How does the reader learn about Boo Radley's sense of community and Jem's later defense of him in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Living under imposed seclusion, Boo Radley secretly keeps watch on his neighborhood in order to experience life vicariously.

Boo demonstrates his sense of community in several ways:

  • One day, Dill and Jem push Scout while she is inside a tire. Scout rolls a ways, then careens into the Radley yard. Shaken, she runs back home, but believes she has heard laughter from within the house. The laughter was likely a result of Boo watching her.
  • When Jem looks through a window of the Radley house so he and Dill can attempt to make some contact with Boo, Boo's brother Nathan spots him. Nathan steps outside and fires his shotgun, alarming the neighborhood and terrifying Jem, who entangles his pants on the wire fence and must wiggle out of them in order to flee. After he lies to his father about the whereabouts of his pants, Jem risks danger and returns to the fence to retrieve his pants so he will not be caught in his lie. At the fence, Jem discovers Boo mended and folded the pants over the fence in case Jem returned for them.
  • As Miss Maudie's house burns, Scout and Jem stand back by the Radleys' fence. After Atticus returns, he believes Scout has gone back to their house against his orders to get a blanket. Scout, however, does not know how she has acquired the blanket. Then, it dawns on Atticus:

"Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you."

  • Boo reaches out to the children by fashioning figures of Jem and Scout and other gifts and placing them in the knothole of a tree. Each day, Jem and Scout pass by this tree on their way home and gather their gifts until Nathan Radley fills the hole with cement.
  • On the night Bob Ewell attacks the children with a knife, Boo is alerted to the danger when he hears Scout and Jem cry out. He bravely rushes out of the house and wrestles with Bob Ewell, saving the children's lives.

Earlier in the novel, Jem defends Boo when he is trying to figure out what motivates people to be so unjust and cowardly. Perplexed at how people treat each other after witnessing the proceedings of the Tom Robinson trial, Jem says,

"I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time...it's because he wants to stay inside" (Chapter 23).

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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