How do Jem's and Scout's views or attitudes toward their father, Boo Radley, and Maycomb change throughout To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout know their father is a fine lawyer--they have seen him in action before--but they seem to think he is "feeble" and "didn't do anything," like playing football, hunting or driving a dumptruck. They also see his bad eyesight as a weakness. But over the course of the novel, they discover many admirable traits that Atticus possesses. They learn to their great surprise that, despite his bad eye, he was once the best marksman in the county, and they are taught by Miss Maudie that his reluctance to tell his children about this skill is due to his humble nature as well as his disdain for killing any living creature. The children discover that Atticus possesses a certain type of bravery unlike that of a "man with a gun in his hand."

The children first believe all the stories they hear about Boo Radley, that he is a "malevolent phantom" and blood-thirsty ghoul who poisons pecans and eats cats. But after the mysterious gifts begin appearing in the knothole of the Radley oak, Jem and Scout slowly realize that they could only be coming from Boo, and that he wants to be their friend. Scout's fantasy of one day meeting Boo materializes in a most incredible way in the final chapters when Boo goes from ghoul to hero when he saves them from Bob Ewell. Scout even steps into Boo's shoes after walking him home, never to be seen again, and she looks upon her neighborhood through Boo's eyes, seeing things from an entirely different perspective.

Jem has always considered the people of Maycomb the "best folks in the world," but both of the children think a bit differently by the close of the novel. They see the evil amongst them in the actions of Bob Ewell, and the terrible injustice that the jury deals Tom Robinson. They learn to respect the poor people in the county, like the Cunninghams and the Negro community, and they question Aunt Alexandra's beliefs about gentle breeding and "Fine Folks." They learn that Atticus is a key member of the community, which calls upon him to do "our unpleasant jobs for us."

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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