In the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout feels as if she hasn't given anything back to Boo Radley, which is wrong. What have Jem and she given him?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For one thing, the children of Atticus Finch have provided Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" with much vicarious excitement.  Much like James Joyce's estranged boy in "Araby" who stands on the other side of a fence and watches wistfully as a girl he likes passes from day to day, Boo Radley must watch from the shadows as Scout and Jem enjoy a childhood he has never had. Yet, this viewing of lives on the outside is preferable to the isolated one he has suffered before Jem, Scout, and Dill come on the scene.

Then, too, their pranks--actions done on dares--allow Boo some normalcy as he can interact with the children by repairing the pants that Jem has left when they caught on the fence and by leaving little gifts in the tree hole. He is, thus, able to show love to someone.

Also, in their defenselessness against Bob Ewell, Boo Radley is given the opportunity to perform a great act of love by preventing Ewell from hurting them. 

Afterwards, he and Scout interact and Boo is able to be outside his world and share in that of another and feel the warmth of Scout's little hand in his; she later has Boo hold his arm so that she can take it:

He had to stoop a little to accomodate me, but if Miss Stephanie Crawford was watching from her upstairs window, she would see Arthur Radley escorting me down the sidewalk, as any gentleman would do.

Scout does not lead Boo Radley home; instead, she gives him the chance to have pride.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

1. Entertainment--Boo obviously watched the children as they played outside during the first summer of the book. As an isolated, childlike individual, Boo benefited from the exuberance and humor of the children's antics.

2. Human contact--When the children try to write Boo or "get him to come out," Boo seemingly takes it as someone reaching out to him, which is something he desperately wants. So, he begins leaving items in the knothole of the tree for Jem and Scout. Just the children's simple manner of trying to talk to him or write him represents the human contact that Boo has severely lacked.

3. Thoughtfulness--Scout does not realize at the end of the novel that her thoughtful act of kindness in letting Boo "escort" her back to his home is the best "gift" she could give him. She takes him back to a place where he feels safe and makes it appear to anyone who might be watching that Boo is a gentleman walking a young lady down the street.

4. An opportunity to feel self worth--In his isolation, Boo never has an opportunity under his brother's strict dominance to demonstrate that he is useful.  When he instinctively jumps in and saves Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell, he performs an action that for years later must have provided him with a sense of responsibility and worth.

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