In Chapter One of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the story of Arthur Radley?   

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During that first summer in Chapter One, Scout and Jem tell Dill their version of the Radley story. They claim that Boo was a "malevolent phantom" and up to that point, they had never seen him. This increased Dill's curiosity about Boo and it also increased the mystery and misunderstanding of Boo Radley. Even if strange events were proven to be caused by someone else, people in Maycomb were unable to shake their suspicions of the Radley house: 

Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people’s chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker’s Eddy, people still looked at the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions. 

This is significant because it shows that despite evidence to the contrary, people find it difficult to put away their prejudices. They still look at Boo Radley, despite evidence showing that he did not commit these crimes. Likewise, people in Maycomb will find it difficult to see Tom Robinson's innocence. 

In general, the Radleys kept to themselves. Scout relates that when Arthur was a teenager, he ran with the wrong crowd and got into trouble. Mr. Radley got Arthur out of attending the state industrial school and he (Arthur) was not heard from for fifteen years. Jem, getting information from the town gossip Stephanie Crawford, told Scout that after those fifteen years, Boo cut his father's leg with a pair of scissors. By this time, Boo (Arthur) was thirty-three years old. Boo spent some time in the courthouse basement as a result, and then Mr. Radley kept him in his home rather than have Boo sent to prison or a mental institution. When Mr. Radley died, the elder son, Nathan, came to stay with Boo (Arthur) and their mother. 

The children let their imaginations run wild, similar to Stephanie Crawford's gossip, claiming more outrageous things however, such as Boo feeding on raw squirrels. For Dill, the game was to try and catch a glimpse of this mysterious person, Boo Radley. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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