people may have a wiser grasp on events than their elders. The physical representation of this facet of childhood is represented in Jem's daring rush into the Radleys' yard, in which he enters a space that has been fundamentally condemned by the entire town. The journey of this one individual against the mores of the entire group, though performed here in fear and on a dare, symbolically speaks toward events that will follow when Atticus defends Tom Robinson in court and Scout breaks up the threatening mob of townspeople. Dill tries to persuade the other two to "make him [Boo] come out" because "I'd like to see what he looks like." His desire for this "seeing" has symbolic relevance to the idea that children, who are as yet still somewhat innocent and uninfluenced by their society, have a desire to see things more truly than adults, and can be capable of understanding the fallacies of adult biases, prejudices, and false accusations.
In Chapter 2, the description of Scout's first day allows Lee to provide a context for the events to follow by introducing some of the people and families of Maycomb County. By introducing Miss Caroline, who is like a foreigner in the school, Lee also reveals Maycomb culture to the reader. Maycomb county children are portrayed as a mainly poor, uneducated, rough, rural group ("most of them had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk"), in contrast to Miss Caroline, who wears makeup and "looked and smelled like a peppermint drop." The chapter helps show that a certain amount of ignorance prevails in Maycomb County. The school system, as represented by Miss Caroline, is well-intentioned, but also somewhat powerless to make a dent in patterns of behavior which are deeply ingrained in the town's social fabric.
As seen in the first chapter, where a person's identity is greatly influenced by their family and its history, this chapter again shows that in Maycomb, a child's behavior can be explained simply by his family's last name, as when Scout explains to her teacher "he's a Cunningham." Atticus says that Mr. Cunningham "came from a set breed of men," which suggests that the entire Cunningham line shares the same values. In this case, they have pride: they do not like to take money they can't pay back, and they continue to live off the land in poverty rather than work for the government (in the WPA, FDR's Work Projects Administration). Thus, in Maycomb County, people belong to familial "breeds," which can determine a member's disposition or temperament. All the other children in the class understand this: growing up in this setting teaches children that people can behave a certain way simply because of the family or group that they come from.
The chapter also establishes that Scout is a very intelligent and precocious child who learned how to read through her natural instinct, sitting on Atticus's lap and following along in his book. She doesn't understand that she loves to read until her teacher tells her she can't read anymore: this shows that reading was a pleasure and a freedom she had taken for granted all her life until it is denied to her. The value of some freedoms can't be fully understood until a person is forced to part from them. Similarly, Scout and Jem will learn the full importance of justice later in the book through the trial of Tom Robinson, where justice is withheld and denied to a black man. The implication is that young people intrinsically expect certain human freedoms and have a natural sense for freedom and justice, which they only become aware of when the adults in society begin trying to take such freedoms away. Though Scout is young and impressionable, she becomes a spokesperson for her entire class, interacting with the adult teacher comfortably; this shows that though a child, she is more grown-up than some of her peers.
In this chapter, Lee also reveals how Scout looks to Jem for support and wisdom. Jem is sometimes wrong in his advice: he thinks that entailment is "having your tail in a crack" when it actually has to do with the way property is inherited, and he calls the new reading technique the "Dewey Decimal System" because he is confusing the library catalogue with the new educational theories of John Dewey. However, he gives his little sister support when she needs it even though he warns her not to tag along with him and his fifth-grade friends at school.
In Chapter 3, Atticus's patient teaching gives Scout a lesson that he says will help her "get along better with all kinds of folk": she has to remember to judge people on their intentions rather than their actions, and put herself into the other person's shoes in order to understand them best. The chapter establishes that Atticus can relate to all kinds of people, including poor farm children. The last sentence of the chapter, "Atticus was right," applies not only to his prediction that Jem will come down from his tree house if left alone, but also to most issues of character judgment. Atticus's opinions can usually be trusted, and he is convinced of the importance of dealing fairly and reasonably with all people, no matter what the circumstances.
The chapter introduces the Ewell family, who will figure heavily into the latter part of the book. Burris Ewell and his family manage to live outside the local and national laws because they are so poor and ignorant, belonging to the lowest circle of white Maycomb society. The Ewell children only need to come to school for the first day, and then the town will overlook the fact that they are absent, even though schooling is mandatory for all children. Likewise, Mr. Ewell is allowed to hunt out of season because he is known to be an alcoholic who spends his relief money on whiskey - if he can't hunt, his children may not eat. Here we see how the law, which is meant to protect people, can sometimes be harmful if followed too absolutely. Sometimes, it is in everyone's best interests to bend the law in special cases. The town's opinion is that no law will ever force the Ewells to change, because they are set in their "ways". Rather, the law must change to accommodate them and protect the children, who should not have to suffer needlessly.
Scout also learns that the reason Walter Cunningham doesn't pass first grade is because he has to leave school in the spring to help around the farm. The Cunninghams are not all necessarily illiterate and ignorant because of a lack of intelligence, but because they are subject to a system which subverts their chances of receiving a good education. The Cunninghams must keep the farm running in order to survive, and because the school system does not make any accommodations for farm children, there is a self-perpetuating societal cycle for farm families to remain uneducated and ignorant.
In Chapter 4, we see that the schools have attempted to teach children how to behave in groups and how to be upstanding citizens, but Scout notes that her father and Jem learned these traits without the kind of schooling she is getting. The school may be attempting to turn the children into moral beings, but Scout's moral education occurs almost exclusively in her home or in the presence of Maycomb adults and friends. This suggests that schools can only provide limited change in children's moral sensibility, or no change at all - families and communities are the true sculptors of children's sense of what is right and good, and what is not.
Accepting gifts in the Radley tree knothole and rolling accidentally into the Radley yard are some of the first signs that the children are slowly coming closer to making contact with Boo. They're still terrified, however, by the mystery of Boo. Their curiosity and the drama game they create shows how desperately they wanted to find answers to their questions about Boo in the absence of any real information or knowledge. Likewise, the townspeople have a tendency to react unfavorably to things that are "different" until they have reasons to understand the difference. In addition, the children are gradually humanizing Boo - he was referred to in the opening chapter as a "malevolent phantom," but by now, he is a real man whose antisocial behavior marks him as unusual and therefore suspicious or dangerous.
In Chapter 5, though Atticus tries to encourage the children to leave Boo alone, their senses of sympathy have been summoned by thinking about Boo's solitude and his strict upbringing. Though still frightened of him, they wish to befriend him and help him now. Miss Maudie's description of Boo helps the children understand him as a victim of his upbringing.
Miss Maudie is one of the only women whom Scout respects and is friendly with. Calpurnia and Miss Maudie are the main motherly influences in her life. Later on, while Aunt Alexandra imposes herself as a maternal substitute, trying to turn Scout into a "lady" against her will. Miss Maudie is the most unbiased and supportive of these three women, though Calpurnia becomes much more sympathetic as time goes by. Miss Maudie is obsessed with her flowerbeds, and goes about tending them despite disapproval of the "foot-washing Baptists," who occasionally accuse her of spending too much time in such vain earthly pursuits. Miss Maudie is opposed to these staunch, strict ideas but is also religious, showing that perhaps she finds a relationship between maintaining beautiful things in the world and connecting with God. Just as in the case of the Ewells hunting out of season, some things are more important than following the letter of the law exactly. The very religious Radley family stays indoors all day and rarely participates in community affairs, except during emergencies. However, Miss Maudie seems to think that serving living things - whether human or floral - is an important part of serving God. There is no one clear way to worship God, but the chapter suggests that reading the Bible inside all day may be an application of God's law which, like the hunting law when applied to the Ewell's, becomes self-defeating if applied too severely. In both cases, the maintaining of life (Mr. Ewell's children or Miss Maudie's flowers) is more important than observing the strictest codes. Miss Maudie also believes in the importance of pleasure and the enjoyment of life.
In Chapter 6, the children come even closer to bridging the distance between themselves and Boo. Scout is reluctant to participate in these games, but can't stand to be left out, especially on charges of being too "girlish." Later on, Scout learns why Boo likes his privacy and understands why it's important to leave him alone, but for now, she is suspicious of him.
The children's attempts to connect with Boo evoke, again, the sense that children will be able to see Boo with more decency and sincerity than the rest of the populace. Their search through the darkness, the many gates, the vegetables in the yard, and then Dill's glance through the dark window with curtains through which there is one small light are somewhat symbolic of the children's search through layers of ignorance and rumor to find the truth underneath it all. By searching for the man who has been made into a monster by society, they bring back his basic common humanity and unite him with everyone else in spite of his unusual personality. Likewise, Atticus wants to make it possible for black people to exist on the same plane as whites, no longer subjected to an inhuman subjugation. Color is not insignificant here: Boo Radley is described as very, very white at the end of the book, and Tom is described as being extremely "velvety" dark - they are at opposite ends of the flesh color spectrum but both of these main "mockingbird figures" share the common dilemma of being markedly different from the flesh color considered the norm in Maycomb.