How is Maycomb society "shooting a mockingbird" when it comes to their treatment of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird and to what extent does it exist?
Boo can certainly be identified as one of the human mockingbirds of the novel. Although Boo is no complete innocent, having committed several minor crimes as a teen while "in an excessive spurt of high spirits," he is hardly deserving of the punishment he has received from his father nor the notoriety toward him that exists among Maycomb's citizens. Boo is accused of "Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb" even when there is no evidence or witness to the offense. He is accused of nocturnal activities such as the gruesome mutilation of animals and peeking in Miss Stephanie Crawford's window. Many of the tales about Boo are provided by the gossipy tongue of Miss Stephanie, and few if any of them can be substantiated. The Radleys become outcasts in Maycomb, and people avoid walking past their house out of a superstitious fear of Boo. Meanwhile, Jem and Scout discover that Boo is actually a friendly, lonesome man who seeks the children's friendship. They come to understand that the gifts left behind in the secret knothole of the Radley oak come from Boo and that they are meant as tokens of friendship. At the end of the story, Boo turns from ghoul to hero, though the town will never learn of this secret: that Boo has saved Jem and Scout and killed Bob Ewell. Instead, Boo's innocence--if not his true status as a mockingbird--is preserved when Sheriff Tate decides to call Bob's death self-inflicted.