What does Miss Maudie tell Scout about Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Maudie tells Scout that Arthur "Boo" Radley was a kind child and gives her a little insight into the Radley family. She seems to think Arthur is more sad than crazy.

Miss Maudie lives in Maycomb and isn't a very traditional woman. Scout and the other children are comfortable with her because she's kind and respectful toward them. Miss Maudie also makes the best cakes in the neighborhood. One night, Scout sits with her and asks her about Boo Radley.

Boo, whose real name is Arthur, is a shut-in who Scout, Jem, and Dill spend a lot of time thinking about. They want to know why he doesn't come out of his house. They imagine different reasons and speculate on his past. None of them have had significant encounters with him.

So Miss Maudie explains that Arthur Radley is alive, which she knows because she hasn't “seen him carried out yet.” When Scout suggests that they could have stuffed him up the chimney—an idea she got from Jem—Miss Maudie tells her that's not the case.

She says that Arthur “just stays in the house, that's all.” She explains that he was a kind child raised by “foot-washing Baptists,” a religious group that believes pleasure is sinful. She says that they believe women are a sin. When Scout asks if that's why Arthur stays inside, Miss Maudie says she doesn't know.

She shakes her head when Scout asks if Arthur is crazy and says if he isn't, he should be by now. She calls his house a sad house and tells Scout that you can never know what's happening to people behind closed doors.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the children ask Miss Maudie about Boo Radley, she replies "His name's Arthur and he's alive," and calls it a “morbid question” (ch 5).

I know he's alive, Jean Louise, because I haven't seen him carried out yet." (ch 5)

The children trust Miss Maudie’s opinion because she never lies to them or talks down to them.  She also does not gossip like Miss Stephanie Crawford.  She tells the truth, and is respectful to them even though they are children.  She extends this benevolence to Boo Radley.  Unlike the other neighbors, she does not talk down on him.  She calls him by his name and treats him politely.

"Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that's all," said Miss Maudie. "Wouldn't you stay in the house if you didn't want to come out?" (CH 5)

Her explanation for Boo’s unusual behavior when he was young is that “old Mr. Radley was a foot-washing Baptist” (ch 5) and Boo just could not take it anymore, and that is why he stabbed him with scissors.  When they ask her if he is crazy, she replies “"If he's not he should be by now” and tells them they do not know what happens to people inside closed doors.

The children ponder Miss Maudie’s speech, and decide that they should send Boo Radley a note to make him come out.  They have decided that he really is lonely, and he would do better to have help to come out, so that they can be his friend.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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