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Why did old mr radley lock Boo in the house?  Explain his backstory.Boo Radley was...

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kmaddy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2009 at 12:41 PM via web

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Why did old mr radley lock Boo in the house?  Explain his backstory.

Boo Radley was deprived from going to the world outside the boundary of his house, but why? even if he did mixed with the wrong group when he was young, he was eventually a kind-hearted person. so why did his father and his brother want to lock him up?

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:11 PM (Answer #1)

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It is easy to view Mr. Radley as an evil or mean individual for locking Boo up, but as the Radley's were a wealthy and prominent family in the Maycomb community, Mr. Radley's choice is not surprising. He locked Boo up possibly for Boo's sake, but more than that, he locked Boo up to save the family's face in the community.

When Boo had the breakdown and stabbed his father in the knee he was locked up at the courthouse until arrangements could be made. Certainly it wouldn't have been seemly for the Radley's to have one of their own locked up in a mental institution, so the only option was to bring Boo home and keep him out of the public eye, thus saving the family embarrassment. This was the sum total of Boo's existence for many years.

Boo's brother on the other hand was perhaps more mean spirited. As the innocent actions of the children draw Boo out of hiding, we see him as a rational, caring, and nonthreatening individual. So why would the brother continue to keep Boo locked away? Why would he shut down Boo's attempt to communicate and develop friendship with the children by filling in the tree? Perhaps he was afraid that a society that was still intolerant of differences like skin color would be no more tolerant of Boo, but as Boo had clearly shown his growth, his brother did not, and one must ask why?

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cbots | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:21 PM (Answer #2)

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Boo was locked away because of his involvement with “the wrong crowd”; his father felt that Boo being put in a reformatory would be an embarrassment to the family. But the underlying reason is because of Mr. Radley’s religious fervor. When Scout talks to Miss Maudie about Boo, Miss Maudie refers to Mr. Radley as a “foot-washing Baptist” and alludes to the fact that Mr. Radley was deeply religious, to the point where it affected his treatment of Boo. Nothing else about this is directly stated in the text, but one could imply that Boo’s “imprisonment” in his home was facilitated by Mr. Radley’s threats of the dangers and evils of the outside world, which showed themselves in Boo getting in trouble as a teenager.

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