What is Boo Radley like in the first two chapters of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The pivotal but unseen character of Arthur "Boo" Radley is introduced in the opening chapter of Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Boo has been a neighbor of the Finch family for years, it is the young newcomer, Dill Harris, who becomes "fascinated" with the Radley Place. The "malevolent phantom" who supposedly exists but is never seen by Jem and Scout make a lasting impression on Dill. Boo's supposed powers and nighttime exploits are unending.

When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work... A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night... Radley pecans would kill you.

The legend of Boo's origins is recounted: his teen escapades and his father's punishment; the scissors attack on his father and his resulting lock-up in the courthouse basement; and the permanent banishment within the Radley Place. Miss Stephanie recounts her stories of seeing Boo peeping in her window one night and "scratching on the back screen" on another. Jem describes Boo as "six-and-a-half feet tall," dining on "raw squirrels and any cats he could catch" with bloodstained hands. A "long jagged scar" runs across his face, his teeth are "yellow and rotten," and he "drooled most of the time." The chapter ends when, on a dare, Jem screws up his courage and sprints "to the side of the house, slapped it with his palm and ran back past us."

Boo is not involved in Chapter 2 except for a mention of Jem and Scout passing the Radley Place on the way to school.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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