In To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the signficance attached to Scout and Jem's experiences relative to Boo Radley?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Scout and Jem's experiences relative to Boo Radley provide much of the practicum for the moral philosophy of their father, Atticus Finch.

  • When Dill, Scout, and Jem talk about the "haint" in the neighborhood and bait him to come outside, Atticus effects a shift in the children's views as he tells them in Chapter 5,

If he wanted to stay inside his own house, he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children....What Mr. Radley did night seem peculiar to us, but it did not seem peculiar to him.

  • Another physical event that effects a shift in the intellectual views of the children to the perspective of Atticus that one should look at things from the other's point of view are the leaving of gifts for the children in the tree's hole by Boo.  When Mr. Nathan seals up this hole, the children realize from taking Boo's perspective and understanding his gestures that Boo is not a "haint" and he has true feelings of friendship.
  • Another realization about Boo occurs after he mends Jem's pants and the fire when he places the blanket around Jem.
  • The final awareness of the necessity of understanding a person's perspective is Scout's standing upon the porch of Boo Radley after walking him home.  It is then that she realizes the inequity between his loving efforts towards her and Jem and their actions towards him.  Truly, she understands the lesson of her father:

Atticus was right . One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.  Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

Boo Radley, reclusive and strange, displays gratuitous love for Jem and Scout. Indeed, he provides the children with a model with which they acquire moral perspective.

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