Scout is now in the third grade and the Radley house has ceased to terrify her. She remembers ruefully how she and Jem used to torment Bob Radley and yet he would leave them gifts in the knothole.
At school, in the Current Events class, when each child is supposed to give the gist of a piece of news aloud in class, Adolph Hitler and his prejudices are discussed. When Scout discusses it with Jem and breaches the subject of the blacks, Jem furiously tells her never to discuss that topic again.
Scout has outgrown her fear over the Radley house, but her wish to see Arthur Radley once before she dies, is at once squelched by Atticus. He does not want her to pester that family anymore.
The idea behind discussing news items in class is to give the child better poise, more confidence and to make him word-conscious. Unfortunately, however, half the children did not even have access to newspapers. Nevertheless, the subject of Adolph Hitler sparks of a chain of thoughts in Scout’s mind. She has realized that though one should not hate anybody, at the same time, it was obvious that the people in her society are still very much against the blacks and could never accept them. Her young mind has figured out the fact that people don’t usually practice what they preach.
Three things happen in Maycomb society: firstly, Ewell acquires and loses a government job in a matter of days. Thereafter, he resumes his weekly appearance at the welfare office for his check. It is overheard that he has been blaming Atticus for having lost his the job.
The second thing is that Judge Taylor, one night had heard a scratching noise outside his door, and on investigation had seen a shadow sneaking away. Thereafter, he sits with shotgun across his lap.
The third thing is that Helen who had been employed by Mr. Link Deas finds herself having to take the longer route so as to avoid the Ewells who used to clunk things at her. Deas lambastes at them but Ewell persists in scaring Helen by following her and crooning fowl words at her. But this too is stopped by Deas, with a strong warning.
Scout has to become a pork, for a pageant for Halloween. The costume is made of chicken wire. Since the family cannot come to watch her, she gives a preview of her performance at home.
Bob Ewell has not changed over the years. A brief spurt of industry and he is back to his old mischief. His pestering of Helen is one way to get cheap satisfaction out of an old case. Mr. Link Deas displays his goodness by retaining Helen as his employee and by protecting her from Bob Ewell’s evil tormenting. Atticus is able to sum up Bob’s predicament well : it is because Bob knows that the people in Maycomb had not believed his and Mayella’s yarns that he behaves in such a manner.
Halloween has some unusual connotations this year. The Maycomb ladies have planned out a pageant with children in costumes, representing the country’s various agricultural products. Scout is to be a ham and her costumes of bent chicken wire covered with brown paper is to later cause quite a lot of tension at the Finch house.
Jem escorts Scout, carrying her costume, to school. The program is in the evening. The pageant begins. Scout waiting for her cue soon falls asleep inside her costume. She, therefore, is unable to enter when her name is called out and makes her entrance only much later, when the play is over. Scout is severely embarrassed by the entire episode and prefers to go home hiding herself in the costume.
Jem and Scout begin walking home. It is very late in the night. Suddenly, they realize that somebody is following them stealthily. They realize it is not their friend, Cecil, playing a prank, but an adult. Jem shouts at Scout to run off. She is quite scared by now. She tries to take a giant step but falls instead, unable to keep her balance. She screams out for help. The chicken wire crushes on her and she flounders, trying to escape. Scout hears scuffing and kicking sounds as well as Jem screaming. Scout is unable to get out of the metal wires. She finds herself falling into a man’s arms. She is tightly held by his arms, and the man tries to squeeze the breath out of her. Then he is pushed backwards. Scout hears a man breathing heavily. She treads on a body and gets the stink of whisky from him. Then she walks off towards her home. The doctor is called, and so is the sheriff. Scout is helped out of the costume and the doctor checks her. Apparently, Jem is hurt. Mr. Tate has investigated the grounds of the incident and reveals that Bob Ewell had been lying on the floor with a kitchen knife stuck into him and is dead.
A very eventful chapter. Scout messes up her role and is extremely embarrassed as she has become a laughing stock for the audience.
Ewell’s evil intentions are clearly exposed in this chapter. Here is a man who would stoop to anything to get even with Atticus; the cowardly act of attacking children can also be resorted to. Such a man’s death is welcomed by the reader.
One wonders at this point, who it is that has saved the children and managed to get rid of the detestable Ewell. The reader is kept unaware of the identity of the savior only to be revealed in the next chapter.
It is unclear, though, whether Ewell aimed to kill them or merely terrify them. However, the irony is that he himself ends up losing his life in the process.