Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Boo Radley stay in his house for years?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Boo Radley is demonized at the beginning of the novel. Scout merely exaggerates the town feelings towards him. With the following reputation, it is unlikely anyone would want to move around in society:

 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.

We are told that Boo had had a wayward youth, and that his religious father had confined him to the house. Jem realises later in the novel that Boo’s confinement may be voluntary; that he simply does not want to be part of the unjust society that the children are just learning about:

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.

Scout realised that the society of Maycomb was not a welcoming place for those ‘mockingbirds’ like Boo and Tom Robinson. She realised that there are some who do good who are never repaid:

Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch chain, a pair of good luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors 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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Arthur “Boo” Radley is the reclusive neighbor and focal point of rumors in Maycomb County. Boo had a rough childhood living under the roof of a controlling, religious fanatic. Boo’s father confined him to the house after he resisted arrest for youthful pranks as a child. When Boo’s father died, his brother, Nathan, returned home to look after Boo.  After the Tom Robinson trial, Jem and Scout begin to understand why Boo stays inside the house all the time. Jem says, “Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. 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." Boo is another “mockingbird”, an innocent character, depicted throughout the novel that reacts adversely to an unforgiving society. Boo becomes reclusive to avoid the harsh reality of the darker side of humanity, which is evident in Maycomb’s prejudice community.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Boo Radley stay inside all the time?

Boo Radley never explains this to the reader, so we have to make a few assumptions about why his character stays inside all the time. The assumed reason he stays inside also changes throughout the novel.

The first reason we hear that Boo Radley stays inside is that he is forced to stay inside, first by his father, and then by his brother, Nathan. Boo was labeled a "bad kid" when his was in school. He got caught up with the wrong crowd and his father chose to punish Boo himself by keeping Boo locked up inside the house so he wouldn't be able to make any trouble.

However, Jem comes to the conclusion after the trial and after witnessing the injustice and hypocrisy of the town that perhaps "Boo Radley wants to stay inside." Jem considers the idea that Boo can see what's going on in their town--the prejudices, the gossip, the hypocrisy, the judging--and, being a topic of much of the gossip and judgements, Boo chooses to stay inside rather than subject himself to that type of environment.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Boo Radley Hide from society?

First, I think that this question needs to be moved to the Discussion section of eNotes. I believe that you will receive many different answers there.

In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley, essentially, hides from society. The reason/s behind why Boo hides are objective. What this means is that each reader makes a decision as to why they believe Boo hides from society. Harper Lee does not provide the ultimate reason as to why Boo hides--it is left to readers to speculate. Therefore, any explanations regarding Boo's hiding from society are speculative. As with any justification, one simply needs to provide evidence to support their stand.

That being said, I believe that Boo hides from society based upon the fact that he is aware of what society says about him. He, most likely, has heard the rumors about his character and actions. Unfortunately, instead of facing society, he is either forced by his father or makes the decision to remove himself from society all together. The important idea lies in the fact that Boo chose to enter society at exactly the right time--to save Jem and Scout. From this point on, Boo's reputation should change.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Scout conclude that Boo chooses to stay indoors?

Dill and Jem, on separate occasions, offer Scout ideas as to why Boo stays inside the Radley house. At the conclusion of Chapter 14, Scout asks Dill why Boo has never run away. Dill says, "Maybe he doesn't have anywhere to run off to . . . ."

Later, at the end of Chapter 23, Jem talks to Scout about Boo's behavior. This occurs after Jem has observed first hand the racial hatred in Maycomb and the injustice of Tom Robinson's trial and conviction. When Scout says she thinks that "there's just one kind of folks," Jem replies:

If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. 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.

By the end of the novel, Scout has grown up enough to realize that both Dill and Jem were right.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Boo Radley stay in the house all the time and what is Aunt Alexandra like?

In the beginning of the book, the reader is led to believe that Boo Radley is locked up against his will by his parents because he was a "troubled youth" and now is a crazy adult. As the book progressed, Jem, Scout and Dill come to see Boo differently. When Dill runs away from his mother and new father, he muses that Boo might stay in the house because Boo has nowhere to run to--unlike Dill, who was able to escape his bad situation and run to a place that he found happiness in. Later, after experiencing the trial and not understanding the hypocrisy of the people of his hometown, Jem says he thinks Boo Radley wants to stay inside--and away from the hypocrisy and other prejudices in Maycomb.

Aunt Alexandra is a force to be reckoned with. She arrived at the Finch household to make sure the kids have a proper upbringing while Atticus is preoccupied with the trial. Though Aunt Alexandra tries to tell Atticus how to run his house and raise his children (she even suggests getting rid of Calpurnia) Atticus will stand up to her.

Aunt Alexandra's main concern is that Jem and Scout live up to the Finch name--a family, she claims, that is the product of gentle breeding. She is consistently pestering Scout about wearing a dress and becoming a lady. However, in Chapter 24, she shows a softer side and feels sympathy for all her brother has gone through.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on