What is the significance of the imagery describing Boo Radley in Chapters 29 and 30?Boo is described is this section of the book after the Ewell's attack as a pale, sickly, dead-like, etc. What are...

What is the significance of the imagery describing Boo Radley in Chapters 29 and 30?

Boo is described is this section of the book after the Ewell's attack as a pale, sickly, dead-like, etc. What are some of the most important descriptions and why are they significant?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the beginning of the narrative of To Kill a Mockingbird, for Jem and Scout Boo Radley has been a "haint," a type of "malevolent phantom"  that drags his feet, rather than a human being.  In fact, it is not until their father scolds them in Chapter 5 about bothering Boo, that the children consider him as a person who will come outdoors if he wishes.

In Chapters 29, as Scout relates the incidents of the night, she describes how she thought Mr. Ewell tried to squeeze her to death when someone suddenly threw Ewell down.  After this, the man

...was staggerin' around and pantin' and--coughing fit to die.

When Sheriff Tate asks Scout who was so spent, she point to Boo Radley who leans against the wall, pressing the palms of his hands nervously against the wall, hands and arms that are "sickly white" from never having been outside. 

His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind.  His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.

Yet, when Scout says hello to him, Boo smiles timidly, as he does also as Scout checks on the condition of Jem.

These images of Boo Radley as sickeningly white practically confirm the children's early assumptions that he is ghostly. Significantly, the poor man has led a consumptive and pitiable life in his desolation.

In Chapter 30, Boo's social maladjustments are observed as Scout must take the shy recluse's hand and walk him to the porch where he "would feel more comfortable in the dark."  And, yet Boo wants reassurance that Jem is all right before he leaves for his own house, an indication of his solitcitude for his friends, Scout and Jem, for whom he risked his life.

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