What aspects of the Radley family make them unusual in Maycomb in "To Kill a Mockingbird"? Please refer to Chapter 1.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a small Southern town, Maycomb would normally have a citizenry that know each other and socialize, at least at the town square and in stores, neighborhoods, etc.  However, the Radleys are very reclusive.  As Scout describes Atticus:

He liked Maycomb...he knew his people, they knew him, and....Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in town.

On the main residential street, most homes are well-cared for, but the Radley house has not been painted and the shingles are rain-rotted; the yard has weeds and debris in it.  Now there is a superstition attached to this house and its occupants.  "A Negro would not pass the Radley Place and night...A baseball his into the Radley yeard was a lost ball and no questions asked."

The shutters and doors are closed and Mr. Radley only comes out for an hour a day and speaks to no one; Mrs. Radley never socializes, Boo Radley, their son has not been seen for fifteen years.  One day he put a scissors through his father's leg; after that Boo was put in the courthouse jail.  Then, he returned home.  After Mr. Radley died, Nathan Radley, Boo's brother, moved in and acted much the same as his father except for speaking to Scout's family. 

One day the children let curiosity get the better of them; on a dare Jem touches the old house, then runs with the others to the Finch porch:  "The old house was the same, droopy and sick, but...we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick...and the house was still."

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 1, Scout gives a brief description of the Radley family and explains why it is viewed as strange throughout the community of Maycomb. Aside from the Radleys' dilapidated home with rain-rotted shingles, Scout mentions that a "malevolent phantom" inhabits their home. Unlike the majority of citizens in Maycomb, the Radleys keep to themselves and do not socialize with their neighbors. Scout mentions that their doors are always shut on Sundays, which is something "alien to Maycomb’s ways." Scout proceeds to explain Arthur "Boo" Radley's background, and she says that his father kept him locked in the home after Boo got into trouble with the Cunningham boys when he was an adolescent. Boo rarely ever leaves his home, and Scout mentions that the neighbors have no idea about what kind of intimidation Mr. Radley uses to keep his son inside the house. Numerous rumors surround Boo Radley, and some of the citizens blame him for any small crime. Overall, the Radley's are not social, live in a dilapidated home, and are extremely reclusive members of the community. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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