After Dill wonders aloud what Boo Radley looks like, how does Jem describe Boo based on his imagination in Haper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird? What image does his description evoke?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the opening chapter of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Dill becomes obsessed with Arthur (Boo) Radley the moment Scout and Jem inform him of their neighborhood enigma, whom the children call Boo Radley. Scout describes Dill as frequently standing with his arm around the light-pole positioned on the street corner near the Radleys' property and wondering about Boo Radley. At one point, Dill wonders aloud, "Wonder what he looks like?"

In response, Jem lets his imagination run wild. He describes Boo as being "six-and-a-half feet tall," pop-eyed, having a "long jagged scar" across his face, and rotten yellow teeth. Jem further describes Boo as eating any raw animals he can catch such as squirrels and cats. Jem's description of Arthur Radley evokes the image of a monster.

Though Jem's description comes entirely from his own imagination, it appears to have been influenced by things he has read. Since he is an avid reader of classics like Ivanhoe, as we see later in Chapter 11, it can be assumed he has also read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and has derived inspiration from Shelley's monster creation to invent his own Boo Radley. We particularly see Shelley's influence in Jem's description of Boo having a scar across his face, since Shelley describes the creature Dr. Frankenstein developed as having scars across its face due to the fact that the it is made up of multiple parts stitched together. Otherwise, fascinatingly, Jem describes Boo in the exact opposite way Shelley describes Dr. Frankenstein's creature. For example, Jem says Boo eats animals raw, whereas Dr. Frankenstein's creature is actually a vegetarian. Plus, Jem describes Boo as having rotten yellow teeth, whereas Shelley describes the creature as having pearly white teeth, one of its only attractive characteristics. Due to these opposing images, we can speculate that Jem drew inspiration from Shelley and just changed the details that suited his own imaginings of what a monster should really be like.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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