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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In chaper 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird, when Mr Radley was dying, why were wooden sawhorses and straw blocking the road?

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When Mr. Radley, "meanest man ever God blew breath into," dies, he makes a public spectacle of it. 

From chapter 1:

He took his time about it. Wooden sawhorses blocked the road at each end of the Radley lot, straw was put down on the sidewalk, traffic was diverted to the back street.

There is a contradiction to the sawhorses and straw.  By blocking the road with sawhorses and laying down straw, he ensures that everyone passing by will know he is dying.  They also prevent people from coming near, as they would do if something was catching.  Even the doctor has to park and walk up the sidewalk.

Dr. Reynolds parked his car in front of our house and walked to the Radleys' every time he called.

This implies that he was called often, part of the attention-getting behavior.  However, while the Radleys wanted everyone to know about the death they did not want anyone to participate in it.  It does not say that the sawhorses were used for anything else but to block the road so that no one went near the Radley house and the Radley’s were left alone while he was dying. 

This is the kind of thing that adds to the general Radely mystique in Maycomb.  The Radleys seem to avoid people at all costs, yet at the same time they are also always be the center of attention and town gossip, due to their bizarre behavior.

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