In Chapter One of Harper Lee's classic of American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, Jem and their friend Dill are talking about the myriad characters and legends of their small community. Naturally, the topic of the mysterious figure of Boo Radley occupies much of the discussion. It is in this context that Jem relates the story he has heard about Stephanie Crawford, "the neighborhood scold," who has spread a rumor to the effect that Boo Radley had once stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors. As the narrative continues, it is obvious that Stephanie Crawford is the main source of unfounded rumors regarding the Radley family, including the accusation that Boo had peered into her bedroom one night:
"Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking straight through the window at her. . .said his head was like a skull looking at her."
The "incident," then, is related in Chapter One, and it occurs in the context of the children's discussing the never-seen, mysterious, and possibly threatening figure of Boo Radley. As readers of Lee's novel discover, Boo Radley emerges as considerably less menacing than the early speculation suggests. Readers also discover that, as with the stories surrounding Boo, the community's citizens are not above judging others on the basis of incorrect or misleading information.
It should be noted that these events don't actually happen during the novel. In chapter 1, we learn that Miss Stephanie Crawford is the neighborhood scold. She is a gossip. She seems to love gossiping about Boo Radley in particular. Jem tells Scout what he has heard from Miss Stephanie, a rumor involving Boo and the window.
Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking straight through the window at her… said his head was like a skull lookin‘ at her. (ch 1)
It is pretty clear that Miss Stephanie Crawford never actually saw Boo. She just likes to talk, and likes to make up stories about the neighbors. Since Boo is reclusive and has a sketchy history involving scissors, he is fodder for Miss Stephanie’s rumor mill. It should be noted that even the scissors story is courtesy of Miss Stephanie, so it is really hard to tell how accurate that is either!