What is a good quote about Boo Radley being a mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 30, Atticus and Sheriff Tate have a conversation concerning Bob Ewell's attack and mysterious death. Sheriff Tate insists that Bob fell on his own knife, while Atticus believes that his son was responsible for Bob's death. However, Sheriff Tate implies that Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell and explains to Atticus why he will not inform the community about Boo's heroics by saying,

"Know what’d happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb includin‘ my wife’d be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an‘ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head" (Lee, 280).

Scout listens to Sheriff Tate's explanation, and Atticus asks if she understands his reasoning. Scout metaphorically applies Atticus earlier lesson concerning mockingbirds by saying,

"Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?" (Lee, 280).

Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolically represent innocent, defenseless individuals, who bring nothing but joy to the world. Boo Radley is a symbolic mockingbird because he is a compassionate neighbor who protects Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell. Sheriff Tate's explanation also illustrates how Boo Radley is a defenseless person who needs protection from the community's limelight. At this point in the novel, Scout is mature enough to understand the delicate situation and metaphorically compares Boo Radley to an innocent, defenseless mockingbird.

litgeek2015 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Technically, the only quote in the book that directly connects Boo Radley to a mockingbird is in Ch. 30.

Sheriff Tate has told Atticus he will not be pressing charges against anyone, Jem or Boo, for stabbing Bob Ewell. It is obvious that Boo was the one who did stab Bob Ewell, although Atticus at first mistakenly thought it was Jem.

When Sheriff Tate leaves, Atticus tells Scout that Bob Ewell simply fell on his knife, and she replies with,

"Yes, sir, I understand...Mr. Tate was right."

Atticus is slightly confused and asks her what she means and she replies with,

"Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"

What she means by this is that Boo Radley is innocent...not of stabbing Bob Ewell, but in general. He is innocent in nature. There would be no benefit to publicly acknowledging Boo was the one to stab Bob Ewell. This would only bring Boo into a spotlight which he has never been in, spawn more rumors, validate other ones, and for what purpose? He would probably not even be charged, as he was only protecting the children. Putting him through that public scrutiny, however, is why Scout said it would be like shooting a mockingbird. It would be uncomfortable and painful, even, for Boo. Sheriff Tate knows this and decides to make up a different story to avoid putting Boo through any of that.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably the most memorable quote connecting Boo with the mockingbird comes at the end of the story when Sheriff Tate decides to call Bob Ewell's death self-inflicted--effectively keeping Boo from having to undergo the publicity of an inquest or trial. Scout agrees with Tate's decision, telling Atticus that doing so would

"... be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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