Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What are the similarities and differences between Boo Radley and Tom Robinson?

Expert Answers

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

There are several similarities between Tom Robinson and Arthur "Boo" Radley in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Both characters are considered symbolic mockingbirds. They are both innocent, benevolent individuals, who are vulnerable and defenseless against their prejudiced community members. They are both soft-spoken, respectful community members, who do not bother anyone. Both characters are also marginalized victims of discrimination. Tom Robinson is a victim of racial discrimination while Boo Radley is discriminated because of his unorthodox, reclusive lifestyle. Both characters are also connected to the Finch family. Atticus is Tom Robinson's defense attorney and Boo Radley attempts to develop a friendship with Jem and Scout. Both characters are also involved in violent events. Tom Robinson is wrongfully accused of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell while Boo Radley stabs and kills Bob Ewell during a struggle to save Jem and Scout's lives.

Despite their many similarities, both characters have dramatically different lives. Tom Robinson is a loving father and husband, who is respected throughout his community. Tom Robinson also has a positive reputation and is well-known by his neighbors. In contrast, Boo Radley is an outcast, who lives a lonely, solitary life inside his dilapidated home. Boo Radley also has a negative reputation and is the target of unflattering rumors. Tom Robinson is also physically handicapped while Boo Radley is not. Tom is also a black man while Boo Radley is described as being extremely pale and awkward.

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

An interesting question.

Here are some similarities. Both are outcasts in their town. Both are the subject of much whispering and gossip. Both are objects of fascination for Scout and the rest of the town. Both serve as moral lessons for Scout; both are the targets for irrational fear. Both are arrested at some point in their lives, but both are essentially good.

The differences are marked. The most obvious is that Boo is white and Tom is black. As a result, Boo, while he is kept in the house, is protected from a lot of social fall out. Tom, by contrast, is punished far beyond any actual crime he's done, by society. He is eventually killed. Both are "mockingbirds" in the book's symbolism, but Boo is protected and not killed. (Tom, of course, is physically handicapped—one arm is crippled.)


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
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team