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Clara FullerMrs. TaylorHonors English19 December 2017Theme and Character Essay Throughout To Kill A Mockingbird, it is shown that the people of Maycomb County have various preconceptions and prejudices about others in their community. Whether it be the Cunninghams, the Ewells, the Merriweathers, the Bufords, or the entire population of Negroes, there seems to be something in their character that the rest of the county finds lacking. This perpetual, contemptuous view of everybody else seems to be a fact of life in Maycomb County, but this doesn’t make it right. There are several people who clearly show this theme, like Tom Robinson, or Walter Cunningham, but Boo (Arthur) Radley is the only one that is subject to this misinformed gossip for the entire book. Through Boo, it can be seen that this custom of Maycomb’s should be expunged from their world and ours. In Maycomb County, Boo is thought of as disturbing at best and evil at worst. On page 16 of To Kill A Mockingbird, Jem gives Dill a description of what he thinks of Boo. “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained- if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.” This dictum describes the opinion of Maycomb’s youngest generation, and the adults certainly do not think highly of Boo either. Atticus alone thinks of Boo Radley civilly. This can be seen when he admonishes the children for trying to send a note to Boo in chapter 5. “What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay inside his own house he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children, which was a mild term for the likes of us. How would we like it if Atticus barged in on us without knocking, when we were in our rooms at night? We were, in effect, doing the same thing to Mr. Radley. What Mr. Radley did might seem peculiar to us, but it did not seem peculiar to him. (pg. 65)” Although the rest of the town has a rather acrimonious view of Boo Radley, Atticus’ opinion does not change because of their sentiments. As the rest of the book shows Atticus to be a man of infallible character, it can be assumed that his assessment of Boo Radley is the more accurate of the two. Later on in the book, Boo saves the Finch children’s lives, also proving that Atticus’ judgement of him was sound. This confirms that the town’s preconceptions of Boo Radley were entirely inaccurate, and demeaning of his character. After the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem and Scout are appalled by the verdict. In response to this, Jem says, “If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? 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.” This quote sheds light on the level of discrimination against certain people groups in Maycomb County. Tom Robinson was convicted by the jury, not because of any wrongdoing on his part, but because he was a Negro. This prejudice against the Negro population also shows itself in Mr. Ewell’s treatment of Tom Robinson’s wife, Helen, after Tom’s death (pg. 333-334), as well as the talk of slavery and discrimination at the lady’s brunch (pg. 313). In the aforementioned quote, Jem makes a connection between the county’s treatment of Negroes and Boo Radley. He says that Boo doesn’t come out because he doesn’t want to be a part of the injustice that occurs in the outside world. Jem’s association of Boo with this verifies that the overwhelming, malignant power of prejudice disparages the voice of those who are not willing to shout to be heard. Although To Kill A Mockingbird repeatedly tells readers to quell their prejudices, the majority of the people in Maycomb County never change their ways. There is a reason for this, however, that indicates that Boo is truly central to this book. In the second to the last chapter, Mr. Heck Tate tells Atticus that if the people of Maycomb were to hear that Boo killed Mr. Ewell, they would “drag him into the limelight” because of his service to the town. Directly after that, on page 370, Scout says to Atticus, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” Boo’s shyness makes him like a mockingbird, who does nothing to the town, yet the town still would want to “shoot” him, by forcing him out of his shell. Therefore, the town must continue in their preconception that Boo is horrid, because to tell them otherwise would be “to kill a mockingbird.” Because of this, Boo is forced to live in a state where he is hated by the town, yet protected by their aversion to him. This could have been avoided if the town had never enacted a prejudice against Boo in the first place. This, as well as Scout’s reference to the book title on page 370, demonstrate that Boo’s fate is a result of the foulness of prejudice. To Kill A Mockingbird highlights the problems of prejudice and bigotry through the character of Boo Radley. Through him, it can be seen that this partiality has no place in how the world ought to run. The way that Boo is forced to live, as well as the town’s inaccurate preconceptions of his character, reveal that such treatment should not be tolerated. Readers of To Kill A Mockingbird can learn from Maycomb County’s horrible example, and the effect it had on Boo Radley, and see that prejudice should be replaced with impartiality, and hate with love.

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