To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Who does the gray ghost symbolize in chapter 31 of "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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price7781 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Gray Ghost is one book in a series of adventure stories written by Seckatary Hawkins. They were very popular during the 1930’s, so it’s possible that Jem would have a few of them around the Finch house to read.  The characters in The Gray Ghost go through a series of adventures throughout the book, much like Scout and Jem do in To Kill a Mockingbird.  One of the characters, Stoner (the gray ghost), wears a gray handkerchief over his face and sports a long coat and cape.

According to a Seckatary Hawkins website, the novel teaches “the reader the importance of thinking for himself and playing fair and square at all times.”  The series of books also “reflect happy days of [the characters’] boyhood.”

The thematic connection between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Gray Ghost are apparent when we view To Kill a Mockingbird from Scout’s point of view and how her life is an adventure growing up.  She experiences many things throughout the novel that leads her to an understanding about people like Boo who she realizes is “good.” The lessons Atticus teaches her about respect and acceptance also demonstrate the thematic connection between the two novels.

Although the gray ghost most certainly represents Boo, an elusive, scary unknown, it may also be the plot and themes of The Gray Ghost that Harper Lee wants her readers to make connections to as well. 

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In order to understand the symbolic meaning of the book The Gray Ghost, you need some background information. 

In the beginning of the book, Jem, Scout, and Dill are preoccupied with Boo. They want him to come out. Jem and Scout warn Dill that this was a dangerous thing. However, Dill persisted. On one occasion, Dill dared Jem to touch the front door of the Radley house. Dill said that if Jem would do such a thing, he would give him his copy of The Gray Ghost.

Scout says that Dill never turned down a dare and so he did it. The Gray Ghost represents Boo or better yet what the children imagined Boo to be. 

At the end of the book, Atticus see the copy of the book, and Scout asks him to read her the book during bedtime. Atticus refuses at first, as the book is scary, but Scout insists. She says that she is not sacred. In fact, as Atticus starts, Scout fall asleep immediately. 

If the gray ghost represents Boo, then Scout really has nothing to fear, as Boo and Scout are now "friends." What seems fearful no longer is. The ghost might still be gray, but the ghost is friendly. 

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Though it is Bob Ewell who dies that evening, I believe it is actually Boo Radley who is symbolized by the book The Gray Ghost. Boo lives a colorless, ghostlike existence in the Radley household, and when Scout meets him she describes Boo as having gray eyes that are almost colorless, hair that is "dead and thin," and a white face and hands.

Also like the book, Scout initially thinks Boo is "real scary" but finds out that he is benign and even kind. In the same way, this scary book that Atticus reads to Scout actually lulls her to sleep.

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