In To Kill a Mockingbird, what were the fears and superstitions the townspeople of Maycomb had about the Radley Place?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fear and superstition about the Radley home, specifically about Boo Radley's presence, live primarily in the imaginations of the children of Maycomb, although some of the adults (certainly not Atticus or Miss Maudie) also gossip about Boo Radley. According to town lore, Boo is a window peeker responsible for any "stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb," as well as for natural misfortunes. If their flowers freeze, it is Boo's breath that has done them in. Scout recalls that "A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night, he would cut across to the sidewalk opposite and whistle as he walked."

For the children, especially, the Radley place is one of mystery and danger, wherein lurks the terrifying Boo Radley. One example of this general belief is Scout's pointing out that the Radley backyard met the school playground. The pecans from the Radley trees that fell into the schoolyard were untouched because "Radley pecans would kill you." Any ball that was accidentally hit over the Radley fence was a "lost ball." No one was expected to go after it. Jem's description of Boo Radley sums up well what a fearful creature he is for the children of Maycomb:

Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained . . . There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.


zumba96 | Student

People believe that Boo is scary, and especially the children because they believe that Boo Radley is a myth. Because of the false perceptions of society, Boo Radley was given a bad name and blamed for any wrong doing that happened within the town. This illustrates how misconceptions can warp reality. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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