Symbolism of the Character of Boo Radley from the Novel To Kill a Mocking Bird

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Boo Radley Symbolises how reputations can be destroyed by false rumors. Boo Radley is made out by the townspeople to be a scary, evil, person. The book then reveals that he is in fact the opposite of what the rumors portray. This shows how rumors can be absolutely devastating to one’s reputation, and how the person they are targeted at can be completely different.

Boo Radley is viewed as a mysterious monster who has never been seen by the public. Children naturally learn to fear Boo Radley and his house. “if Dill wanted to get himself killed, all he had to do was go up and knock on the front door”. There is no proof that the Radley house is dangerous. The preconceived notions of danger are the only things driving people away from the house. Nobody is willing to try approaching the house because they are too afraid to go against society’s beliefs. There is negative gossip associated with Boo Radley and his family. “Boo bit it off one night when he couldn’t find any cats and squirrels to eat.”(52) The town makes up stories about the Radley family as part of their gosip.

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There is no proof that Boo bit his mother’s finger of, yet people believe it, because it is what society accepts to be true. The false stories just keep building upon each other. The townspeople don’t have any proof to back up their fears. “Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window”.(60) The townspeople make up stories about the Radleys for attention. By making up stories about a sensitive topic, they victimize themselves. This causes people to question them less, and creates more sympathy for them by the other townspeople. Boo Radley is a monster created inside the heads of maycomb citizens.

Boo Radley is a target for people to direct their fears at. The townspeople are looking for a common enemy to fear. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for, and they have the right to subject their children to it.”(232) When people have a common enemy, they forget about their small differences. By uniting for an ill cause against the Radleys, the townspeople feel more connected. They are seeking a common enemy, and they find one. People don’t want to go against popular opinion. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”(140) The townspeople know deep down that the Radleys are not inherently bad people. They just don’t want to go against popular belief. By thinking that nobody agrees with them, they are forced to go with what they think the others believe. The townspeople don’t have a reason to change their views. “There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go”. There has been no major push back by the Radleys, so there is no reason for opinions to change. The townspeople are not forced to question their beliefs. With no pressure to change, everything will stay the same.

Boo Radley has never gotten a chance to show his true self. Boo Radley tries to show that he is not a monster. “Our knot-hole stopped us again. Something white was inside this time.” By leaving gifts in the knot-hole, Boo tries to reach out to the children. He is trying to show that he is not the monster that society has made him out to be. When the knot-hole is plugged this opportunity is stripped away from him. This makes it much harder for him to reach out to the children. The children are taught to stay away from the radley house. “A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked”.

It is ingrained into the children that the Radleys are dangerous. Without questioning their friends and parents, the newer generations of Maycomb carry on the old, false, beliefs. This cycle can continue forever if nobody is smart enough to question it. Boo Radley is an easy target for people. “Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work.” Boo radley is an easy target to pin things on. When people are desperately looking for someone to blame for a particular thing, Boo is the easiest target. Since he can not defend himself, people can blame anything on him and get away with it. Boo Radley seizes any opportunity to show that he is a good person.

Boo radley symbolises how a bad reputation can have a very destructive effect on someone’s life. In Boo’s case, he is only able to leave his house in the dead of night. He is not accepted by the people of maycomb because of their preconceived notions about him. Boo radley is seen as a monster to be feared, an invisible creature in the night. He is used as a basin for people to pour their fears into. With no chance to show his true self, he is unable to lead a normal life.

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