To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What role does Boo (Arthur Radley) play in To Kill a Mockingbird, and how does he affect the story?

Boo (Arthur Radley) plays the roles of suspicious neighbor, generous giver of gifts, and hero in To Kill a Mockingbird. He affects the story by encouraging Jem and Scout to think differently and by saving their lives when they are attacked by Bob Ewell on his quest for revenge.

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The mysterious, reclusive, and initially "scary" Boo Radley has been a source of rumors around Maycomb for years, and he is the character about whom all residents of Maycomb are superstitious and suspicious. He is Jem, Scout, and Atticus's neighbor, a giver of gifts to the children, a man who has suffered abuse at the hands of his father, and the man who saves Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell when he is trying to exact his revenge at the end of the novel. We can therefore say that Boo plays an assortment of roles, from neighborhood oddity to generous neighbor and rescuer.

The character of Boo Radley affects the story because it is from Boo that Jem and Scout learn that prejudices can (and should) be overlooked and that they need to approach everybody they meet with compassion. By realizing that Boo is a harmless man who has been unjustly hurt and judged by his neighbors and his community, Scout realizes that this can happen anywhere. As a result of this realization, she understands the...

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