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How does Harper Lee portray Boo Radley in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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madmarchheiress | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:10 AM via web

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How does Harper Lee portray Boo Radley in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:35 AM (Answer #1)

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Over the course of To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley is transformed from a bloodthirsty ghoul who feasts on raw animals and peeps in windows to the most heroic and sympathetic character in the novel. Most readers would question the gossip that has been spread (by "three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford," according to Miss Maudie) through Scout's narration, and Boo's run-in with the law and the unusual punishment he receives from his father creates sympathy for Boo even in the early chapters. Although Scout and Jem don't seem to immediately realize from where the gifts in the secret knothole come, the reader is able to recognize that they could only have come from Boo; the reader sees before the children that Boo is trying to befriend them, and that these treasures signify that Boo is a caring and inquisitive--though mysterious and completely invisible--neighbor. After Miss Maudie's house fire, when Boo's presentation of the blanket upon Scout's shoulders finally opens the Finch children's eyes completely, the children give him the privacy that Atticus has always told them Boo deserves, and Boo fades into the background of the story as the trial of Tom Robinson unfolds. But Scout still fantasizes about meeting Boo, and author Harper Lee beautifully synthesizes the two plots together in the final chapters, with Boo making his inevitable appearance just in the nick of time for Jem and Scout. Scout's fantasy comes alive when she finally sees Boo lurking in the shadows of Jem's bedroom and politely leads him to the porch where she sits with him on the swing. When Boo whispers to Scout that he wants to go home, she leads her hero back to his house--a young lady leading her gentleman caller--never to be seen again. It is a fitting ending for Boo, who has successfully protected "his children": His job complete, and with Bob Ewell dead, the children no longer need him to watch over them.

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