What is the significance of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Boo Radley, author Harper Lee has created a major, complex character who remains unseen until the final pages of the story--a true rarity in fictional novels. Boo's presence is nonetheless felt throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, and the first one-third of the book concentrates on the children's attempts to either get a look at Boo or make him come out of his house. Boo's lone appearance comes in heroic fashion, saving Jem and Scout from the murderous intentions of Bob Ewell in the final chapters. Boo serves as a reminder that rumor and innuendo are most often untrue, and in Boo's case, he reveals that he is actually quite the opposite of the man that Maycomb's stories describe. Feared by adults and children alike because of the terrible crimes that he is believed to have committed, Boo's acts of kindness toward Jem and Scout finally show the children that he is a man to be pitied and not feared. He is one of the innocent human mockingbirds created by Lee, relegated to the life of a recluse thanks to his father's punishments and the town's vicious rumors. Lee ties her two main plots together through Boo when he comes to the children's rescue to stop Ewell, whose false accusations against Tom Robinson led to the black man's rape conviction and eventual death (the primary plot of Part Two). Jem and Scout learn many lessons through Boo, none more important than the fact that people are not always what they seem, and that

"... when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... he was real nice..."


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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