What impact does Dill have on the development of the plot in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Dill significantly impacts the development of the plot concerning Jem and Scout's relationship with their enigmatic, reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley.
When Dill visits Maycomb for the first time, he immediately becomes fascinated with Boo Radley after hearing the many rumors that surround the reclusive, mysterious man. In chapter 1, Scout says, "He [Jem] said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out" (Lee, 3). Essentially, Dill gives Jem numerous ideas of ways to make Boo Radley come out of his house. At the beginning of the novel, Scout and the other neighborhood children fear Boo Radley and believe the false rumors about him. Scout views Boo as a "malevolent phantom" and wants nothing to do with Jem and Dill's schemes. However, the two boys allow Scout to tag along as they raid the Radley yard and attempt to give Boo letters in his window sill.
As the novel progresses, the children mature and begin to realize that Boo is simply an extremely shy man with a big heart. At the end of the novel, Boo ends up coming to Jem and Scout's defense when they are attacked by Bob Ewell. Dill's fascination and numerous schemes to make Boo Radley come out of the house serve as a catalyst for Jem and Scout's friendly relationship with him.
Perhaps Dill's biggest asset to the plot structure of To Kill a Mockingbird is how he serves, through his own curiosity, to instigate Jem and Scout's own interest in Boo Radley. Before Dill came to visit in Maycomb, Jem and Scout were only mildly interested in their unseen neighbor. It was Dill who dared Jem to touch the house, and it was Dill who suggested the Boo Radley game. By doing so, Jem and Scout became much more interested, and it became a fantasy (especially for Scout) to one day get a look at Boo. Dill's own dysfunctional home life, and the lack of interest that his parents show toward him, help Jem and Scout to see how their own lives have been bettered by Atticus' own parenting. Dill is also important in another big way: Although it is not particularly important to the plot, Dill is Scout's love interest, and she awaits his arrival from Meridian anxiously at the beginning of each summer.