At the beginning of the novel, the children are afraid of Boo Radley and believe the unflattering rumors about him. In chapter one, the children meet Dill and Jem proceeds to tell him about their enigmatic, reclusive neighbor. Scout elaborates on Jem's fantastical description of Boo Radley by saying,
Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained—if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time (Lee, 13).
As a child, Scout believes Jem's description of Boo and subscribes to the neighborhood myths about him. However, Miss Maudie sheds light on Boo's true identity and personality in chapter five. When Scout inquires about Boo Radley, Miss Maudie responds by saying,
"I remember Arthur Radley when he was a boy. He always spoke nicely to me, no matter what folks said he did. Spoke as nicely as he knew how" (Lee, 46).
As the novel progresses, Scout matures and gains perspective on Boo Radley. Scout understands that Boo Radley is not a "malevolent phantom" and is simply a shy, compassionate man. After Boo Radley saves their lives during Bob Ewell's attack and kills their perpetrator, Sheriff Tate refuses to inform the community about Boo's heroics to protect him from the public limelight. When Atticus asks if Scout understands Sheriff Tate's reasoning, Scout metaphorically utilizes one of her father's earlier lessons by asking,
"Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?" (Lee, 281).
Scout demonstrates her maturation and moral development by symbolically comparing Boo Radley to a mockingbird, which is a vulnerable, compassionate being.