Every town has at least one spooky person, as rumors would have it. This person would not be personally well known, but would have been talked about very often by most of the town. In the 1930s’ Maycomb County, Alabama of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (New York: Grand Central, 1960), this particular person was dubbed “Boo”. Not much is seen of Arthur (Boo) Radley which leaves the town much room to create many fictions that hide the little known facts. The real Boo is nothing like the town’s “Boo”.
In the very first chapter, the town’s view of Boo is explained to newcomer Charles Baker “Dill” Harris (10-16). The very first words Scout used to describe him were “malevolent phantom”. She goes on to say that the town blames him for a number of late night misgivings, such as frozen azaleas and small crimes. In one case, where pets and chickens had been slaughtered in the night, Boo was suspected, even though “Crazy Addie” was the known culprit. One page 12, Scout further describes Boo’s childhood, and how he fell in “the wrong crowd”, according to “neighborhood legend”.
After they got into some trouble with the law, Mr. Radley started keeping Boo inside. Fifteen years later, Miss Stephanie Crawford claims that while Boo was scrapbooking, he stabbed his father’s leg. It was then, that someone suggested an asylum. His father decided instead to let them imprison Boo for a little while. After he was moved back home, Boo wasn’t seen again. The less of him that was seen the more rumors circulated about him. Jem told Dill on page 15 that Boo “goes out, all right, when its pitch dark. Pages 16 and 60 give evidence to Miss Stephanie Crawford exclaiming that he watched her through her window. For those who do not know, Miss Crawford is seen as the town gossip in the novel. Also on page 16 Jem describes Boo Radley as being “six-and-a-half feet tall” with blood stained hands, a jagged scar across his face, few rotted yellow teeth, wide popping eyes, and he “drooled most of the time. ” It doesn’t take long for the kids to understand they’re wrong. The first sign in the novel that Boo isn’t as bad as they said around town is the gifts he begins leaving for Jem and Scout.
Gifts included: pieces of gum (44), two Indian head pennies (46), carved Scout and Jem soap dolls (79-80), a pocket witch with an aluminum knife and chain (81). Boo shows he cares about them in ways scattered throughout the novel. On page 78, he sews up Jem’s pants when Jem, Scout, and Dill try to see him (69-72). On page 95, during the fire of Ms. Maudy’s home, he gives Scout a brown blanket without being seen. And last, but certainly not least Boo saves their lives by stabbing Bob Ewell when he attacks Jem and Scout on Halloween (351-352).
When Scout notices him that night she describes him as having “sickly white” skin, hollow cheeks, a wide mouth, “almost delicate indentations” for his temples, gray colorless eyes, thin, feathery dead hair, a thin frame, and was sensitive to light (363-364). When he spoke, on page 372, he spoke like a frightened child. Scout escorts him home, although she makes sure it looks as if he’s escorting her, and the novel’s second mockingbird isn’t seen again (372-373).
Before leaving the Radley house, Scout steps into Boo’s shoes and sees the whole neighborhood form his eyes. She understands then that he lived a vast part of his life caring about them from a distance, until they needed him (373-374). Arthur (Boo) Radley was quite misunderstood and an easy target for gossip, However, just like Stoner’s boy in The Gray Ghost, Boo hadn’t done much of what the town’s people of Maycomb accused him of and was really a nice man after all. Atticus was right when he said, “Most people are, when you finally see them. ”(376).