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To Kill a Mockingbird – analyse the character of Arthur Radley (Boo)

Set in the 1940s, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” features a man named Arthur Radley, though the people of Maycomb know him as Boo. He is portrayed as a “malevolent phantom”, hence his nickname, that eats cats and is over seven feet tall. He is also described as the “town recluse and madman” which is predominantly down to rumours and distortion of truth from Maycombers. Through the use of Scout’s narration, one ascertains that as a teenager, Boo entangled himself with the “wrong crowd of people”. The group was also described to be “the closest thing to a gang that Maycomb had seen” as they had stolen the sheriff’s car. This crime led Boo to be sentenced to go to a reformatory school. However, Mr. Radley, Boo’s father, convinced the judge to let him keep his son in the house instead, for it would be a disgrace to send him to the reformatory school.

He was not seen or heard of for fifteen years when he allegedly plunged a pair of scissors into his fathers’ legs. Arthur’s actions are far removed from the children of Maycomb’s understanding; they simply believe that he is a freak of nature due to their naivety towards the adult world. One of the central themes of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the process of growing up and developing a more mature perspective on life. As the children mature, we correspondingly gain a new understanding of Boo Radley due to their more sophisticated view of the world. We first see the other side of Arthur when he shelters Scout from the harsh winter weather with a blanket giving the reader a sense that there is more than meets the eye. This technique used by Harper Lee paints a full story of Boo whilst showing us that Good and evil can coincide within one person. In the novel, Boo’s character represents innocence (a mockingbird) and how even the good-hearted can be corrupted by the people around them.

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In this essay, one will analyze the character of Arthur Radley (Boo) and discuss how he is displayed to the audience.

The reader unearths a lot about Arthur from the character of Atticus. One begins to fabricate another side to the so-called “monster” due to Atticus’s magnanimous personality where he tries to see the best in people or as he advised his daughter Scout to “crawl around underneath their skin”. This quote makes the reader reshape their view of Boo seeing as Atticus can clearly see good within him. This tolerance shown by Atticus imprints onto the readers making them feel sympathy towards Boo in contrast to many Maycombers who see him as a monstrosity.

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Furthermore, Atticus sees Arthur as a mature adult and does not allow his children to ” torment the man” with their melodramatic “Boo Radley and fishing games” in their desire to lure him out of his home. This demonstrates to the reader that Boo is not a “malevolent phantom” as he is described, but rather a misunderstood man who is being abused by his gossiping and pestering neighbours.

This also creates sympathy towards him turning him from an unknown entity to a human being. One also gains the trust of Boo in the episode where Miss Maudie’s house is burnt to the ground. As mentioned previously, Boo shelters Scout from the harsh winter weather with a blanket and when Atticus find this out he tells her that she “should thank him”. Atticus’s trust towards Arthur is conveyed to the reader due to his amusement rather than fear that Boo was near Scout. Again, this builds sympathy towards him and by this point, the preconceived ideas of Boo have been replaced with ones of a misunderstood man. One mainly finds out about Arthur Radley, through the use of dialogue and episodes with a certain purpose.

Through the character of Jem, the reader begins to contemplate two sides to Boo Radley. These views change as the character matures and begins to see the world in a new light. At first, Jem is afraid of Boo like many others in Maycomb, describing him to be a “monster” and “squirrel eater”. This demonstrates to the reader the prejudice circulating around Boo but due to the unreliable narration, the reader can determine that these descriptions are nothing but images synthesized by a child’s imagination which is fuelled by the rumours created by Maycomb’s citizens. This gives the reader a sense of condolence towards Boo. In addition, it is evident that Jem is fervidly curious about Boo in the sense that he is trying to lure him out of his house via leaving notes to him, trying to look through the window and his tyre game.

This establishes to the reader just how little is known about Arthur (as Jem is attempting to dig up information on him) and how people see him as a commodity to entertain rather than a human being. This style of writing keeps the reader very curious about Boo as he is the centre of attention for the main characters. As the novel progresses, Jem’s changing attitude towards Boo Radley is a vital measurement of his development from innocence towards a grown-up moral perspective. Jem comes to an awareness that Boo is not a “monster” as he previously thought but a “timid” and “gentleman”. We first see this when Nathan Radley plugs up the hole in the tree, Scout is disappointed but hardly sorrowful, seeing it as merely the end of their presents.

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Jem, on the other hand, is brought to tears, because he grasps that Boo’s brother has done something cruel: he has deprived Arthur of his connection to the wider world and has broken up his brother’s attempt at friendship. This makes the reader feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for Boo as he is not a monstrosity as previously thought but a man in agony with no connections to the outside world.

Through the character of Scout, the reader observes the full extent of the prejudice surrounding Arthur Radley. As she is still na�ve to some respects and does not distinguish truth from lie, she absorbs the rumours surrounding Boo and like many others describes him inadequately with such phrases as “squirrel eater and monster”. It is conspicuous that Scout is afraid of Boo due to him being unknown to her showing how little is known about him and how cruel even children can be. This again builds sympathy towards Boo which is a trend used throughout the novel by Harper Lee.

Furthermore, Scout does not realize that Boo is safe in contrast to Jem who has ascended beyond the petty rumours. An example of this is when Jem goes to retrieve his trouser from the Radley place but Scout threatens to “wake Atticus and tell him” what Jem was going to do as she believed that Boo would “kill” him. This demonstrates to the reader how the ideas surrounding Boo change depending on Moral values and mental maturity. This also shows Boo in a new perspective as a kind-hearted man rather than a monster.

In the Novel, Miss Maudie’s character is a means of drawing a line for the reader between fact and fiction around Arthur’s story. Through the use of dialogue between Miss Maudie and Scout, one ascertains that Boo was a “kind well mannered young man” who had been corrupted by his father ” a foot-washing baptist that believed “anything that’s pleasure is a sin”. By doing so, she has put the “scissors” storey into perspective for the readers and gives them a reason for why Boo is what he is today. This moment above all creates sympathy for Boo as one now knows the tragedy of Arthur Radley’s life.

The reader picks up fragments of information about Boo throughout the Novel divulging to use that Boo is not a freak as he is frequently described. The implicit comparison between Boo’s soap figures and Jem and Scout’s snowman reveals just how normal sociable he is. Whereas Boo carves his figures out of a desire to connect with the two kids, Jem and Scout craft their snowman out of a dislike for Mr. Avery.

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Furthermore, Boo doesn’t make his carvings for himself; rather, he offers them as presents. Jem and Scout, on the other hand, make the snowman purely for their own enjoyment. This shows that Boo interacts with others on their terms showing how kind and sociable he is in some respects. Lee uses an elliptical technique in telling Boo’s story; she hints and implies at what is happening without ever showing the reader directly (dual perspective) showing just how misunderstood Arthur is.

In conclusion, the reader is given a mixed image of Arthur Radley in the first 9 chapters of the novel. The first image of Arthur is mainly composed of imprudent defamation by Maycombers and the horror-fuelled imaginations of Scout, Jem and Dill. This side of Boo describes him to be an evil man who has no other intention but to prey on the week in the early hour of the morning. On the other hand, through the characters of Atticus and Miss Maudie, we see that Boo is the victim of severe parenting and neglect and is not a monster but a “gentle and kind young man”. The reader also begins to see in these chapters that, Boo is the ultimate symbol of innocence (a mocking bird).

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To Kill a Mockingbird - analyse the character of Arthur Radley (Boo). (2021, Apr 25). Retrieved January 30, 2023, from