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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are 2–3 quotes on prejudice about Boo Radley?

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Miss Stephanie Crawford, the town gossip, has much to do with the rumors which are spread around town regarding Boo Radley. She enjoys sharing all of her "information" with Jem and Scout and accuses Boo of creeping around in the middle of the night, trying to look at women through their windows. She says she's seen him herself:

Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking straight through the window at her ... said his head was like a skull lookin' at her. Ain't you ever waked up at night and heard him, Dill?

In one of the most humorous parts of the book, Miss Maudie later confronts Miss Stephanie about this rumor, asking if Stephanie had moved over to make room for him. One of Miss Maudie's great characteristics is her gracious attitude—and enough sass to handle Miss Stephanie's rumors.

When Dill visits, the children invent games to entertain themselves through long Alabama summers. One of those is to try to get Boo to come out of his house. Jem is chosen as the one who will approach the house, but he isn't happy about it. He tells Dill,

I hope you've got it through your head that he'll kill us each and every one, Dill Harris ... Don't blame me when he gouges your eyes out. You started it, remember.

By the end of the book, the children have matured enough to judge Boo's character more appropriately, but their younger childhood imaginations are fueled early on by Miss Stephanie's influences.

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Boo Radley is a symbolic mockingbird in the novel and is a victim of the prejudice that results from his unorthodox, reclusive lifestyle. In chapter one, Scout elaborates on the many false rumors surrounding Boo Radley, saying,

People said he [Boo] went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work (Lee, 9).

Boo is unfairly blamed for any "small crimes" simply because the citizens find his reclusive nature strange and menacing.

Boo also has a bad reputation among the local children and is unfairly perceived as a "malevolent phantom" who goes out of his way to harm children. Jem demonstrates his prejudice towards Arthur "Boo" Radley by telling Dill,

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—if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. 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 (Lee, 13).

Jem's fantastical description of Boo Radley is extremely inaccurate and a result of the negative rumors he's heard about Boo from various community members, particularly Miss Stephanie Crawford.

Later on, Walter Cunningham Jr. walks home with the Finch children and explains to Jem that he almost died by accidentally eating one of Boo Radley's poisoned pecans. He tells Jem,

Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans—folks say he [Boo] pizened ‘em and put ’em over on the school side of the fence (Lee, 24).

Walter's comments illustrate his prejudice and paint Boo as a nefarious man who enjoys harming innocent children.

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Scout is very curious about why Boo Radley stays inside.  She and the other children try to make him come out.

Nobody knew what form of intimidation Mr. Radley employed to keep Boo out of sight, but Jem figured that Mr. Radley kept him chained to the bed most of the time. Atticus said no, it wasn’t that sort of thing, that there were other ways of making people into ghosts. (ch 1)

Atticus’s words are very relevant here.  The citizens of Maycomb think Boo is crazy, so he stays locked up.  He has been forced to become “a ghost” because he is different.

Miss Maudie explains to Scout that “sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand” of another. (ch 5)  In other words, Mr. Nathan Radley is one of the causes of Boo’s mental distress and the reason he stays inside.

It is actually Jem who connects Boo’s isolation with prejudice.

I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time… it’s because he wants to stay inside.” (ch 24)

This is a significant point.  Boo is one of the story’s mockingbirds, or innocent victims of prejudice.  He suffers not because of the color of his skin, but because people don’t understand him.  He has been oppressed all of his life, not by society, but by his father’s religious zeal.

 

 

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