In To Kill A Mockingbird, how does the motif of Boo Radley contribute to Scout's coming of age?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Boo Radley contributes to Scout's coming of age by emphasizing her maturation, perspective on life, and moral development. At the beginning of the novel, Scout fears her reclusive neighbor and does not sympathize with his situation. She refers to Boo as the "malevolent phantom" and naively believes that he is a nefarious, dangerous man. As a five-year-old girl, Scout lacks perspective and believes the rumors surrounding Boo Radley. As the novel progresses, Atticus teaches Scout important lessons on perspective and protecting innocent beings. Scout gradually matures and begins expanding her perspective on the community of Maycomb and its citizens. As Scout matures, she begins sympathizing with Boo Radley and no longer fears him. Toward the end of the novel, Boo Radley ends up saving Scout's and Jem's lives by intervening in Bob Ewell's attack. When Sheriff Tate refuses to tell the community about Boo's heroics, Scout demonstrates her maturation and moral development by metaphorically applying one of Atticus's earlier lessons. Scout tells her father,

"Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?" (Lee, 280).

Harper Lee concludes the novel by depicting Scout standing on Boo Radley's front stoop and viewing the neighborhood from his perspective, which once again corresponds to one of Atticus's earlier lessons regarding points of view. Overall, Scout's maturation, moral development, and increased perspective on life can be gauged by her feelings regarding her enigmatic neighbor, Boo Radley.

hebronchester90 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of Boo Radley's function in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is to demonstrate that outsiders can never truly judge the heart of another person. As shown in the Tom Robinson trial, as shown in Boo's reputation, and as shown on Scout's first day of school when she unknowingly embarrasses her teacher and her father has to remind her that you don't understand a person until "you climb into his skin and walk around in it," Scout is having to learn empathy. She's leaving the childhood world of black and white. It is gray and there are other people who see it differently.

Boo is this other world embodied, a "mockingbird." He appears creepy and scary to children, but in reality he is a kind soul. In the end, he is their protector as well. That's when Scout is able to forever leave the one-dimensional view of childhood. She's able to look at the whole story from another perspective, just as Atticus had been trying to teach her from the beginning. Finally, she can grasp it. She's grown up.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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