How does Harper Lee create a sense of mystery about Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Lee creates a sense of mystery about Boo by keeping him at a distance from the reader. We learn of him through Scout, who has never seen him. Scout, in turn, gains her information about him initially from Jem . Jem has also never seen him and repeats exaggerated...

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Lee creates a sense of mystery about Boo by keeping him at a distance from the reader. We learn of him through Scout, who has never seen him. Scout, in turn, gains her information about him initially from Jem. Jem has also never seen him and repeats exaggerated and largely imaginary ideas about him. Jem states:

Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained—if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten, his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.

As mature readers, we know that Boo is not the monster Jem describes, but Scout, young and vulnerable, believes these stories—even when Miss Maudie offers a more rational account of why Boo became a recluse. However, while we know Jem exaggerates, we are still deprived of any objective or direct glimpse of Boo until the end of the novel. Therefore, he remains a mystery to us.

Lee is trying to show that second- and third-hand gossip can be full of misinformation that can be colored by prejudice; we need to overcome our prejudices through direct contact so that we can get a sense of who a person is from the person rather than through what other people say.

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For starters, Boo Radley is depicted as a recluse. As someone who seems to only leave his house to put little gifts in a tree for Jem and Scout, he is naturally a mysterious, enigmatic character right from the start of Harper Lee’s masterpiece.

The second point you could look at in answering this questions is Boo’s appearance. He’s incredibly tall and has a rough and rugged look about him, which led Jem to see him as half-man and half-monster.

Another important way that Lee creates a sense of mystery around this odd character is by the anecdotes we are given about him. For example, we are told that the children frequently try to get a glimpse of Bo, daring each other to enter the Radley’s yard or touch the house. In addition, Lee tells us that Boo is a topic of irresponsible gossip in the neighborhood, with stories regularly being shared about the awful deeds neighbors supposed Radley to have committed. His unsightly appearance is another regular topic of discussion.

The dilapidated state of the Radley family home does nothing to lessen the feeling of mystery around Boo. The fact that it is unusual to see any member of the Radley family leave their home adds further fuel to this fire.

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Harper Lee creates a sense of mystery surrounding Boo Radley by elaborating on the ominous atmosphere around his home, describing the rumors concerning Boo Radley, and never physically depicting Boo until the end of the novel. Much of the information regarding Boo comes from secondhand sources, which distances his character and adds to the mystery surrounding him. Towards the beginning of the novel, Scout describes the dilapidated Radley home, which has a foreboding atmosphere. It is described as a slate-gray decaying home, and its doors are never opened. The Radley family is also portrayed as abnormal and enigmatic. They rarely interact with their neighbors and hardly leave their home. Much of the information the reader receives about Boo towards the beginning of the novel comes from the rumors Jem hears. Jem believes that Boo is a malevolent creature and the members of the community blame every small crime on Boo. Every neighborhood child fears Boo, and Miss Stephanie tells Jem that Boo once stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors.

The fact that Boo is a reclusive individual further emphasizes the sense of mystery surrounding his character. In chapter 5, Miss Maudie admits to Scout that she is unaware of what goes on behind the Radley doors. Despite the evidence that suggests Boo is a compassionate, kind neighbor, Scout's naive perception of Boo and lack of physical interactions with him add to the sense of mystery surrounding his character. Overall, Harper Lee creates a sense of mystery about Boo's character by describing the rumors surrounding him and his family while never fully presenting a detailed description of Boo Radley. The majority of information regarding Boo comes from secondhand sources, which adds to his enigmatic nature.

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Mystery is created about Boo Radley in the expostion of "To Kill a Mockingbird" first by the description of the house.  Much like a haunted one, it is dilapidated, and "Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom."  This word choice creates doubt as to whether Boo is truly alive since Scout and Jem have not seen him.  Also, there are superstitions attached to Boo by the townspeople:  whenever the azalea bushes freeze, it is because Boo has breathed upon them; small crimes are attributed to him; inexplicable occurrence are his doings.  Fearful of his malevolence, children do not eat pecans that have fallen from his tree, and if a ball goes past the schoolyard into the Radley yard, no child fetches it.

Years before, the Radley family was under suspicion because they did not socialize or go to church, the typical activities of a small town Southern family.  Later, after the "criminal" incident of Boo, even more mystery was attached to the family after Boo committed a crime.  It was suggested that he be committed to the Brice mental asylum, but Boo was locked in the basement of the jail; upon the insistence of the town council he was returned to his family and did not come out of the house henceforth.  While the children believe that Boo was chained, their father says, "There are other ways to make someone a ghost."  

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The most important technique she uses is that Boo Radley is never seen until the end of the novel. That allows the reader and the children to fantasize all kinds of things about him. We do get a few glimpses of him through his actions, which makes him even more mysterious. The presents he leaves Jem and Scout in the tree indicate he is watching them. The laughter they hear when they talk about him suggest he is either amused or deranged.When Jem is forced to leave his pants and then discovers they have been mended when he retrieves them, all suggest Boo is more caring than the image the children have of him. But when Nathan Radley cements the hole in the tree so Boo cannot leave any more presents for the children, we wonder what Nathan is hiding from us. All of these events create a sense of mystery about Boo so that when he does show up, the audience, as well as Scout, is surprised and touched by his ultimate kindness.

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