Neighbors play a central role in small towns, and Maycomb is no exception in To Kill a Mockingbird
Choose TWO of Jem and Scouts neighbors that we are influential. Explain how each neighbor helps the brother and sister to mature
BOO RADLEY. Although Boo is unseen until the final chapters of the novel, no single individual has more of an impact on the children than Arthur "Boo" Radley. Their childish fantasies about the neighborhood ghoul eventually disappear as they grow older. The mysterious gifts found in the knothole could have only come from Boo, the children reason; his gifts not only show his friendly nature but help them to understand that not everything they are told about people is true. In the end, when Boo saves Jem's and Scout's lives, Scout understands that Boo is a true friend and neighbor and regrets that she could not have given more to him in return.
DILL (AND HIS AUNT RACHEL HAVERFORD). Dill is certainly one of the Finch children's most influential neighbors, even though he only resides in Maycomb for several months each summer. Dill becomes the third member of the triumvirate of curious and creative children who roam their Maycomb neighborhood. Dill's curiosity of the Radley Place guides them on their quest to bring Boo out into the open, and he willingly participates in most of their childish escapades. He becomes Scout's first true love, and through his own family problems, Jem and Scout come to understand what a great father they have in Atticus. Dill's Aunt Rachel is not a character who is developed as strongly as the other Finch neighbors, but through Dill the children learn that Miss Haverford likes to take a drink during the morning hours--another revelation that both surprises and informs.
Perhaps the neighbor who exerts the most profound influence upon Jem and Scout is Boo Radley. For, he is the neighbor who teaches the children the meanings of Atticus's aphorisms
- You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it
- ...it's a sin to kill a mockingbird
- Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It is knowing that you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway, and you see it through to the end.
Boo Radley has remained in his house, but he has lived vicariously through Jem and Scout as they have scampered through his yard attempting to peer into a window, left things for him in the tree knothole, and walked up and down the street. While Atticus has taught them to not bother Boo, Boo himself has taught them what kindness is by sewing Jem's britches, by leaving them little gifts in the tree, and, most of all, by coming to their defense as Bob Ewell attacks them. In the final chapter of Harper Lee's novel, Scout looks around as she stands on the Radley porch:
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
Another neighbor is Miss Stephanie Crawford, who teaches the children what is not charity. This town scold maligns poor Boo by saying that he is a maniac who sits with his scissors, waiting to cut unsuspecting victims: "Lord knows what he's doin' or thinkin'." She also claims that at night he is a peeping-tom, spying on the neighbors in their beds. When Miss Maudie accuses her of moving closer to the window so that Boo will see her better, the children applaud Miss Maudie's castigation of Miss Crawford's hypocrisy.
Wow. Lots of neighbors helped both these kids learn important lessons in To Kill a Mockingbird. The two most influential, it seems to me, are Miss Maudie and Mrs. Dubose.
Miss Maudieis the constant voice of reason in both Jem and Scout's lives. She is level-headed and takes on all comers--the foot-washin' Baptists, Miss Stephanie Crawford, the Ladies Missionary group...you name it. She is the one who helps the kids see Atticus as a man who can "do stuff," including lawyering, shooting a rifle, and setting a good example for others. She tells them he's the same man on the street as he is in his house, she affirms Atticus's "sin to kill a mockingbird" line, and she is behind him one hundred percent in his defense of Tom Robinson. Scout goes to her when she needs an adult voice (or the boys have excluded her), and Jemknows he's growing up when she offers him a slice from the "adult" cake.
Mrs. Dubose was a much less pleasant neighbor; however, her lessons were just as valuable. Atticus uses his children's bad behavior as an opportunity to teach them a lesson about courage and adversity. She is cantankerous and downright mean, yet Atticus always shows her the proper respect. She is a woman of strong opinions and the lesson they learn at her bedsideis strong, as well.