How do Scout and Jem show respect to Boo Radley in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout don't start out being very respectful to Boo Radley, because from what the rumors say, he's described to be more like the neighborhood boogieman than a person. Jem tries to get information from Atticus about the Radleys, but the response he gets is as follows:

"Atticus's only answer was for him to mind his own business and let the Radleys mind theirs" (11).

Jem can't leave the Radleys alone because Dill keeps provoking him to get Boo to come outside. Once Jem loses his pants during an escapade at night, though, and Boo mends and folds them for him, Jem gains a more human perspective of Boo and starts to show more respect. Scout gains more respect for Boo after they discover that he gave her a blanket during the night of Miss Maudie's house fire, too (71).

Through these personal experiences with Boo, the kids learn he is a person and should be treated with respect. So as Atticus advised them, they show that respect by not playing out the Radley family drama in their front yard,  not daring each other to run up and touch the house, and not trying to get Boo to come outside.  

Further, in chapter 7, they start to receive gifts in the Radley tree's knothole. They don't suspect Boo right away, but they show respect by accepting the gifts once they realize they are placed there for them. Jem and Scout also want to write him a thank you letter and leave it in the tree, but Mr. Nathan Radley fills up the hole with cement before they can do it. Had they been able to send the note, that would have been showing respect, too.

In the end, Boo actually saves Jem and Scout's lives when they are attacked by Bob Ewell. Scout eventually recognizes who he is and she shows great respect and hospitality in the following way:

"People have a habit of doing everyday things even under the oddest conditions. I was no exception: 'Come along, Mr. Arthur,' I heard myself saying, 'you don't know the house real well. I'll just take you to the porch, sir.'

He looked down at me and nodded.

I led him through the hall and past the living room" (272).

The final and most respectful thing that the kids can do is to keep it a secret that Boo Radley saved them from Bob Ewell. Sheriff Tate convinces Atticus to keep Boo's privacy in tact by not making him a spectacle for the community to talk about. Atticus struggles with the decision, but he is supported in it when Scout reminds him that it would be like shooting a mockingbird if they brought attention to a man who lives a very private life. Giving Boo Radley the privacy he needs and deserves is therefore the best demonstration of respect.


Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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