Heck Tate's Treatment of Boo RadleySheriff Heck Tate takes a strong stand regarding Boo's actions in defense of Jem and Scout at the end of the story. Do you agree with Heck Tate's decision? Explain.

10 Answers

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Boo Radley suffered enough throughout his life.  He acted in defense of another, and he did nothing wrong.  Bob Ewell was a despicable person, but he was also a dangerous one.  If Boo were tried, many facts would come out that the community was not ready for.  It is better sometimes to let sleeping dogs lie.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

While I agree that it might have been the best way to handle the whole situation at the time, legally it is not up to the sheriff to determine guilt or innocence. Even though we all agree that Ewell was a horrible person and Boo would have been traumatized by a trial, we have to let the justice system work.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I absolutely agree with Tate in the story. But, if this scenario were played out in real life, and Bob Ewell were my dad (boy that would be unfortunate), I would think that justice hadn't been served. It is all a matter of perspective. I think as readers we can agree that the right thing happened here, but you would not see a cop today condoning citizens seeking justice to the degree that another citizen's death is acceptable.

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

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I agree with Heck Tate's decision. I'm not exactly sure if Alabama had the Good Samaritan law during the 1930s, but that law actually allows for others to act on behalf of others even if that means taking an attacker's life. So, in some sense, Heck isn't even breaking the law when he suggests letting things lie.

Similarly, there are times when ethics or morality clashes with legality. In those cases a person should do what is right (as Heck does) and being willing to face whatever consequences might result.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Heck Tate insists on this course of action, despite his generally strict adherence to the law, it is compelling. When both Atticus and Scout understand and agree, I'm convinced. Atticus, in particular, is my barometer of justice, as he was ready to put his own son on trial.  When he says it's okay, I agree. In real life? I'd like the formality of a trial, thank you.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Can you imagine the episode of Boo's defense of the children nowadays?  Some avaricious lawyer would step in to defend the Ewells' who "had been left with no parents" and sue.  Then, he would appear on the Oprah show or Jerry Springer, stirring all kinds of controversy since the "letter of the law" had not been followed.

It is refreshing to read a case in which people do what is pragmatic and not what is exigent.  An excellent and pertinent question!  4-0 for Sherriff Tate.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Heck Tate was indeed within the "spirit of the law" with regard to the actions taken on Boo's behalf. Consider this, Boo had slowly been emerging from his family imposed (and then quite possibly self-imposed) exile. How would this gentle soul have responded to the stress and rigors of a trial, even if he was found not guilty? This would have devastated the gentle soul.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I agree with the above posters.  Boo has acted as a sort of neighborhood watchdog for many years...planting little surprises in the tree for the children, watching out for them despite their games and imitations of a man they only knew through stories.  I doubt even Ewell's daughter would protest much about the lack of a trial since she is also set free from the pain and torture of living with her father. 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think this is a good example of interpreting the spirit of the law whilst perhaps ignoring the letter of the law. That is to say, the sheriff does well to treat the case the way he does because he recognises the contextual factors surrounding the events on that night. That allows him to see correctly that Boo was only defending the children from a character who had already established his capacity for violence and crime.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Yeah, I do.  What the sheriff did may not be exactly in accordance with the law, but it sure was in accordance with justice (in my opinion).

What good could have come of having a trial?  Boo would not have been convicted of anything because he killed while defending the kids.  All that would have happened is that Boo would have been traumatized.  Heck Tate already hurt one innocent man (helped cause Tom Robinson's death) and he does not want to hurt another one (Boo).

I think justice was done.  Ewell was the only bad guy in the incident and he's dead, so why worry about officially finding out who did it?