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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What did Miss Maudie think of the Radleys in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In chapter 5, Scout asks Miss Maudie why Boo Radley refuses to leave his home, and Maudie proceeds to elaborate on the Radley family. Miss Maudie explains to Scout that Boo's father was a strict, foot-washing Baptist, who interpreted the Bible literally and lived an austere life. Essentially, Miss Maudie tells Scout that Boo's father was a religious fanatic, who was responsible for creating such a melancholy home. Judging from her interactions with the other foot-washing Baptists, Maudie does not agree with Mr. Radley's interpretation of the Bible, nor does she agree with his austere lifestyle. However, Miss Maudie does tell Scout that Boo Radley was a kind child who always treated her with respect. From the way Maudie speaks about Boo, one can infer that she feels sorry for him. Even though Maudie is unsure of what goes on behind the doors of the Radley home, she realizes that it is detrimental to Boo. Overall, Miss Maudie views the Radleys as enigmatic, fanatical Christians who have many secrets and keep Boo inside the home through unknown means. Despite her opposing beliefs and general negative perception of Mr. Radley, she has sympathy for Boo.

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Miss Maudie felt nothing but compassion for Arthur Radley, but she felt genuine contempt for his father. She thought Old Mr. Radley was judgmental and unforgiving, the result of his zealous and unyielding religious views. She tried to explain this to Scout:

You are too young to understand it . . . but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of --oh, your father.

When Scout protests that her father isn't one to drink, Maudie tried again to express how she felt about Old Mr. Radley:

What I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn't be as hard as some men are at their best. There are just some kind of men who--who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street [to the Radley house] and see the results.

Maudie dismissed all the gossip about Arthur Radley as nonsense. She knew him as a boy when he always spoke to her in a nice way, "as nicely as he knew how." When Scout asked Maudie if she thought he was crazy, her response showed insight and understanding of the workings of the Radley family:

If he's not he should be by now. The things that happen to people we never really know. What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets--

Maudie believed that Arthur's father had been a cruel man who no doubt abused his son in the privacy of their home, treatment that continued after his death with the arrival of Nathan Radley to take his place in dealing with Arthur. She felt pity for Arthur and sadness for the boy he had once been. According to Maudie, the Radley home was "a sad house."

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