You are on page 1of 5

Rachel Pekelney

Period 5 Honors English

October 8th, 2014

Radley And Robinson

The Deep South in the 1930s was intolerant towards racial and
social differences. Harper Lees novel To Kill a Mockingbird takes place
during this time and centers on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man
wrongfully accused of rape. The two main characters, Scout and Jem,
are children fascinated with the stories about the mysterious Boo
Radley who lives down the street from them. The trial and Boo Radley
are major plotlines of the story. Although they may appear to be
unrelated, Lee expertly weaves the two together by showing how the
two characters symbolize mockingbirds and that they are both victims
of prejudice.
The Boo Radley plot line complements the trial because it
exhibits prejudice elsewhere in Maycomb County. Scout and Jem had
never seen or met Boo, and their only knowledge of him came from
neighborhood gossip. This is shown on page 13, when Jem says: He
goes out, all right, when its pitch dark. Miss Stephanie Crawford said
she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking
straight through the window at her said his head was like a skull

lookin at her. This quotation is significant because it highlights how

the neighbors characterized Boo as a menacing and unpleasant
person. Jem says Boos face was like a skull, portraying Boo as
inhuman and frightening. When he says he comes out only when its
pitch dark, it implies that Boo haunts the neighborhood. Jem and
Scouts opinion of Boo is being shaped by what they have heard,
regardless of whether its true or not.
The people of Maycomb are prejudiced against Tom Robinson
because of the color of his skin. For example, on page 252, Atticus
states: The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a
courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of
carrying their resentments right into a jury box. Despite the evidence
that pointed to his innocence, Tom was found guilty. The importance of
this quotation is that it illustrates how Toms jury was already biased
against him before any of the witnesses spoke. Juries are intended to
reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented. In this case,
some of the members ended up carrying their resentments, or
preconceived ideas, into the courthouse, which influenced the verdict.
Similar to how Scout and Jem were prejudiced against Boo without ever
having met him and knowing the truth, Toms jury had preconceptions
about him based on his race.
A second way that Lee connects Boo Radley and Tom Robinson is
by portraying them both as symbolic mockingbirds. When Atticus

gives his children guns, he says they can shoot all the blue jays they
want, but that its a sin to kill a mockingbird. The reason Atticus
doesnt want them to harm the mockingbirds is because they are
innocent creatures that represent kindness and selflessness. Boo and
Tom are both innocent, and at different point in the story demonstrate
kindness and consideration towards others. Toms kindness towards
Mayella Ewell, the woman he allegedly raped, is revealed in his
testimony on page 218 after he is asked if he was paid for helping her:
No suh, not after she offered me a nickel the first time. I was glad to
do it, Mr. Ewell didnt seem to help her none, and neither did the
chillun, and I knowed she didnt have no nickels to spare. Tom was
very obliging to Mayella in that he took his own time without being
paid to assist her. He was nothing but polite and generous to her, and
as he said he was glad to do it, which emphasizes his sincere good
Boo Radley showed his affection to Jem and Scout in discreet but
important ways. He left them gifts in the oak tree, mended Jems
pants, and in the end saved their lives. On page 82 after Miss
Maudies house burns, another kind action on his part is displayed
when Atticus says to Scout: Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at
the fire you didnt know it when he put the blanket around you.
Although the kids assume Boo is dangerous, he is really looking out for
them, as is illustrated in this quotation. Boo is shy, mysterious, and

poorly understood. He, like Tom Robinson, symbolizes a mockingbird

because he is thoughtful and kind to others.
The stories of Boo Radley and Tom Robinson intersect at the end
of the novel, when Boo stabs Bob Ewell to protect Jem and Scout. At
first after hearing Scouts story of what happened the night Ewell was
killed, Atticus believes Jem was responsible. Sheriff Heck Tate knows
that it was actually Boo who killed Ewell, and explains to Atticus on
page 317 why he wont make that public knowledge: To my way of
thinkin, Mr. Finch, taking the one man whos done you and this town a
great service an draggin him with his shy ways into the limelightto
me, thats a sin. Its a sin and Im not about to have it on my head.
The sheriff asserts that Bob Ewell fell on his knife, which is the false
story that would be told to the public. Tate says that it would be sinful
to drag Boo into the public attention by putting him on trial when he
was shy and a recluse. In the end, the author ties these characters
stories together with a trace of irony in that Atticus works to uncover
the truth in Toms trial, while in the case of Boo Radley, his deed is
concealed by a lie.
The two major plotlines are interwoven to send a message about
prejudice, but also as a comparison between both of the symbolic
mockingbirds in the book. Lee tells a story of tragedy in that the
innocent Tom Robinson ends up dead. In contrast, Boo Radley is finally
revealed for his true, benevolent self. Although prejudice is prevalent

throughout Maycomb, Lee shows how Jem and Scout were able to
move beyond their prejudices to understand and accept Boo. One of
the mockingbirds was killed, but Boo, the other symbolic mockingbird,
was able to continue singing.