What are the ways Harper Lee presents the relationship between Boo Radley and the children in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee uses an array of emotional techniques to describe and advance the relationship between the children and Boo Radley. In the first chapter of the novel, the children's fear of their unseen neighbor dominates their feelings. With the arrival of Dill and his own interest in the Radley House, the children grow bolder and curiosity seems to outweigh their fears. At first, the children only want to get a look at Boo to see that he really exists; it is Dill who suggests that they find a way to "make him come out." But when the gifts begin appearing in the knothole of the Radley oak, Jem and Scout finally realize that they could only be coming from Boo. At this point, the desire to repay Boo for his kindness takes over, and the children determine to become friendly with Boo. Lee mixes terror with humor on the night of the children's raid on the Radley's back porch: The kids manage to avoid the lurking shadow and Nathan Radley's shotgun blast, but Jem loses his pants in the process, providing Dill with his excuse of them playing strip poker--something that is both agreeable yet confusing to Scout. The children eventually feel guilt for invading Boo's privacy and "tormenting that man," just as Atticus has warned them. After Scout finds that it is Boo who places the blanket upon her shoulders to warm her on the night of Miss Maudie's fire, Jem promises that he "ain't gonna do anything to him" anymore, and both of the kids give up all forms of their Boo Radley games. But Scout never stops fantasizing about Boo, one day hoping to sit down and have a normal conversation with him. At the end of the story, after Boo has saves Jem's and Scout's lives, Scout feels guilt that they have never been able to

... give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.  (Chapter 31)

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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