What does Boo Radley represent in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Boo Radley represents, first of all, the tendency of people to misjudge people and mythologize them; secondly, he is symbolized by the mockingbirds.
- Misjudgments and Superstitions
When Scout as narrator first introduces Boo Radley to the reader she refers to him only as a "haint" and a "malevolent phantom" to which a great deal of superstition is attached.
People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work....A Negro would not the pass the Radley Place at night, he would cut across to the sidewalk opposite and whistle as he walked....
The Radley family is perceived as unforgivably reclusive because they do not attend church, "Maycomb's principal recreation"; they do not visit with neighbors; they are never visited by neighbors. Most all, there is a mystery connected to what has happened with Boo, who forever remains in the house and has not been seen for fifteen years.
- A mockingbird
In Chapter 10, after Atticus gives the children air-rifles, he instructs them not to kill mockingbirds, for "it is a sin to kill a mockingbird" that merely sings and does not harm anyone. Thus, the mockingbird becomes symbolic of the innocent who harm no one--men such as Boo and Tom Robinson. In his editorial after the trial, Mr. Underwood writes, also, of the mockingbird, whose killing is senseless, likening this death to that of Robinsons:
Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children....
In the end, Boo's appearance and rescue of the children provides him reality for Scout, and, thus, maturation. For, her childish attitudes are put aside as she walks Boo home and stands on his porch, apprehending the meaning of her father's adjuration to consider things from others' points of view before passing judgments.
Boo represents Mockingbirds