How are the stories of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley brought together at the end of To Kill Mockingbird?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are both victims of society, and at the end of the book Boo Radley defends the children from Bob Ewell.

The book ends where it begins, in some ways.  Boo Radley is a big focus of the early chapters.  Then in the middle everything is about the trial.  Although Tom Robinson is dead by the end of the book, he is the reason why Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem.  Ewell feels resentful that the trial showed Robinson in a more favorable light than him, and he feels that justice has not been done.

Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are both compared figuratively to birds.  Tom Robinson is accused by a white woman of rape.  Boo Radley is accused of all kinds of terrible things, like peeping in people’s windows.  People ostracize him because he is too shy to come out of his house. 

When Scout and Jem received new guns, Atticus told them it would be a sin to shoot mockingbirds.  This sentiment is expressed again by Mr. Underwood in an editorial about Tom Robinson’s death.  Robinson felt dejected when he was convicted, and decided to take his chances going over the prison fence.  He was shot.

Mr. Underwood didn’t talk about miscarriages of justice, he was writing so children could understand. Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children … (Ch. 25) 

Scout is puzzled that Underwood would consider it a miscarriage of justice when Robinson was convicted.  However, he was innocent and everyone knew it.  Bob Ewell felt humiliated because the jury deliberated so long.  He threatened Atticus and spit in his face.  He did not feel that Robinson’s death was enough. 

When Bob Ewell attacks the children and Boo saves them, Atticus and the sheriff Heck Tate decide to say Ewell fell on his knife.  Scout understands that they are trying to protect Boo Radley from everyone getting involved in his affairs. 

“Scout,” he said, “Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?”

... “Yes sir, I understand,” I reassured him. “Mr. Tate was right.”

Atticus disengaged himself and looked at me. “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (Ch. 30) 

Scout realizes that Boo Radley doesn’t like attention, and everyone in the neighborhood would be bugging him if they knew he was a hero.  It would be an invitation for people to re-engage in Boo’s life, when he would rather leave them out.  He is not a monster, but he is shy.

Both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are good people.  They want nothing more than to help others.  They are different, and so people do not understand them.  Tom Robinson faces racism because of the color of his skin, and Boo Radley faces isolation due to his troubled past.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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