To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How does our perception of Boo Radley change by the end of Chapter Seven in To Kill a Mockingbird? I don't understand how to answer this question.

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The character of Boo Radley is not particularly interesting or well drawn. He seems to have been created as a sort of deus ex machina who will appear magically at the end of the novel to save both Jem and Scout from the terrible Bob Ewell. Boo is invisible throughout most of the novel, and he is even invisible while he is in the process of killing Ewell because of the darkness and the fact that the point-of-view character, Scout, is inside a pumpkin. Everything we learn about Boo Radley is at second- or third-hand from gossip and past-tense exposition. It isn't even entirely clear whether it was Boo who disposed of Bob Ewell or how he did it or how he knew Ewell was going to attack the two children. Our perception of Boo is vague and confused from the beginning. He seems feeble-minded, possibly dangerous, undoubtedly lonely, but not especially likeable or even especially believable. Characters like Boo Radley seem to be plentiful in small towns in the Deep South--or at least in novels about small towns in the Deep South. They are reminiscent of some of the misfits in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and seem to illustrate Anderson's heavy influence on Southern writers.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of Chapter 7 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem tells Scout that when he went back to get his pants, they had been sewn and folded. Later, both children find objects in the tree on Mr. Radley's property. There is no overt indication about who fixed Jem's pants and who had been leaving things in the tree. Jem and Scout have guesses but can't be sure. This chapter shows Jem maturing and really thinking about what goes on around him. When the tree is plugged up, Jem is bold enough to ask Mr. Radley (who had shot at him, thinking he was a thief, in Chapter 6) if he cemented the tree.

Again, although not overt, the cementing of the tree is a parallel to Boo Radley. Mr. Radley had also shut Boo up mentally which contributed to Boo's voluntary imprisonment in the Radley house. The reader might intuit that Boo had fixed Jem's pants and planted the objects in the tree. Prior to this chapter, Boo was portrayed (at least by the children) as an outcast, even as a monster. By the end of the chapter, there is at least the suggestion that Boo has been misunderstood.

Near the end of the chapter, Scout senses that Jem knows something but is not telling. It is evident that Jem has an idea about who has been leaving things in the tree and who fixed his pants.

He had been on the verge of telling me something all evening; his face would brighten and he would lean toward me, then he would change his mind. He changed it again. “Oh, nothin‘.” (Chapter 7)

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