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To Kill a mockingbird

Terms in this set (43)

is the narrator and protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel is written from the point of view of an adult Scout describing how she viewed things as a child, and she often comments about how she didn't understand something at the time, but now, having grown up, she does. Scout is considered smart for her age, and loves to read. In fact, she gets in trouble with her teacher Ms. Caroline because Ms. Caroline wants Scout to learn reading and writing her way, but Scout refuses. She is also a tomboy who spends the majority of her time with her brother and best friend Dill. She matures from age 6 to age 8 as the novel progresses but still remains naive and idealistic, despite an increased understanding of human nature and racism in her town. Being only six, Scout does not know how to handle such situations so she tries to resolve her problems by fighting and talking to Atticus about what she has heard. By the end of the book, she realizes that racism does exist and has come to terms with its presence in her town. Scout also learns how to deal with others, including her nanny Calpurnia and her aunt. Scout is the only one of the novel's primary three children (Dill, Jem, and herself) to see and speak to Boo Radley during the course of the novel and realizes that he is harmless, despite her earlier fear of him. She also stops a mob that is trying to hang Tom Robinson by informing the mob leader (Mr. Cunningham) about inviting his son over for dinner. Mr. Cunningham then tells the other mob members to get back in their cars and leave them alone. The members listen, and Scout unintentionally saves Robinson's life.
is the most mysterious character in To Kill a Mockingbird, and slowly reveals himself throughout the novel. Boo Radley is a very quiet, reclusive character, who only passively presents himself until the children's final interaction with Bob Ewell. Maycomb children believe that he is a horrible person, due to the rumors spread about him, and a trial he underwent as a teenager. It is implied during the story that Boo is a very lonely man who attempts to reach out to the children for love and friendship, for instance by leaving them small gifts and figures in a tree stump. However, none of the children realize it was he until the very end of the book, when he saves Jem and Scout's lives. It is at this point that Scout finally meets him, the first time in the book. Scout describes him as being sickly white, with a thin mouth and hair and grey eyes, almost as if he was blind. During the same night, when Boo requests that Scout walk him back to the Radley house, Scout takes a moment to picture what it would be like to be Boo Radley, while standing on his porch, and realizes that his "exile" inside his house is really not that lonely.

Boo Radley's heroics in protecting the children from Bob Ewell are covered up by Atticus, Sheriff Tate and Scout. This can be read as a wise refusal of fame. As Tate notes, if word gets out that Boo killed Ewell, Boo would be inundated with gifts and visits, something that would be calamitous for him due to his quiet personality. The precocious Scout recognizes the danger. Renown would "kill the mockingbird." Boo Radley is a ghost that haunts the book yet manifests himself at just the right moments in just the right way. He is, arguably, the most potent character in the whole book and as such, inspires the other key characters to save him when he needs saving.

After the Tom Robinson trial, Jem and Scout start to have a different understanding of Boo Radley. "Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time... it's because he wants to stay inside." (23.117)

Having seen a sample of the horrible things their fellow townspeople can do, choosing to stay out of the mess of humanity doesn't seem like such a strange choice.

When Boo finally does come out, he has a good reason: Bob Ewell is trying to murder the Finch kids. No one sees what happens in the scuffle, but at the end of it, Ewell is dead and Boo is carrying an unconscious Jem to the Finch house. Finally faced with Boo, Scout doesn't even recognize him: after all, she's never seen him before, except in her dreams.