How is Boo Radley discriminated against in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Arthur "Boo" Radley is a victim of prejudice and discrimination because of his taboo, enigmatic lifestyle. Unlike the majority of Maycomb citizens, Boo Radley is a reclusive, shy individual, who rarely leaves his home and is never seen during the daytime. The Radley home is also dilapidated and rather spooky,...

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Arthur "Boo" Radley is a victim of prejudice and discrimination because of his taboo, enigmatic lifestyle. Unlike the majority of Maycomb citizens, Boo Radley is a reclusive, shy individual, who rarely leaves his home and is never seen during the daytime. The Radley home is also dilapidated and rather spooky, which strikes fear into local children and raises suspicion among his neighbors. Boo Radley suffers from discrimination at the hands of his prejudiced neighbors, who blame him for any small crime and spread unflattering rumors about him peeking into windows and killing small animals. Miss Stephanie Crawford, the neighborhood scold, spreads rumors that Boo Radley is a mentally unstable, violent individual, who stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors for presumably no reason at all. The local children also discriminate against Boo in that they gossip about his malevolent, deranged personality.

Despite the negative rumors surrounding Boo Radley, he is a kind, compassionate neighbor, who attempts to befriend Jem and Scout and risks his life saving them from Bob Ewell's vicious attack. In the novel, Boo Radley is a symbolic mockingbird, who is defenseless and vulnerable. He is unfairly labeled as a threat to society and his negative reputation precedes him.

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley is discriminated against due to beliefs formed about him based on rumors.

Interestingly, readers do not actually learn from any trustworthy characters in the book exactly what Boo Radley's situation is. The only character we would trust hearing information from is Atticus Finch, and, when either Jem or Scout asks about Boo Radley, Atticus keeps his mouth shut and warns his children to mind their own business. In consequence, both the children and the reader learn about Boo from only Miss Stephanie Crawford, a "neighborhood scold" and gossip. In fact, Scout even states later in the book that "no one with a grain of sense trusted Miss Stephanie" (Ch. 5). Earlier in Chapter 1, we learn Miss Stephanie informed Jem that Boo is mentally unstable, guilty of having stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, and was imprisoned in the county jail until the town council begged Mr. Radley to take Boo back. According to Miss Stephanie's rumors, once back in the Radley household, the Radleys put Boo under house arrest and forbade him from ever leaving the house. However, while the reader knows, along with the kids, that Boo never leaves his house, the reader never learns if any of Miss Stephanie's stated reasons are the true reasons.

Due to Miss Stephanie's rumors, the kids and other citizens of Maycomb are prejudiced against Boo. The kids' prejudices emerge in things they say about Boo. For example, Jem tells Dill that Boo comes out at night "when it's pitch dark" and that Miss Stephanie has seen him staring straight at her through her window in the "middle of the night" (Ch. 1). The children have even developed the impression that Boo would kill them if they got anywhere near him.

Despite having felt these prejudices, Jem is the first to realize that Boo is trying to reach out to the children in his own special way by mending Jem's trousers and leaving them gifts in the knot-hole of an oak tree on the Radley property. Due to Jem having seen Boo through a veil of prejudices for so long, Jem cries when he realizes Mr. Nathan Radley had filled the knot-hole with cement thereby preventing the children from contacting Boo by leaving a thank-you note. Jem cries because it breaks his heart to think that the children have no way of showing kindness to Boo in return and to make amends for having mocked Boo.

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