Scout and Jem Finch meet seven-year-old Dill who is spending the summer holidaying with his Aunt Rachel in Maycomb. Dill becomes fascinated with the story of Boo Radley who hasn’t been outside his house since committing a schoolboy prank. Scout and Jem have never seen him and stories in the neighbourhood suggest he is now a monster,
...one night I heard him scratching on the back screen... Dill becomes obsessed with making Boo Radley
come out and Jem goes so far as to run into the Radley front yard and touch the side of their house.
When summer ends Dill returns to his home town of Meridian and Scout starts school for the first time. She is extremely apprehensive and clashes with her teacher Miss Caroline. The newly qualified Miss Caroline is angry that Scout can already read and write. Miss Caroline feels that Atticus has taught Scout to read too many difficult words from books that are too advanced for her, something which confuses Scout as she is proud of her ability to read. Scout is also in trouble for standing up for Walter Cunningham when she explains that his family is too poor to accept the teacher’s offer of a loan for lunch money. In frustration, Scout begins a fight with Walter which Jem has to break up. Jem invites Walter to lunch. Walter Cunningham is the son of Mr Cunningham, a proud but poor farmer who has been unable to pay Atticus for undertaking legal work for him. Instead, Mr Cunningham has paid his legal bills in food which he has grown on his farm. Over lunch we meet Calpurnia, the Finch’s black maid, but it becomes clear she is treated very much as part of the family.
On their way home from school, Jem and Scout begin to find gifts such as gum and old coins left in a hole in the oak tree outside the Radley house. They realise the gifts must be meant for them but puzzle as to who could have left them.
Dill returns from Meridian for the summer break and along with Jem and Scout he begins to re-enact moments from Boo Radley’s life, something which displeases Atticus,
I’m going to tell you something and tell you one time: stop tormenting that man. Their games become even more adventurous when they try to peep into the Radley house. On leaving in a hurry, Jem gets his trousers caught on some wire and he has to concoct a story in order to keep himself out of trouble when he is discovered in just his underwear. Much later in the night, Jem leaves the house in order to retrieve them.
We also meet Miss Maudie. She is a friend of Atticus and similar to him in that she is tolerant and despises gossip, particularly on the subject of Boo Radley,
Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that’s all,” said Miss Maudie. “Wouldn’t you stay in the house if you didn’t want to come out? She is fond of the children and allows them to play in her yard as long as they stay away from her beloved flowers.