Who is the malevolent phantom in Chapter 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 1, Scout describes her reclusive neighbor, Arthur "Boo" Radley, as a "malevolent phantom." As a child, Scout and the other neighborhood children fear Boo Radley and believe the false rumors surrounding him. Jem believes Miss Stephanie Crawford's stories involving Boo and the children view him as a nefarious creature, who haunts the neighborhood at night and dines on squirrels. At the beginning of the novel, Jem gives a fantastical description of Boo by mentioning that he is about six-and-a-half feet tall with a jagged scar running down his face, and has bloodstained hands from eating raw animals. For the majority of the novel, Scout fears Boo and believes that he is a wicked creature, who wants to harm the neighborhood children.

The reason Scout calls him a "phantom" is because nobody ever sees Boo throughout the neighborhood. For various reasons, Boo rarely leaves his home and none of the children get an opportunity to see him until the end of the novel. Despite his bad reputation among the neighborhood children, Boo Radley is actually a tortured, shy man, who is rather compassionate and friendly. By the end of the novel, Scout matures and perceives Boo as simply her timid, yet kind, neighbor.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Boo Radley is  literally the "malevolent phantom,z' as well as being a representation of ignorance and prejudice. There are several colorful legends about Boo which create a caricature of a violent monster in the minds of the children and indeed the adults in the novel. He is rumoured to eat raw squirrels and cats, to have stabbed his father with a pair of scissors and to stalk the neighbourhood at night. The real Boo is revealed to be a gentle, peaceful soul who protects the children from the cruel and vengeful Bob Ewell.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the book To Kill a Mockingbird Jem and Scout, Atticus' children, meet a new boy named Dill for the first time.  They tell Dill the story about Boo Radley and his house.  The Radley's have been a socially isolated family by choice.  They have two sons.  Their house is deemed as the community haunted house.  Its exterior is creepy and no one ever knows what goes on within the walls. 

Boo Radley is a simple man perhaps with a mental disability.  He is a recluse on the property.  Wild stores are told about him making him out to be a type of boogie man.  In describing the place Jem states:

"Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom" (8).

The phantom is Boo, who is kept inside the property by his brother.

zumba96 | Student

Boo Radley is the phantom. He is seen to be a myth in front of the children and they did not believe he existed. When the kids were younger they made up different stories of how he was isolated until Atticus found them and told them how wrong it was to do so. He is actually a very peaceful person and leaves little gifts for the children to befriend them. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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