To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Are Boo Radley's actions at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird moral?

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,298 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

One of the primary themes and messages of the novel concerns the importance of protecting and defending innocent, vulnerable beings. Atticus attempts to teach his children this important lesson by instructing them to never kill a mockingbird, and he demonstrates this lesson by valiantly defending Tom Robinson in front of a racist jury. Towards the end of the novel, Bob Ewell attempts to get revenge on Atticus by attacking Jem and Scout. The Finch children are innocent and vulnerable individuals, who are defenseless against Bob's vicious attack. Fortunately, Boo Radley intervenes and saves the children's lives by stabbing and killing Bob Ewell.

Boo's actions correspond to the novel's primary message, and two of the novel's most morally-upright characters appreciate Boo's heroics. The fact that Sheriff Tate and Atticus conceal Boo's involvement in Bob's death indicates that they find his actions moral and necessary. It would be difficult to find Boo Radley at fault for saving Jem and Scout's lives by killing the malevolent, completely evil Bob Ewell. One could argue that Boo's actions are moral and justified. In order to protect innocent, defenseless individuals, it was necessary for Boo to take the life of a threatening being, which is similar to when Atticus shot the rabid dog to protect the neighborhood.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

bookM.A. from The University of Alabama

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Absolutely.  Everyone has the moral right to defend the innocent from evil.  Bob Ewell attacks Jem with murderous intent--Jem testifies to the sheriff,

"Mr. Ewell was tryin' to squeeze me to death"--

then, he attempts to do harm to Jem's little sister.  Ewell is the immoral character in the final scenes, not Boo Radley; for, he is the perpetrator of a crime with a deadly weapon, a knife.  Besides all this, Ewell even attacks Boo himself because Sheriff Tate remarks upon Boo's sleeves that are

"perforated with little hole.  There were one or two little pucture marks on his arms to match the holes [in Scout's costume]....Bob Ewell meant business....Low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children."

According to Sheriff Tate, Boo was perfectly within his moral rights since he merely pulled Bob Ewell away from the imminent  danger of the children.  When Ewell freed himself from Boo's grasp, Ewell stumbled and fell upon his knife, according to the the deductions of Mr Tate.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

apple55 | Student