Rumors abound about Boo Radley in Maycomb, from adults and children alike. He is believed to be a night stalker, a peeping Tom, a man who poisons pecans, and the suspect of any other unexplained crime that happens in Maycomb. Jem and Scout are among the first to realize that the rumors about Boo are not true, and he proves to be a protector and good neighbor before the end of the novel.
When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he breathed on them. Any stealthy crimes committed in Maycomb were his work...
... he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch... There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face... his eyes popped and he drooled most of the time. (Chapter 1)
Once Bob Ewell decided to accuse Tom Robinson of the beating and rape of his daughter, most of the white population of Maycomb believed every word he said. But not all. Tom's African-American friends knew better, and other citizens--like Atticus and Miss Maudie (and probably even Judge Taylor)--were not foolish enough to believe what came from the mouth of Bob Ewell.
"... I run up to the window and I seen--" Mr. Ewell's face grew scarlet. He stood up and pointed his finger at Tom Robinson. "--I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!" (Chapter 17)
In Chapter 3, Walter Cunningham Jr. tells Jem that he is familiar with the legendary Boo Radley. As they walk past Boo's home, Walter says,
"Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans---folks say he pizened 'em and put 'em over on the school side of the fence" (Lee 16).
Walter's comment reveals the negative rumors that surround Boo Radley. Children throughout the community fear Boo Radley and believe that he is a malevolent being. Rumors like these unfairly stigmatize Boo Radley and negatively affect his outward perception.
Following Tom's death, Scout describes the perspective of the prejudiced community members. Scout repeats what the community says about Tom's death by saying,
"To Maycomb, Tom's death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw.... Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but it comes down to the line the veneer's mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in 'em." (Lee 147)
These racist comments reveal the extreme prejudice against African Americans throughout the community. The prejudiced community members neglect to realize Tom's reasons for attempting to escape from prison. They perceive Tom to be an ignorant individual incapable of rational thought simply because he is a black man.