After Tom Robinson's trial, why does Jem say Boo Radley wants to stay inside? Provide quotes with page numbers. 

In chapter 23, Jem says Boo Radley stays inside to avoid the prejudice and hatred in Maycomb, which have been put on full display by the Tom Robinson trial.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 23, Jem and Scout learn a great deal about the prejudices woven into Maycomb's society. Jem first learns that women aren't allowed to serve on juries and that there is something innately unfair about the way jurors are selected. Aunt Alexandra then chastises Scout for wanting to play with Walter Cunningham, calling him "trash" and forbidding it. Jem and Scout try to rationalize the social hierarchy of adults in Maycomb, and Jem believes that somewhere along the way, families like the Finches must have gotten ahead because "one of ‘em … learned a hieroglyphic or two and he taught his boy."

The children are dismayed with the way adults display cruelty and harbor resentment toward each other. At the conclusion of the chapter, Jem thus surmises that Boo Radley has stayed locked away in his house for so many years because he wants to stay inside.

Scout and Jem have spent many of their childhood hours imagining the world of Boo Radley, even daring each other to touch Boo's door. He has remained a man of mystery to them, and they have been told that he is kept locked away because of his own mental challenges. Yet in this statement, Jem begins to believe that maybe Boo's world isn't the one in need of change. Perhaps being locked away keeps him in a safer and less troublesome environment, and maybe he therefore stays inside voluntarily instead of being forced to live there. As Jem recognizes that the adults in town constantly "go out of their way to despise each other," he also realizes that perhaps Boo chooses not to participate in Maycomb's prejudiced social interactions.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Towards the end of chapter 23, Jem and Scout discuss Maycomb's hierarchical class system in an attempt to understand why people discriminated against each other in their small town. Jem concludes that there are four different types of folks in Maycomb and believes that education and background are the primary differentiating factors between the groups of people. Scout challenges Jem's assessment and Jem responds by asking, "If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?" Jem then mentions that he finally understands why Boo Radley chooses to remain inside his home, which is because "he wants to stay inside."

Jem comes to this conclusion after experiencing Tom Robinson's wrongful conviction and recognizing the ugly truth about Maycomb's racist society. Witnessing racial injustice has left an indelible impression on Jem, who resents his neighbors and no longer views Maycomb as a safe, comfortable place to live. Tom Robinson's tragic plight makes him sympathize with Boo Radley, who is also unfairly discriminated against for his unconventional way of life.

Jem recognizes the similarities between Tom Robinson and Boo Radley and acknowledges that Boo may be better off remaining indoors, where he is less susceptible to Maycomb's harmful prejudice. At this point in the story, Jem does not trust his neighbors and views Maycomb as a corrupt town. In his opinion, Boo Radley probably feels the same way and purposely remains indoors to avoid discrimination.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After witnessing racial injustice for the first time, Jem loses his childhood innocence. He is deeply hurt by the outcome of the Tom Robinson trial and becomes jaded with the prejudiced community of Maycomb. At the end of Chapter 23, Scout and Jem are having a discussion about the various types of "folks" in their community. Jem tells Scout that he used to think there was only one kind of folks, but cannot understand why they don't get along with one another. He goes on to say,

"I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time...it's because he wants to stay inside" (Lee 139).

One of the prominent themes throughout the novel concerns the idea of prejudice. Throughout the Tom Robinson trial, Jem witnesses the destructive nature of hate and prejudice. Following the trial, Jem sees his neighbors as prejudiced individuals. He is disgusted with their decision to wrongfully convict an innocent man and does not want anything to do with them. Jem does not blame Boo Radley for not coming out of his home because he understands the dangers of prejudice and hate that exist throughout Maycomb

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The discussion between Jem and Scout is at the end of chapter 23. The outcome of the trial has left the children reflective on the character of people. Jem has been thinking of Boo, and has figured out why he is a recluse,“I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up . . . it’s because he wants to stay inside.” The harsh prejudices that the trial have brought to life have given Jem the perspective that hiding away from the ugliness is Boo's defense mechanism.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This declaration comes right at the end of chapter 23.  After talking with Scout, who Aunt Alexandra spent much of the chapter trying to impress upon what it means to be a Finch, Jem comes to the conclusion that Maycomb has a caste system where people are ranked not just by money but also by familiar history, race, color, education, and so on.  When Scout tries to make sense of this she declares that there is just one kind of folks, and this just plain old folks.  This prompts Jem to state that he knows why Boo stays inside.  We can infer that Jem means Boo stays inside to avoid all of the classification and discrimination in Maycomb.  He can avoid it all by just staying shut up in his house.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial