How is Arthur 'Boo" Radley an innocent victim of the theme prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird? What is the evidence from the book?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like several of the other characters in To Kill a Mockingbird(particularly Tom Robinson and Dolphus Raymond), Boo Radley has been subjected to false accusations and unfounded gossip throughout the town of Maycomb. While the prejudice against Tom and Dolphus is primarily racist, Boo's youthful indiscretions and supposed mental instability are the reasons that the townspeople have scorned him and his family. Although Boo had been in trouble with the law as a teenager, it was the actions taken by his family that created his forced isolation within the Radley home. When Boo stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, it only spurred further gossip and speculation about Boo's mental condition.

However, there is little or no evidence that Boo ever committed any other unlawful acts, yet the townspeople choose to blame Boo for "any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb." Boo is blamed for the death of azaleas during a cold snap (it is instead believed that Boo breathes on them); he is blamed for the death of a series of mutilated animals (though it is actually Crazy Addie, another local mentally unstable character, who commits the acts); he is accused of poisoning pecans from the family's own tree, though no one has ever claimed to be sick from eating them. Rumors persist that Boo eats raw squirrels and has "a jagged scar" across his face. Miss Rachel claims that Boo scratches on her window screen at night, yet there is no real evidence of any of this, since Boo is actually never seen. It is his unusual family history and his own invisibility that spurs the stories--and prompts the nickname--of Boo Radley.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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