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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why does the Radley place fascinate Scout, Jem and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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As the above answer states, the Radley place is a source of endless fascination and intrigue for Scout, Jem and Dill because it is so mysterious. It provides something for their imaginations to feed on in the sleepy little town of Maycomb. The house itself looks forbidding, the Radleys...

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do not invite confidences from anyone in the town, and it is all the easier for gossip and legend to spring up around the reclusive figure ofBoo Radley. The children weave the scraps of rumour that they hear into their own 'melancholy little drama', when they enact the whole grim story of the Radleys (as they see it). The Radley place is also close enough to Jem and Scout's house for them to see it frequently, which sustains their interest.The fact that the children never get a chance to see Boo clearly also increases their tendency to invent fantasies about him.

The way that Scout first introduces Boo Radley to the story is interesting. She states directly that:

In the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed but Jem and I had never seen him.

Boo, then, is straightaway introduced as 'a malevolent phantom'. Of course, it is the adult Scout narrating the novel, but she keeps the fears and imaginings and wonder of her childhood days very much to the fore of her narrative, as seen here.

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The Radley Place fascinates Scout, Jem, and Dill because it is a place of mystery.

As with many unknowns, the Radleys are a little creepy.  They keep to themselves, and Boo Radley is never seen outside the house.  Naturally, rumors and legends abound.  The children enjoy these stories because they bring excitement to an otherwise boring childhood.  This is a small town in the deep South in the Great Depression.  Children had to make their own entertainment.

The Radley Place was inhabited by an unknown entity the mere description of whom was enough to make us behave for days on end… (ch 1)

Boo Radley is described as a monster by children and adults alike.  He is said to creep around at night eating cats and peeking in windows.  In actuality, he is just sad and lonely.  The children come to realize this, and he becomes their friend and protector.

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Although the Radley Place has always been of interest to Jem and Scout, it is Dill's arrival in Maycomb which really peaks the children's interest. The fact that none of the children--or virtually any of the town's adults--have seen the mysterious Arthur "Boo" Radley is the prime reason for their fascination. The stories that they know about Boo--that he stabbed his father with scissors and that he prowls around the neighborhood at night--are unusual enough to make anyone curious. The Radley Place is just two doors down from the Finch house, and the children have to pass it every day, so they are reminded of the stories whenever they pass. But it is Dill's mental creativity and wild sense of make believe that further fuels the children's curiosity. Until they actually get a peek at Boo, they will never be satisfied.

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Like most children, the Finch kids and Dill have fun with the fear of a possible ghost, haunted house, and daring one another in regards to both of those things.

The Radley Place is fascinating because the children have made it mysterious. One of the inhabitants is an apparition-like figure they've nicknamed "Boo." Boo is occasionally glimpsed through a window but none of the children have ever met him.

The children build the place up in their minds, convincing themselves that if Boo "catches" them, they will come to harm. (See Ch 4) The children heighten their fear, adding new details all the time to Boo's history. When Jem is dared, he tries to scare the others as much as he is scared by saying "I don't think he's still there. He died years ago and they stuffed him up the chimney."

Eventually the children learn that all they have concocted is not the least bit true. Fortunately, they have learned this important lesson as children. The adults complicit in the accusations, trial, and eventual death of Tom are not as enlightened.

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The Radley place fascinates Dill and the Finch children because of the mystery that surrounds it.

After Dill Harris arrives in Maycomb,

[T]he Radley place fascinated Dill....In spite of our warnings and explanations it drew him as the moon draws water, but drew him no nearer than the light-pole on the corner....(Ch.1)

The house resembles an old haunted house: It is darkened to a dull grey; on the long unpainted exterior of the house, there are dilapidated shutters that "drooped over the eaves of the veranda." (Ch.1) Large oak trees darken much of the yard in which no grass grows. The broken remains of a picket fence "drunkenly guarded the front yard" (Ch.1) where only wild, tough grass and "rabbit-tobacco" grow wild. Rumors of the house's being occupied by "a malevolent phantom" abound.Other rumors that circulate through Maycomb suggest that this phantom goes out on moonless nights and peers into people's windows. If this "haint" breathes on any azalea bushes at night, they are wilted the next day. When chickens or pets are found injured, it is because the phantom has been responsible, even though there is proof that a man called Crazy Addie was the culprit.

In addition, there is suspicion of what goes on in the Radley house because the occupants do not come outside; they do not go to church, and they never talk with any neighbors. Rumor also has it that Boo once stabbed his father in the leg with a scissors when he was thirty-three years old. Thus, it is because of all this mystery that Dill wishes to make contact with Boo Radley, who seems to be insane. With such intense curiosity assisted by his creative imagination, Dill draws Jem and Scout into engaging in the adventure of learning more about the phantom who dwells inside the dark, sequestered house in their neighborhood.

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Boo Radley himself is seen as such an anomaly by everyone in the town, the same goes for Scout, Jem and Dill.  The house is always shut up and they hear rumors about Boo and his past as well as the simple mysteriousness of the house that is never open and no one seems to come in and out.  Because they spend so much time near the house, the mystery of it gets to a point where it is almost overwhelming.  As most children, they want to make sense of the world around them and there is this big black hole of mystery that draws them in inexorably.

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In my opinion, the Radley place fascinates the kids because it is scary and forbidden.

The Radley place is scary because of all the stories that are told about Boo Radley.  The kids, at least, envision him as a monster that emerges at night to eat small animals.  Since they think this (but probably don't truly believe it deep down) the house fascinates them.  My experience is that kids like to test themselves by facing things that are scary, but not too scary.

In addition, the place is forbidden.  Everyone knows that kids like to do things they aren't supposed to.  So the fact that they're not supposed to mess with the Radleys' home makes it more fascinating.

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Why do you think the Radley place is so important in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The Radley place in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is important because it serves as an unknown for Scout, Jem, and Dill and also for the rest of the Maycomb community. Let's look at this in more detail.

The Radleys deliberately stand outside of the normal Maycomb social life, and they have become something of a mystery for many members of the community. The Radleys have chosen a different path, and most folks do not exactly know how to deal with people who are different. Many Maycomb residents have become uncomfortable around the Radley place, and superstitions have grown up around it. Some people do not even care to walk past it at night. It is alien. It is closed off. And that makes people very nervous.

For the children, the mysteries of the Radley place are both scary and attractive. Because there is so much unknown about the Radleys, the children have plenty of room to let their imaginations work, and they certainly do that. They come up with all kinds of crazy fantasies about the Radley place, and they dare each other to be brave and go up to touch the porch or the wall. Yet there is an element of fear here, too, and of perceived danger. There is something sinister about the Radley place that frightens the children.

In the end, though, Scout and Jem learn that the people inside the Radley place are not at all what they imagined. They are different, certainly, but not frightening. In fact, Boo saves the siblings from Bob Ewell. You should note that by the final pages of the novel, the Radley place has taken on a new meaning. It serves as a good reminder that things are not always as they seem and that love can be found in the most unexpected places.

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Why do the kids decide to go to the Radley place in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The kids went to the Radley Place to try to get Boo Radley to come out.

Scout and Jem had always been interested in Boo Radley, but Dill was obsessed.  He seemed to believe that Boo Radley was just misunderstood, and if they sat down and talked to him everything would be all right.

Dill said, “We’re askin‘ him real politely to come out sometimes, and tell us what he does in there—we said we wouldn’t hurt him and we’d buy him an ice cream.”

…“It’s my idea. I figure if he’d come out and sit a spell with us he might feel better.” (Ch. 5)

Scout thinks Dill is crazy.  She has bought into the idea that Boo Radley is a monster.  Dill has a more sophisticated view of him.  He still has childish ideas, but he seems to want to see Boo Radley and help him, rather than being afraid of him.

Jem and Dill’s plan is to use a fishing pole to get a note to Boo Radley.

“I’m goin‘ around to the side of the house,” said Jem. “We looked yesterday from across the street, and there’s a shutter loose. Think maybe I can make it stick on the window sill, at least.” (Ch. 5)

The trick doesn’t exactly work.  Jem thinks that because it is dark no one will be able to see them.  Atticus walks up in the middle of it, and Jem has to stop. They hear someone laughing as Jem runs off, and he loses his pants.  The children tell the adults that they were playing strip poker with matches, and Atticus tells Jem to get his pants.

Jem does not want Atticus to find out that he was at the Radley place, because Atticus has repeatedly told them to leave Boo Radley alone.  He sneaks back later to get his pants, and finds them removed from the fence and sewn up.  Jem realizes that Boo was reaching out to him, trying to help him.

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