One impressive feature of Harper Lee’s methods in the novel is the careful plot construction and related characterization. Arthur “Boo” Radley is one of the most important characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, but we rarely see or hear from him until the very end of the novel. When Scout and Jem are recovering from Bob Ewell’s attack on them, Arthur stays in their house until he is sure they are both relatively well. Although she has been obsessed with the mysterious man, Scout does not even have a clear idea of what he looks like and so does not recognize him.
The novel contains, therefore, many more lines about Arthur Radley than are spoken by him. Many of the descriptions of his behavior, which Scout provides, are based on rumors that have circulated through Maycomb for decades. In particular, he is reputed to have stabbed his father. Miss Stephanie Crawford is the source of this dubious information, presented in chapter 1: “As Mr. Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg.” Jem tells tall tales, suggesting Boo is more monster than man: “he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch.”
Arthur plays a pivotal role in the children’s lives. Not only does he literally save their lives, he takes an active interest in them, even carving miniature figures representing them, which he offers as hidden gifts. Scout sees him rescue her brother, carrying him into their house, but she does not know who this man is. When Scout finally meets Arthur and is introduced by her father, she initially greets him shyly (chapter 29).
[A]s I gazed at him in wonder the tension slowly drained from his face. His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
“Hey, Boo,” I said.
Before he leaves their house, he finally speaks to her, asking: “Will you take me home?”
She does so, entering the Radley yard for the second time in her life.
He gently released my hand, opened the door, went inside, and shut the door behind him. I never saw him again.