What is Jem's view of Boo Radley compared to Scout's?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem's perception of Boo Radley actually evolves more quickly than Scout's does. When Jem first tells Dill all the background information, he paints Boo Radley as a phantom or boogieman of Maycomb county. Scout holds onto this notion as well because she is so young and usually follows Jem's lead. However, Jem starts to change his mind in chapter six after his pants get caught in the Radley fence on the night he tries to steal a peek at Boo from the backyard window. When Jem goes back for his pants that night, they are sewn up and folded, just waiting for him to come get them. This makes Jem start to wonder if Boo is friendly and not a crazy, mean person. Scout does not make this connection, though.

The next thing that changes Jem's perception of Boo Radley is when the children find little gifts in a knothole in the Radley's tree. At first it's gum, but after the kids receive two pennies, two soaps, and an old watch, Jem starts to believe that Boo is more than just a stranger. The evidence of the difference between Jem's view of Boo and Scout's is seen when they start to write a thank you letter in chapter 7 to whomever has been leaving them gifts.

"He had been on the verge of telling me something all evening; his face would brighten and he would lean toward me, then he would change his mind. He changed it again.

'Oh, nothin'.'

'Here, let's write a letter.' I pushed a tablet and pencil under his nose.

'Okay. Dear Mister. . . '

'How do you know it's a man? I bet it's Miss Maudie. . .'

'Ar-r, Miss Maudie can't chew gum'" (61).

When Jem says, "Ar-r" he is about to say "Arthur," which is Boo's real name. Scout thinks that it is Miss Maudie who has been leaving the gifts for them, so she clearly has not considered Boo as the nice and friendly type, yet. It isn't until the night of Miss Maudie's fire that Jem finally comes to the conclusion that Boo Radley is a friend and tells Scout and Atticus about it. When Scout comes home that night with a strange blanket around her shoulders, Jem realizes that the only person who could have given it to her was Boo. She says that she almost vomits when she finds out, which suggests that she still hasn't come to believe that he is a friend. Jem, on the other hand, knows.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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