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In "To Kill A Mockingbird", what is the Radley's place in the social hierarchy of...

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kmaddy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2009 at 11:48 AM via web

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In "To Kill A Mockingbird", what is the Radley's place in the social hierarchy of Maycomb County and why?

i know that the most prominent being the Finches being at the top, followed by the Cunninghams, the Ewells and lastly the blacks. But i do not know where to place the Radleys. Should they be above or below the Cunninghams?

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 11, 2009 at 2:17 PM (Answer #1)

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The Radleys are almost outside the social hierarchy of the town. Without the stigma of Boo's crimes, and the rigidness of his father (and later his brother), they may have been on a level just below the Finches themselves. Even Boo's teenage escapades are basically forgiven in the eyes of the town. But Mr. Radley chooses instead to essentially imprison Boo himself, an arrangement that his son continues after his death. Thus, their home is closed. Because their doors remain closed, and they shun various social events and groups in the community, they are removed from this unofficial system of labelling families.

This is the reason the house and Boo are so intriguing to the children. They are drawn by the sordid rumors, but also by the fact that this family keeps to themselves, which is almost a crime in the eyes of the community. While most people would argue that the Radleys are better people than the Ewells (they certainly follow more of society's guidelines), in a way both families are similar. They have separated themselves from the rest of the town, and in Maycomb, that makes it very difficult to survive as a family. Note how the Radley house is run-down, reflecting the neglect of the family. the Ewell house is of course, in much worse condition, signifying their own ostracism.

So yes, if the Radleys had fit the usual structure of the town's society, they would be somewhere between the finches and the Cunninghams. But they have separated themselves by choice, and so remain apart from the rest,

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